College basketball teams aren’t as good as they were a decade ago, giving rise to more upsets and allowing schools such as Harvard University, Florida Gulf Coast University and Wichita State University to advance in the sport’s premier postseason tournament, a longtime analyst said.
“A situation where Wichita State makes it all the way to the Final Four, these are situations where fans in the past knew that they really had no chance of beating some of the power clubs,” former CBS analyst Billy Packer said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “Now, I would say 35 or 40 knew that they had a chance to win the next game, which makes the college level different, but interesting.”
Louisville plays Wichita State and Michigan faces off with Syracuse tonight in the semifinals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s tournament. The winners play for the national title two nights later at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Defending champion Kentucky, known for recruiting high school stars who jump to the pros after a season, finished the year 21-12 and wasn’t even invited to the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats, who might have four freshman selected in the National Basketball Association draft this June after losing eight first-year players to the NBA in the previous three seasons, were beaten by Robert Morris, 59-57, in the first-round of the National Invitational Tournament last month.
Packer said he doesn’t think Kentucky’s failures this season will change coach John Calipari’s recruiting tactics. Kentucky could have as many as seven McDonald’s All-American high school standouts attend the school next fall, he said.
“One-and-done is here,” Packer said. “If John can coordinate that same effort next year with the talent he’s bringing in, he will have a good shot to remake another national championship ball club there.”
Packer said he believes in the next five to 10 years, the top college basketball teams will align themselves in a power conference similar to what the Bowl Championship Series has accomplished in football.
He thinks those teams will create their own championship separate from the NCAA tournament. With the wealth they acquire, any excluded institutions “basically will be playing intramural sports,” he said.
Packer said he thinks this year’s game will be an all-Big East affair, with Louisville beating Syracuse for the title.
The teams are familiar with one another. Just a month ago, they battled in the Big East tournament final, with Louisville rallying from a 16-point second-half deficit to beat Syracuse 78-61 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.