Blog Entry

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

Posted on: February 22, 2012 1:40 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 1:50 pm
Players of Bill Walton's caliber wouldn't stay in school for more than one year in the modern era. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

In doing research for the top 16 college basketball teams of all time, a common thread developed for me – and it wasn’t surprising. The biggest difference in comparing teams from the 1950s, 60s and 70s to teams from the 2000s was obvious: early-entry.

The juggernaut UCLA teams of the John Wooden era got to have Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton for three years, and the Bruins clearly reaped the benefits of those careers. The same goes for Bill Russell and San Francisco, or the undefeated Indiana team that featured Scott May and Kent Benson.

What if the 2004 Connecticut team featuring Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor had returned its key pieces in 2005? That team lost six games during Gordon and Okafor’s junior season, but they would have been dominant the next year. And the 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels that steamrolled through the NCAA tournament? What if Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Ed Davis had all returned in 2010? 

Because players leave early more often during the last decade, we don’t get to see players reach their full potential in college. As a result, the talent gap diminishes between the haves and have-nots and we don’t see the dominance we saw from champions 40 and 50 years ago.

Imagine this year’s Kentucky team – with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, etc. – returned nearly all of its key parts next season. And added Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and either Shabazz Muhammad or Nerlens Noel. That team wouldn’t stand a good chance of going undefeated? But there’s zero chance we see anything like that; it just doesn’t happen.

The 1972 UCLA team won games by an average of 30.3 points. 1968 UCLA hammered teams by an average of 26.0 points. The 1996 Kentucky team had nine future NBA players on its team. 1991 UNLV failed to win a regular-season game by at least 10 points just one time.

We don’t see teams like that anymore, because the early-entry rule has essentially decreased the number of stars one team can have at a specific time. We’ll see the George Masons and the VCUs and the Butlers make Final Four runs, because parity is far more prevalent in college basketball than it was a half-century ago. You didn’t see Cinderella runs every season in the NCAA tournament, because the top teams in the country were head and shoulders above everyone else -- and there was no "great equalizer," like the 3-point shot. 

Upsets are a normal occurrence nowadays. That wasn’t the case with some of the other great teams. San Francisco won 55 games in a row; Indiana went undefeated; UCLA won 10 championships and made 12 Final Fours during a stretch. No one was picking against the 1969 Bruins, a season that was essentially a victory lap for Lew Alcindor’s career.

The most dominant teams of the past decade – 2004 Connecticut, 2009 North Carolina, 2007 Florida, 2005 North Carolina – were all vulnerable. Those four teams lost a combined 19 games.

Teams from “back in the day” just didn’t lose. From 1964 to 1976, the 13 national champions lost a combined 12 games. That’s it, 12 games in 13 seasons.

From a personal perspective, I’ve rarely said over the past decade: “Wow, I can’t see this team losing to anyone the rest of the season. And they’re going to dominate next year too.”

That’s just how it is these days: upsets happen, parity happens, early-entry happens.

In the 1960s and 1970s, that simply didn’t happen.

And that’s why there’s a clear difference between modern-era champions and the champions generally considered “the greatest of all time.” 

CBS Sports Network will be celebrating the 16 greatest college basketball teams of all time in the upcoming, four-part series, "16." Our CBS Sports panel of experts has voted, and on March 19 and 20, you'll be able to see which teams make up our list. You can help us celebrate your favorite team by sending us your tweets -- use the hashtag #CBS16 -- or leave your comments below. Then, look for your content as we'll work to incorporate the best submissions into the series.

You can also chime in on Facebook: Eye on College Basketball or

Category: NCAAB

Since: Sep 13, 2010
Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:43 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

I have to disagree to an extent with the author. First of all, despite winning in the National Championship game, the 2005 Illinois team was a much more dominant team, losing only one regular season game and playing UNC to the wire in one of their worst performances of the year. Second of all, back in the day, talent was more spread out because players stayed all four years. When a five star recruit at SG signed at UNC, that meant another recruit at SG would probably go somewhere else because he knew he simply wouldn't get that great of an opportunity. There were excpetions to this, of course. Teams could remain dominant for a stretch of years because every player stayed all four years and so guys played together for 3-4 years. Now, because of the one-and-done rule, guys aren't as afraid of going to a school if it's already got a really good player at your position. So teams can actually pile up more talent now than they could. Look at what Kentucky has been doing the last few years. In the old system, there's no way Brandon Knight or Marquis Teague would have even gone to Kentucky with John Wall still there. So that Kentucky "dream" scenario won't happen now, nor would it have ever happened before. I think upsets are also more common now because most of the best teams are very young, and that means inconsistency. Again, there are exceptions to this. A few decades ago, the best teams were often full of Juniors and Seniors. Those guys are more experienced, more mature, and more consistent on a nightly basis.

