The sports scene in early 21 is marked by COVID chaos.
Weirdness abound, many are already viewing the ongoing seasons as marked with an asterisk as with seasons last year.
That being said, college basketball trudges on.
As the trudging has progressed, we have seen some traditional powers fall to the wayside.
Without some of these anchors in the top of the polls, we must redefine who is a blue blood.
Duke lovers, prepare to be BIG mad.
Pre-2021 Blue Bloods
The following three normally great squads are not good this year.
They may even be shockingly bad.
These 3 are Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina – 3 of the traditionally successful and impact programs in college basketball history.
Adolph Rupp turns in his grave, Michael Jordan cries in more memes, and coach K mutters to himself “what’re we doing here?” as they continue to lose.
Here’s a tweet that captures how dominant these 3 squads have been until now.
Historic AP Poll this week.
No North Carolina or Duke for the first time since the week of Dec. 27, 1982 (702 straight polls)
No North Carolina, Duke or Kentucky for the first time since the week of Dec. 18, 1961 (1,043 straight polls)
— Bryan Ives (@awaytoworthy) January 18, 2021
The last time these 3 were this bad was when Eisenhower was president (okay, fine, this was 2 days before JFK was inaugurated – good topic for today!) and Adolph Rupp was literally the Kentucky coach.
It has been a while folks. Both teams look like they may not even belong in the top 25 at all, this isn’t just a cold streak. These teams are not good. Jeepers!
Frankly, the whole ACC is terrible besides maybe Virginia and a meh Clemson side. Did I forget someone like FSU? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter, none of these teams will sniff a final four.
Traditional Blue Bloods that are Decent At Least
Not all is lost for traditional powers in college basketball! Some of these squads are maybe baby blue bloods, but basketball royalty all the same!
Kansas is still good, even though they may be the 3rd or 4th worst team in the Big 12. They can always turn it on under Bill Self. Baylor is the second best team in the country, Texas looks like they belong in the top 5 (finally Shaka Smart!), and other good teams like West Virginia and the Red Raiders of Lubbock are there to challenge. The Big 12 is fun! Almost as deep as the Big 10!
Another surprisingly good side sits in Westwood. The UCLA fighting Bruins under Mick Cronin are ahead of schedule and sitting just inside the top 25 at number 24. The PAC 12 is not good, so they could easily rise. I’m not convinced by the rest of the PAC 12 and a inconsistent Oregon is their best competition. Maybe Evan Mobley carries USC? Doubtful.
Let’s Add Some Recent Blue Bloods
Alright, here is the fun part that people will get mad about. The non-traditional but recent tradition powers.
Gonzaga deserves this, they had the clear best team in collage basketball last year, are always really good, and perennially are a final four contender.
If they were in the PAC 12 there would not be nearly enough haters. They played maybe the toughest no-conference schedule of all time this year (look it up!) and came out not only undefeated but dominant. This team has a real chance to run the table and sit in college basketball lore as one of the greatest teams of all time. Few (pun!) reasons to leave them out. Always good, and this year the bet. Slot em in!
Villanova, the defending national champions (no game last year, so technically true!) is again very good.
No longer the best team in college basketball, but still a force this season. The Wildcats have won 2 recent natties and belong in the top 5 once again. While I think at their best a team like Texas would beat them, sometimes other teams are not at their best, but Nova always is. This team has all the Wright (guess we are doing the pun thing) stuff to belong as a 2021 Blue blood.
Virginia is perpetually amongst the top teams and has recently won it all with one of the more memorable and redeeming runs of recent history. Tony Bennett has the team rolling again and they will probably win the ACC this season. Sitting at 13th, I would expect them to rise as some other teams are a bit inconsistent. Virginia will not be.
Unless Virginia Tech is really this good for some reason, expect a referendum on the two Virginia’s and the ACC when they meet on January 30th. You know this suffocating squad won’t be Cavalier about the game against their rivals.
The Sleeper 2021 Blue Blood
Finally, Wisconsin needs to be on this list. Are they boring? Sure! But that program is as rock solid as they come. From Frank the Tank to Nigel Hayes to the 1-t punch of Trice and Potter we have today, Wisconsin has been good for a while. Where do these kids keep coming from?
It’s just a solid program that always wins at the highest level (besides the national championship) and I have a spot in my heart for these guys. Also, this may be the best team the Badgers have had since the runner up finish in the tournament and beat the indomitable Kentucky team along the way in 2014.
Sitting at the 10 spot now, they really could win the big 10 if Iowa and ummm…everyone else (okay the Big 10 is really good this year) slip up. Not to Badger you, but Wisconsin really does belong among the 2021 blue bloods!
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-Brent Buckley (@bigbucksbuckley on Twitter)