At least some things stayed the same in 2020. The year began with Gonzaga ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. It’ll end that way, too. For the record, the Zags went 26-1 in 2020, the one cloud in the sky being a loss at BYU.
(We interrupt this story with a news update. BYU is 9-2, and every time the Cougars hear speculation about unbeaten Gonzaga running the table this season, they draw another circle around Feb. 27, when the Zags return to Provo. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.)
As for the rest of the college basketball landscape, it became a year of wondering what could possibly happen next. So here are things true Dec. 31 that no one could have imagined on Jan. 1, back when 2020 arrived, hiding its brass knuckles.
It has been 633 days since the last NCAA tournament game.
As for the next tournament game to be played, we’re not yet totally sure when. Or where. But we’re pretty certain about if.
The blue-blooded quartet of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Michigan State are 15-15 on the season.
Kentucky, at 1-6, has the worst record in the SEC.
Duke was 153-1 this century at home against non-conference opponents. This season, the Blue Devils are 2-2. Look in the coaches poll, and Duke is not there. Virginia Tech, picked to finish 11th in the ACC, got more votes last week. Then again, maybe it’s a matter of out of sight, out of mind. If the Blue Devils get to play Florida State on Saturday, it’ll be only their third game in 29 days.
Rutgers and Northwestern are tied for second place in the Big Ten. Michigan State is tied for last.
North Carolina went 11-18 in the 2020 calendar year, and 5-15 in the ACC.
Drake, predicted to finish seventh in the Missouri Valley but now 11-0, has the best record in America.
Gonzaga’s actual record is 9-0-5. Nine wins, no defeats, five cancellations or postponements. The Zags have been held under 90 points only twice so far this season, with 87 as a low, and it would appear only a COVID pause can slow down their offense.
Fordham played its first game Wednesday. The same day, Atlantic 10 colleague VCU played its 10th game.
Siena, predicted to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, hasn’t opened the season yet, and won’t until at least Jan. 3.
The Ivy League hasn’t played since March 7. Under current plans, the league will go 20 months without a basketball game.
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In the Patriot League, Army is 4-1 and Navy is 3-1. The other eight teams are 0-0.
Washington State, picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12, is the only unbeaten left in the conference.
Creighton, without a Sweet 16 trip in 56 years, is in the top 10 of the coaches poll.
Iona is 5-3 under its first-year coach, who is named Rick Pitino.
Texas is reigning champion of the Maui Invitational, which was played 4,500 miles away in the mountains of North Carolina.
The Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau was scrubbed, reworked, renamed, and won by West Virginia in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
In November, the center of the college basketball universe was a casino in Connecticut, and a place called Bubbleville.
Five of the six largest crowds in the nation this season have been at Arkansas, where the Razorbacks are allowing in as many as 4,400 fans. They’re 9-0, with every win by double figures, averaging 90 points a game. There were 111 programs last season that averaged more than 4,400 fans a game.
The Coastal Carolina basketball team has lost only once and is among the nation’s top-scoring offenses. Just like the Coastal Carolina football team.
John Thompson, Lute Olson, Lou Henson and Eddie Sutton are gone. The college basketball coaching fraternity lost a lot in 2020.
For the first time since 1938, when a new car cost an average of $763, there was no NCAA tournament. Just like no Wimbledon, no Olympics, no Rose Parade. Who saw any of that coming last New Year's Eve?