Since: Mar 23, 2008
Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:44 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

How is all that "potential" speculation working out for the NBA? Uh...depends on who you ask. For those who drafted (or traded for) Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Rusesell Westbrook, Derek Rose, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Blake Griffen, etc...I'd say it's going pretty well.

Since: Apr 26, 2011
Posted on: February 25, 2012 4:33 am

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

Teams with amazing big men in the 50's did NOT play slowdown basketball.  San Franciso with Russell.  Kansas with Wilt.  Kentucky with Spivey - all those teams played fast paced basketball especially UK.  San Francisco was considered a great defensive team but they didn't play a slow down game.   Russell was a track star too and so was Chamberlain.  And Kansas, like UK, was never a slow down type program.  The only decent team I ever slow down games was North Carolina in the 70's and 80's with that snoozer 4 corners offense.  You must have watched them play.  It was like watching paint dry only it was less exciting.  They were responsible for the shot clock along with UK but for a very different reason.  Other teams slowed down the game against UK to keep from getting blown out.  UNC would get up 10 points and put everyone to sleep the rest of the game.  Kentucky opponents started out stalling so their phenomenal talent of the time wouldn't beat them by 50 points.  UK never played deliberate basketball even until Sutton came along and even worse Smith.  You'll notice they play much better when they play fast.  They don't play in the Big 10.

Since: Apr 26, 2011
Posted on: February 25, 2012 4:09 am

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

What "Duke run" are you talking about?  Kentucky was far more dominant in the 90's than Duke in case you didn't notice.  They came very, very close to winning 3 titles in a row.  If their best player had played the championship game I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have gone to OT.  UK would have won. 

And look around today.  UCONN has been pretty dominant in the last decade.  And in the last 3 years (and counting) UK has been great.  They just haven't won a title "YET".  And don't look now but it's entirely possible UK could be better next year.  If Nerlens and Mohammed both sign with UK watch out.  They will be at least as good next year as they are this year and they are fantastic now. 

And here's what I really don't get.  The top 16 teams picked by the CBS staff were almost all from the last decade or decade and a half.  So how is it that now they're claiming the days of the dynasty are gone and the old teams were the great teams?  They should make up their mind at CBS.  And I just love how they never bothered mentioning any of UK's great teams except one.  Do they think 7 titles came easy?  Yet they blathered on about the UCLA teams totally ignoring the fact that those teams were bought and paid for by Sam Gilbert.  GF need an abortion?  Call Sam.  Need a snazzy car to impress your gf so she will need an abortion?  Call Sam.  They never mention that scandal but they make movies about conjured up UK scandals.  I have seen documentaries on HBO about Gilbert complete with interviews with the paid UCLA players including people like Bill Walton.  They were all ashamed of what they did out there.  But not CBS.  It put LA college basketball on the map and if CBS is anything it's a collection of homers.  Forget the sins of UCLA.  It's UK that's the bad guy.  Why that Rupp guy was Hitler's brother.  He hated blacks and Jews.  The media sang that song starting in the late 40's.  They never bothered to mention the huge amounts of money Rupp donated to the Children's Hospital or the visitations he did there to whtie and black kids alike.  They also don't bother mentioning that state law prohibited blacks from even attending UK when they cooked up that lie about his racism.  They must have missed Jim Crow. 

I'm sick of their endless bias.  If it isn't Duke or UNC now they hate it.  Well the feeling is mutual.  I don't hate people but I can sure hate what they do and CBS is the bottom of the barrel.  How many fake stories do they have to do to destory a program?  They've been trying for 65 years.  It still hasn't worked.  You'd think they would give up eventually.  But nope.  They are dedicated homers to the bitter end.  Watch how many Duke and UNC stories get published on this site.  It's sickening.  They rarely even mention Syracuse either.  Funny how that works.  Being good doesn't compare with being Duke or UNC.

People know about your CBS.  When will you learn that you don't control the media anymore?  The only people that really like you are Duke and UNC fans and they both accuse you of sucking up to the other team.  You are losing.  Give it up.

Since: Jan 19, 2010
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:23 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

If we want kids to stay in College or use College as a way to not only get a basic education, but hone their skills, then why shouldn't a college player be allowed to have an agent that represents him, just like a rich uncle or parent does to kids at Harvard? If a college student so chooses to do so, he would forfit his scholarship money and the signing agent takes the risk. The student would still have to follow team rules, but the school shouldn't have the right to tell the kid that he isn't allowed to do commercials or make money in his off time, as long as he doesn't harm the school or other players in any way. This way, the agent takes the risk on the player. If a gifted athlete is going to stay in college and become a better prospect both as a player and as a person, then the NCAA or any school shouldn't have the right to tell them that they can't make a living while attending school. If an agent wants to take the risk on a player and give him advance money, so be it. Otherwise, I can't see any reason why we or any school can tell a kid he has to stay in college for 3 years, when a kid like LeBran can get a multi million dollar contract before he even finished high school. On the other hand, If a kid is playing on scholarship, the NCAA and the school should have to share something on this student if they are making money of the athlete, for example jersey sales.

