WHAT I REALLY MISS about college basketball is the dominant team, the one that blows away every opponent and instills both fear and respect. Those teams are history because no team stays together long enough to perform regular crush jobs.
Since the end of the UCLA dynasty and the advent of players leaving early for the NBA draft, only two teams - Duke (1991, '92) and Florida (2006, '07) - have won consecutive championships. And what made those teams was that everybody of consequence stayed from one year to the next. Both were very good, but neither was really dominant.
To be dominant, you need to run up big scores against everybody. I laugh when people say the mark of a great team is its ability to win close games. No, that is the mark of a team that can win close games. A great team is never in close games.
So, by that standard, which team is the greatest in college history? The numbers strongly suggest it is UCLA of 1971-72, Bill Walton's sophomore season. UCLA was unbeaten (30-0) and won its games by an NCAA-record 30.3 points per game. That is 94.6 points for them and 64.3 points for the other guys.
All these years later, Walton is the greatest college player I have seen. Greatness is relative to the context of your time. In his time, Walton was on a level so far above the others that they could not see him, much less consider beating him - until the team-wide meltdown late in his senior season.
The other candidates, in my mind, are UCLA (1967, '68, '69), the three teams with the then-Lew Alcindor that went 88-2 and won three championships. They won their games by averages of 25.9 points, 26.2 points and 20.9 points.
In the shot-clock era, I think the best national champion was Kentucky (1996). Those Wildcats won their games by 22.1 points. Rick Pitino's team had everything. It was so good and so deep that even when some of the key players left early, the Wildcats were in the championship game the next year, and won the title again in 1998.
Interestingly, the two teams with the greatest victory margins in the shot-clock era did not win the championship.
UNLV (1991) was killing everybody and did not lose until Duke got it in the national semifinals. Even with that loss, the Runnin' Rebels had a victory margin of 26.7 points. Some of that can be attributable to a conference schedule that was not very challenging, but that was some team.
Duke (1999) was considered unbeatable until Connecticut outplayed and eventually beat it in the national championship game. Those Blue Devils outscored teams by 24.7 points per game.
Speaking of Duke, it has won the scoring margin championship four of the last 10 years.
Two of the last three national champs (North Carolina 2005 and Florida 2007) also won the scoring margin title.
Villanova and the Big East
I am not quite sure where Villanova will fit in the Big East. Trying to gauge conference teams when they all play so many no-hopers is quite difficult. I do think the Wildcats have some good pieces. I just don't know whether they have enough to deal with the top of what will be a very strong league.
Eight conference teams, including 'Nova, are averaging more than 80 points per game. What that all means will be determined when all those teams start playing one another next week.
Some Big East numbers
They do know how to schedule in this league. The have played 37 games against the America East, Colonial, Ivy, Northeast and Patriot. The record? 37-0.
The record against the top 25? 4-11.
The Atlantic 10 deal
The league is 94-57 (.622) in non-conference games (6-9 vs. the Big East). If that holds, it would be the fourth-best non-con winning percentage since the league was formed in 1976.
Dayton is the only team in America with three road wins against the RPI top 50.
One of the problems with the Preseason NIT is that if you lose early, you have no games for a while. Saint Joseph's had that issue this season when it lost in the second round to Syracuse. St. Joe's could not schedule any games during the period when it might have been playing, so the Hawks had no games for 10 days.
Starting next season, that will no longer be an issue. Every team in the Preseason NIT will be guaranteed four games. Winners in the first two rounds still will advance to New York.
Teams that lose in the early rounds will play two more games Thanksgiving Week at three campus sites, which will be determined by a seeding process. Thus, there will essentially be four, four-team tournaments during Thanksgiving Week.
One of the bizarre sights this year was the Siena-Fairleigh Dickinson consolation game at the Carrier Dome after the Hawks played Syracuse. Had to be a record for most empty seats at one basketball game.
It was the summer of 2003 when it was revealed that one Baylor player had murdered another. Coach Dave Bliss tried to cover up his own sins by portraying the dead player, wrongly, as a drug dealer. Once Bliss, rightly, got blown up, the program became a complete wasteland.
Scott Drew, son of Homer (Valparaiso), became the coach. His first four teams were 36-69, 12-52 in the Big 12. In 2005-06, the Bears could not even play non-conference games because of NCAA sanctions.
Drew has to be an early Coach of the Year candidate. Baylor is 9-1. The Bears won the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands by beating Wichita State, Notre Dame and Winthrop. They won at South Carolina. The loss was at home to No. 4 Washington State, 67-64. By the way, Homer and Valpo are 10-2.
Want to show how much college hoops you know? Ask them what these schools have in common: California, CCNY, Louisville, Maryland, UTEP and Villanova. All are NCAA champions that never were ranked No. 1.
And if you really want to show them, tell them you know that the same team has the longest winning streak and losing streak against one opponent: UCLA.
The Bruins beat California 52 consecutive times from 1961 to 1985, not long after Cal won its national title in 1959. The Bruins lost to USC 41 consecutive times from 1932 to 1943. Yes, they played four times each season and, yes, the losing streak would be pre-John Wooden.
The longest current streak is Syracuse-Colgate, 42 straight for Syracuse. Why does Jim Boeheim schedule anybody else in December? Why not Colgate twice a week?
This and that
-- Cincinnati's two previous coaches, Bob Huggins (West Virginia) and Andy Kennedy (Mississippi) are a combined 21-1. Cincinnati, with Mick Cronin, is 4-7.
-- Matt Doherty recruited all those players who won North Carolina's 2005 championship. He is now in the witness protection program at SMU. His last two games were a 58-56 loss to South Carolina-Upstate (I don't know, either, so don't ask) and a 57-49 win over Prairie View A&M.
-- Memphis big man Joey Dorsey is not really a scorer, but he does not waste his chances. He shoots 73.7 percent and gets a Conference USA-best 9.8 rebounds per game.
-- There will be at least 10 NBA scouts at Drexel tomorrow to see Rider's terrific senior big man, Jason Thompson. Love his game - smooth, relaxed and confident. Absolutely an NBA prospect.
-- The game has gotten far too complicated just to look at who is scoring and who is keeping teams from scoring. Those numbers are often a function of how slow or fast teams play. Consider last season, when VMI led the nation in scoring (100.9 points) and Princeton allowed the fewest points (53.3). VMI was 14-19 and Princeton 11-17.
-- Indiana freshman Eric Gordon (23.5 points) is way out in front of the Big Ten scoring race, It is still early, but he is on pace to break the league freshmen scoring record, set by Ohio State's Michael Redd (21.9 points) in 1997-98.
-- The Pac-10 may be as good as advertised. The league is 85-22 in non-conference games and has seven teams (Washington State, UCLA, Arizona, Stanford, USC, Oregon, Arizona State) in the top 40 of the most recent Associated Press poll.
-- It is no secret the six BCS leagues dominate the NCAA Tournament. Here are the NCAA records for each over the last 5 years: Big East (49-28), Southeastern Conference (42-24), Atlantic Coast Conference (41-24), Big 12 (40-24), Big Ten (34-25), Pac-10 (30-22).