Parity in college basketball could help teams like Boston College and Northeastern

Duke guard Tre Jones (3) drives to the basket against Boston College forward Nik Popovic (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Boston, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
charles krupa/AP
BC’s Nic Popovic (right) defends against Tre Jones in last week’s loss to Duke.

It’s unarguable that parity is the most obvious characteristic of this men’s college basketball season. There’s no better example than the fact that the No. 1 team is the country is Baylor, a school with very little tradition (and that’s being diplomatic).

It’s doubtful Baylor will stay at No. 1; parity will catch up to the Bears. And parity doesn’t exist just at the top; it has seeped down to most conferences, so regular-season titles are going to be in doubt for a few more weeks. The situation presents an opportunity for some teams that aren’t normally contenders.

Take Boston College, for example. Not that the Eagles are going to win the ACC, but they could have a better-than-expected league record. They were able to win at Virginia Tech in overtime Saturday, 77-73, and are now 6-7 in the conference. That’s one more victory than they had last season.


“It’s the most parity in the ACC in my six years,’’ said BC coach Jim Christian.

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Christian also said he thinks his team could take advantage.

“We’ve played well for like two, three weeks,’’ he said. “Since the Pitt game on the road, I think we’ve played as well as anybody in the league. We’re not winning all those games, but we’re playing pretty well.

“Our freshmen have grown up. I think we have a little more understanding of what we’re trying to do, an understanding of the roles we’re playing, what guys can do.’’

Finishing over .500 in the ACC, even this season, would be an accomplishment, given how Christian has relied on freshmen and had to compensate for injuries. The Eagles have a big game at Miami Wednesday night, and it’s a genuine opportunity to reach 7-7.


There are some possible problems, however. First, big man Nic Popovic was sent to the locker room during the Virginia Tech game for what Christian described as “an incident.” A BC spokesman said it’s an internal matter, but given the circumstances, one could question whether he’s going to play Wednesday. Also, Jared Hamilton aggravated an ankle injury and didn’t play in the second half. He’s day to day.

  Quick diversion: Once again, unsolicited, an opposing coach — in this case Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski — praised Christian. “I like that guy,” said Coach K after beating the Eagles last week. “He’s a great coach.”

  Back to parity: It’s exists in the Ivy League as well, with five teams considered contenders bunched at the top, and a lot of it has to do with the extraordinary string of games Harvard just played. The Crimson are 3-3 in the league after losing on a traditional 3-point play at the buzzer against Brown. They also lost in overtime to Penn and by 1 point to Princeton.

They have beaten league leader Yale, but Yale’s Azar Swain banked in a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to bring the Bulldogs within 1 and was fouled.

The call was debatable. Fortunately for Harvard (or maybe it was justice), he missed the free throw and the Crimson escaped.


Four teams qualify for the Ivy League tournament, and right now Harvard, which is hosting it, is in fifth place.

The good news for Harvard is that it already has played the four most difficult road games. All the teams above it must come to Lavietes Pavilion now.

  The CAA is no different. Hofstra leads Charleston by a half-game and Delaware by a game. William & Mary, which looked like the best team in the league just a few weeks ago, is now 8-5 after losing three straight. Northeastern lost, 75-71, at Hofstra and is now 5-7. Those seven losses have come by a total of 18 points.

The parity could reward Northeastern in the conference tournament; the Huskies would have to be considered a contender.

  An old friend visits: Jim Calhoun is still coaching at age 77, and his St. Joseph’s of Connecticut squad is 19-2 with an 18-game winning streak. If any UConn or Northeastern fans are feeling nostalgic, Calhoun brings his team to Regis College Wednesday night at 6.

  Merrimack milestone: The Warriors are tied for first in the NEC with Robert Morris, and seniors Juvaris Hayes, Idris Joyner, and Jaleel Lord are the winningest class in school history with 77 victories.

  Bracketology: The NCAA Tournament selection committee announced the top 16 teams in the field as of Saturday morning. Then all the games were played and the whole thing was obsolete within hours. There has to be a better time to do that . . . I’m always on the side of non-power conferences, but how great would it be if Gonzaga, San Diego State, and Dayton were No. 1 seeds? Speaks to parity (see above) . . . Of course, I’d like to be on the selection committee. I know I’d give a big effort. On my DirecTV feed, there were 53 games available Saturday. I did my best to watch as many as I could.

  Future star alert: UConn freshman guard James Bouknight had consecutive games over 20 points (he was tremendous against Cincinnati Sunday). The Huskies are 13-10 but have eight single-digit losses (five since Jan. 1) and three in overtime or double overtime.

  National observatory: Coach K blurted this out in his post-BC news conference. “I see in the future a high school mega-league that has a TV contract.’’ . . . Michigan State coach Tom Izzo after a loss to Michigan: “We’ve been in every game but one. And yet, we get close . . . cut big leads . . . it’s almost like we go brain-dead then, and that’s got to change.’’ Not sure there’s a coaches clinic for that . . . More parity: The MAAC has to be the most balanced league, with Saint Peter’s and Rider tied for first at 8-5 . . . Vanderbilt ended a 26-game SEC losing streak by upsetting LSU in Music City. That can only be categorized as a horrible loss for LSU . . . North Carolina A&T will leave the MEAC for the Big South. A&T will be the third HBCU school to play in a non-HBCU conference, joining Tennessee State (OVC) and Hampton (also Big South) . . . Seton Hall’s victory at Villanova was its first there since 1994 . . . Penn State had its first sellout (15,261) since 2011 at Bryce Jordan Center. People in Happy Valley are suddenly interested in basketball . . . Bill Self won his 700th game when Kansas beat TCU Saturday, and Kansas tied an NCAA record with its 31st consecutive 20-win season. Self should enjoy it before the NCAA catches up with him following revelations in the recent FBI investigation.

  Things to look forward to: Dayton and the highly entertaining Obi Toppin will be at UMass Saturday . . . Kansas will be hard-pressed at West Virginia Wednesday . . . Charleston and Hofstra play a key CAA game Thursday . . . Ivy leader Yale and Princeton meet Friday.

Joe Sullivan can be reached
at josephsullivan1974