ESPN’s 50 in 50 Nothing More Than Meaningless Summer Fun

ESPN recently wrapped up its series on the top 50 men’s college basketball programs since 1962 and well, it certainly was a way to draw in readers for a few weeks.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that concerned with such a seemingly arbitrary ranking system that essentially was nothing more than trying to find a way to give college basketball fans something to talk about during the dog days of summer when college hoops is still two months away.

If you are a college basketball fan you’ve heard or seen the results, and by now, if you are a Duke fan, you are probably a bit disappointed, annoyed or perhaps unfazed by the fact that North Carolina was ranked No. 1.

ESPN based their rankings on a system of awarding points for achievements such as conference titles, NCAA Tournament appearances, and victories. Regular season accomplishment  were also accounted for and awarded points in the rankings.

But the rankings weren’t solely influenced by the number of national championship won, however, those played a major factor especially when trying to rank one team with titles above another. Obviously  the fact that UCLA, who has more titles than anyone proved to be no advantage for them as they lost out to North Carolina for the top spot in the rankings despite having fewer national titles.

The first rankings done four years ago had Duke actually ranked No. 1, but those particular rankings only looked at the best program from the 1984-1985 season which was just the beginning of the Mike Krzyzewski era, which at the times accounted for three national titles in a relatively short period of time.

The new rankings figured in Duke’s 2010 title, but prior to Krzyzewski, Duke had never won a national title. Compounding that fact is that several years saw Duke miss the NCAA Tournament  during the years when only the winner of the conference tournaments made the big dance or equivalent post season tournament. The rankings sited a period from 1967-1977 where Duke missed the NCAA Tournament and only made one Final Four from 1967 to 1985.

Penalties were figured into the equation but they didn’t appear to be weighted very much. Case in point, Kentucky was penalized twice for sanctions but still had 64 more points than Duke and thus were ranked one spot ahead of the Blue Devils in the rankings. Apparently following the rules wasn’t rewarded all that much as all the teams above Duke including Kentucky, UCLA and North Carolina had all been penalized at one point or another for various NCAA violations over the years.

Still there is very little to fear in these rankings and it does very little but give fans some irrelevant bragging rights until ESPN finds a new way to calculate such a ranking.

Trying to rank teams in a given season is hard enough but trying to rank programs over the span of decades and then assigning arbitrary point values to accomplishments and or short comings is daunting and in no way an exact science. So I tip my hat to the gurus over at the network for attempting such a feat.

Some Duke fans are discussing these rankings ad nauseam on message boards and the reaction is mixed. No one should really take this ranking all that seriously though, because like I said, it is just fodder for fans during the off season before the football season kicks off and the basketball season tips off in late October, early November.

When all is said and done there will be no banner hung for this ranking, though that is always debatable in Chapel Hill where banners are hung for everything. And in a few months if not sooner, no one will even remember these rankings, so enjoy them while you can for those out there who actually value them, because they just don’t mean that much.

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