I think we can all agree the last 12 months have been crazy, and that extends to the sports world. College basketball, one of the sports hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, has faced a ton of challenges. It could face more come tournament time, as a number of blue-blood programs could miss the NCAA Tournament.
Some programs have adapted well to a world without fans and with stringent testing protocols, while others haven't. Gonzaga and Baylor are thriving, while a number of traditional powers are limping along. With an abbreviated non-conference schedule to start the season, some blue bloods were never able to get things going and are now on the outside looking in at tournament time.
As things currently stand, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Indiana are all unranked. Not all of those teams are currently out of tournament projections, but some are, while others are on shaky footing.
Bracketology says blue bloods are in trouble
Duke is currently 7-7 (5-5 in the ACC) and looks like it will be sitting out March Madness. Despite a wealth of talent, including four five-star freshmen, the Blue Devils have never gotten it going this year.
Kentucky, which boasted the top recruiting class in the country in 2020 has been abysmal. The Wildcats are 5-12 (4-6 in the SEC) and are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013.
Like the other two, Michigan State sits at 9-7 (3-7 in the Big Ten) and is firmly out of tournament projections. Despite a number of talented players like Aaron Henry, Joey Hauser and Josh Langford, the Spartans just haven't been able to replace Cassius Winston this season. The guard play has been awful for Tom Izzo's squad.
While Kansas is struggling and outside the top 25, the 12-7 (6-5 in the Big 12) Jayhawks are firmly in the tournament. All seven of their losses have come against Quad 1 competition. Bill Self and his team can't get complacent though, as a bad loss could send them tumbling.
North Carolina is 12-6 (7-4 in the ACC) but some projections have the squad as a double-digit seed right now. A lack of impressive wins could be what keeps Roy Williams' squad out come March.
Indiana has been a mess all season. While still considered a "blue blood" the Hoosiers haven't actually made the Big Dance since 2016 -- though they would have made it last season. Archie Miller's team is currently 10-8 (5-6 in the Big Ten) but has played a brutal schedule. Two big wins over Iowa are helping bolster the Hoosiers' case and they are likely among the last teams in at this point.
Who will make it?
Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State have a ton of work to do to get back in the tournament chase. We'll see if they can turn it around over the next month, or win their respective conference tournaments. North Carolina and Indiana will have to avoid bad losses and stack a few more wins to feel safe on selection Sunday. As for Kansas, it would likely take a terrible stretch of play to miss the tournament.
Many of the traditional blue bloods are struggling during this weird college basketball season. March Madness could have a completely different feel without them this year.