This college basketball season has been marked by unprecedented parity and frequent upsets, with multiple top-ranked teams suffering surprising losses to unranked opponents. Factors contributing to this trend include the retirement of influential veteran coaches, recent rules changes allowing more player movement, and the impact of additional COVID-19 eligibility years for players. The transfer of experienced talent and older players staying in college have further blurred the line between top programs and others. As a result, the usual dominance of traditional powerhouse teams and star one-and-done freshmen has diminished, leading to a more open and unpredictable competition landscape. The ongoing season has already seen a record number of different teams appearing in the AP poll, and top-10 teams are experiencing their worst win percentage against unranked opponents in the modern era. The trend highlights a broader shift in the competitive dynamics of college basketball.

The Big Picture

The college basketball landscape is undergoing a phase of unprecedented parity and unpredictability, characterized by frequent upsets and an open competition field. The influence of veteran coaches, rules changes, player transfers, and the impact of additional COVID-19 eligibility years are contributing to this shift, leading to a more level playing field across programs.

By the Numbers
  • Record 54 teams cycled through the AP Top 25 last season
  • 47 different teams have appeared in the AP poll this season, with over a month until Selection Sunday
  • Top-10 teams are just 32-33 on the road against unranked foes, the worst win percentage in those scenarios in the modern era
State of Play
  • Unprecedented parity and unpredictability in the college basketball landscape
  • Shift in the competitive dynamics with a record number of different teams appearing in the AP poll
  • Top programs are facing increased competition from others due to factors such as player transfers and the impact of additional COVID-19 eligibility years
What's Next

The ongoing trend of parity and upsets is expected to continue, with significant implications for the NCAA Tournament. While some teams at the top are beginning to separate themselves, the overall landscape remains open and unpredictable, setting the stage for a potentially riveting postseason.

Bottom Line

The college basketball season is witnessing a transformative shift in competitiveness, as traditional distinctions between powerhouse programs and others blur. The influence of veteran coaches, rules changes, and evolving player dynamics are reshaping the sport's landscape, heralding an era of increased unpredictability and opportunity for teams across the board.