Fading Luster of the No. 1 Rank in College Basketball
Many sports teams would love to be claimed as the No. 1 team in the country. For some reason, teams in college basketball don’t seem to want to keep those rankings. It seems every week we are seeing a new No. 1 atop the polls. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it is straying away from the past.
Number one. It is a very simple term that holds so much meaning. It seems like teams would step their play up to keep this honor. The last two rankings have heralded Louisville and Duke as the top ranked team.
Both lost almost immediately after receiving this so-called honor. Teams that typically inhabit the top spot are in the mix, but the No. 1 spot has changed many times and will likely continue to change throughout the season.
It seems as if teams no longer take pride in being ranked; just making the NCAA tourney at the end of the year is sufficient. Teams in this position seem to let their guard down, almost as if they don’t expect teams to play with that extra chip on their shoulder, hoping to knock them off.
I am in no way suggesting the coaches aren’t getting players prepared, but merely being No. 1 isn’t as important anymore.
Our own baseball team has received a No. 1 ranking in three of the five preseason polls. Head coach Dave Van Horn made a reference that the goal is to stay in the top 10 this year and not get caught up in a No. 1 preseason rank.
Coaches have put more emphasis into playing better at the end of the year, not keeping a No. 1 ranking necessarily.
Another point to be derived from all this is that parody is evident in college basketball. Talent is spread out among teams and many of the top stars will leave for the NBA after one year.
This allows for teams that haven’t been traditional powerhouses to compete at a higher level. Kentucky, for example, is playing nearly all freshman this season. They have struggled thus far, but what should we really expect from a team with that much youth?
Being ranked No. 1 may not amount to a whole lot, but it should create some kind of pride. Players should want to stay in college longer to better their game and before making the jump to professional ball or other careers. The sense of urgency to restore the nature of the college game seems to be very low.
The regular season of college basketball has lost some luster, but when it gets down to March, teams regain that urgency. The problem is that what if the buttons to push no longer work? Urgency should be present all year, not just during conference and tournament play.
I may be overreacting to the constant changing of the guard at the No. 1 position, but then again maybe not. College basketball lacks some of the aura it had a few years ago, and I feel the lack of urgency and parody have a major part to do with it.
Zack Wheeler is a writer for the Arkansas Traveler. His column appears every Tuesday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.