The main topic of conversation on much of the internet message boards this week has been about the upcoming listing of the Top 10 College Programs since 1985, according to the ESPN “Prestige” Rankings. The Rankings, which begin when the tournament went to 64 teams (thus screwing over early 80s powerhouses like Louisville and Georgetown), have caused much debate and scorn as the top programs try to figure out where they will project. I give ESPN credit for attempting to come up with empirical criteria (and not just opinion) and while I do have some disagreement with part of the criteria (giving the same amount of credit for an NIT appearance and an NCAA First Round loss), it is better than nothing.
So with that said, how will the rankings turn out? Well no matter what else happens it is very likely that Duke will be number one. Even though we all hate Duke (and the pic above is beyond dorky), you cant really argue with the choice. In the time period chosen, Duke went to about 72 Final Fours in a row, won three national championships and dominated over ten regular seasons. They had the best run. The next tier will likely be Kansas, UNC and Kentucky, probably in that order. These three to me are almost interchangeable. All three won two titles….Kansas made more Final Fours….as did UNC….but UK had more regular season success. Probation hurt UK, Doherty hurt UNC and Kansas had a relatively easy conference for much of those decades to dominate. Kansas likely thus comes in at #2 and UNC’s Final Four tally probably puts them over the top of the Cats. Still Kentucky’s regular season runs and conference titles make the race close. My guess is that UCONN comes in next at #5, but that will be determined tomorrow.
I give ESPN credit for attempting to do this in something resembling a scientific manner. People will still yell about bias, and anytime Duke is #1 such claims will be made. But it is a good diversion for the summer and gives us something that we can certainly make fun of our friends in red about for years to come…..and isnt that what this is all about?