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Nardone: College basketball should rank every team (all 300-plus)

23 DEC 2014: N.J.I.T Highlanders guard Ky Howard (0) charges into the lane during the NCAA Basketball game between the NJIT Highlanders and the Villanova Wildcats played at the the Pavillion in Villanova, PA. Final Score Villanova 92 NJIT 67
Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire

College basketball is a weird sport in that many who enjoy it want so badly for others to do the same.

For the majority of the season, college basketball fans are fans and they fan their way from November to February. Then something odd happens. March hits and a slew of casual CBB fans parachute in.

Those people are there for the good times. While you, die-hard college basketball fan, struggled to consume LIU-Brooklyn play Fairleigh Dickerson to a 65-58 bloodbath, the casual fan is here for the brackets, laughs, and to suggest all the ways to “fix college basketball.”

They aren’t there to sincerely enjoy any of it. They are there as much to say how awful all of it is as they are to pick upsets in their company bracket. So, worrying about them is odd, and we should let it go, but I do get the need to defend something you like — at least to a degree.

It is an annoying yearly cycle. College basketball is not the NBA-light, nor should it try to be. Still, magically, the March-only fans seem not only disappointed, but shocked that most players trotting about the hardwood without being paid can’t hit 15-foot jumpers at an efficient rate.

Anyway, “fixing college basketball” is always a rather absurd topic. It is almost always done by people who don’t actually watch the sport on the regular, many of the suggested changes are unrealistic, and many don’t even know what the real problem in college basketball is — you know, that there’s 300-plus Division I teams and that’s a hell of a lot of programs to expect to be entertaining to watch.

This author opining has a point. It is meant as a large preface to this: College basketball isn’t perfect, never will be, and that is just fine and dandy. Even with that being the case, there are some relatively small things the sport can do to make it a better consumed product, even if it is only for us, die-hard CBB fans.

I’m here to suggest one.

What if the NCAA or college basketball — or whoever — hired a committee to rank every college basketball team in the country on a bi-weekly basis?

The thought process here is simple. Even CBB fans who are so in love with the sport that they go through withdrawal in July can’t watch every single game. Hell, some of us are lucky enough to very literally get paid to consume as much of it as possible, but there’s only so many times one is afforded the opportunity to watch NJIT play. Ranking every team, while it would by no means be perfect, would shine some perspective on any given game on any given day.

Often lost in the realm of college basketball is the vast differences between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.

We know the difference in the NCAA Tournament because there’s seeding attached, and many know the difference by then already, but in late November we might not understand the profoundness of a highly ranked Kentucky team playing — as a random example — Marist.

What if we did know? What if a group of people were paid to only rank all the college basketball teams?

Think about it somewhat logically, while ignoring all the logistics of it for now: Kentucky vs Marist initially appears like a random, it will no-doubt be a blowout type of game. After all, who wants to watch Big Blue Nation run wild over the Red Foxes?

But wouldn’t it be slightly more appealing if the second ranked team in the country was playing — ugh — the 287th?

Sign me up!

It doesn’t look more appealing on the surface, but it does several things. It adds perspective to the presumed talent gap, let’s us know how absurd the chances of an upset would be (Las Vegas odds be damned), and it is a much more blunt way to let the fans know what would be considered good wins vs. bad losses vs. shoulder shrugs.

In a simpler sense: It would provide all fans with more information. That information can be parlayed to a better way to decide which non-conference games to watch, how to feel about certain upsets, etc. It puts a relative pecking order in the books and makes the sport even easier to follow, especially at the lower levels.

The logistics would be a bit more complicated. Qualified people would need to be put on such a committee. Probably ex-coaches and/or lifelong CBB media would need to be on the panel, but we’d also be asking these same people to give up being human — as they’d likely have to consume at least eight hours of college basketball a day, which seems neat on the surface, until we realize they have to watch as many Seattle Redhawks games as they do Duke ones.

Regardless, all sports can use a little tinkering here and there.

College basketball — save for massive realignment, form of relegation, or decreasing the number of Division I programs — can do little other than in-game rule changes and non-impacting, on the surface moves like the suggestion made in this column.

Is this a bad idea? Not really. It doesn’t hurt anyone or any team.

Will it ever happen? It can.

Major sports networks already have people who rank every Division I team, but most sane people realize that a person who spends most of their day reporting and/or covering power conferences knows very little about the SWAC.

Make ranking college basketball teams great again… and patently absurd in the number of teams we rank.

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