I know there would have to be much more rules that have to be established and it is not as easy as it sounds above, but case and point is if a student pays his own tuition, then other than team and university rules, what he does is his own business, as any other student would have the right too. In addition, haveing someone represent you legally should be the right of the student to represent his best interest, as the shool is really only worried about their own.

Again, the NBA is using College's as a staging area for CFB and CBB. As long as their are rules in place that make sense, let them pay for the atheletes with some common sense built in, as well as agents. This way it is out in the open. Otherwise, all everyone is saying here doesn't mean a darn thing, kids will still be one and done if the dollar signs are there, and why shouldn't they.

Since: Feb 24, 2012
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:01 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

If the coach brings in exceptional talent, year after year... he is creating a dynesty for the school and himself.  Just because the faces on the team change does not deminish the efforts for those who take to the court.  

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:48 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

There are pros and cons to the current setup.

The main pro is that different teams have a chance of winning.  Its great to see a Cinderella team make a run every few years.  There is nothing wrong with a little parity - the NFL does great with it.  There are more skilled players these days than years ago coming into college, so other teams rather than 5-10 perennial powers have a chance.  Coaches are more challenged on the recruiting end - they have to constantly recruit since most of their top guys won't stay 4 years instead of getting a group of 3-5 stars one year and making two or three title runs with them.

The main con is kids don't stay in school and I think this outweighs the pros.  The point of the 99.9% of college kids who aren't "pro athletes to be" going there is to be educated and graduate.  Why should college be different for kids who can shoot and dribble well?  The kids shouldn't be using college as a pergutory year until they can get drafted.  They should be required to stay at least 3 years as others have said.  With less one and dones, colleges don't need to restock their lineups so much every year, allowing more talent to spread to more schools.  If this was made effective, parity could still occur.

The posters stating that kids who are one and done's jump into the pros and then tend to try and live off their talents - unless they refine actual basketball skills they flame out quickly.

They can't keep these halfway requirements like one year in there - either have no requirement at all or make kids stay at least 3 years.

Personally, the NBA is ridiculously boring to me and I haven't watched a game in 15 years.  I would love to see the skilled college players stay longer.  Some of the blame is on the pro scouts who are willing to draft an 18 year old thinking they'll be Lebron James when they usually end up with a D-league player who could've been a star had he developed his game a few years in college.  Then what does the D-league player with no education do when he's retired?

Since: Aug 30, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:49 am

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

Teams are betting on "potential" rather than actual proof of ability over the long haul. That is why Jeremy Lin seems like this "amazing discovery." Last time I looked, he finished school and actually knows how to play "basketball!" He isn't doing anything so amazing (other than playing very well of course) than playing great fundamental basketball.
Amen to that. How is all that "potential" speculation working out for the NBA? Gone are the skill players like Pistol Pete, Larry Bird, Stockton, Isaiah Thomas, and Magic Johnson that really understood the game and didn't survive the first 5 years in the NBA on athletic ability alone. Anyone questioning the pace and skill of the 80-90's NBA compared with today just needs to take a look at any random regular season game of that time and then watch todays game immediately afterward. It's awful. Just the same though, we probably never see another Duke or UCLA like run again in college ball with coaches like Calipari around.

Since: Aug 1, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:20 am

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

I agree with the story and how the one and dones help keep most teams from getting to "dynasty" status, however, that being said, the story points out an example with Kentucky. If it were not for one and dones, no way would Kentucky hope to land so many top flight freshmen ...there would be no room for them! These guys would be scattered around at other schools helping make them better and more competitive with Kentucky. We have a few (VERY few) select schools that actually take advantage of this situation and help make their "dynasty" easier and not harder to maintain!

Since: Oct 14, 2010
Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:54 am

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams


The beauty of those "24-32" teams was that you had to be a conference champion to even make the NCAA's.  USC had some of their best years during the UCLA run, but because they couldn't beat UCLA, they had to stay home.  Those "tomato cans" treams were in fact conference champions and the NCAA was more tuned to the student athlete and thus scheduling "regional" games was the norm.  Who really believes the 7th best team in a conference can be called champion?  This year in College Football, Alabama didn't even win its own division - that's a farce.

And by the way, UCLA only had 2 great centers (Walton and Alcindor) during their run, but every year, they had great guard play.  Height doesn't necessary win championships in college - but none will win without great guard play.

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