When a college basketball season collectively faces adversity, sports broadcaster and former coach Dick Vitale may be the only one who can provide clarity about why.
Three top achievers in NCAA men’s Division I basketball are playing in a way many haven’t seen, and Vitale said he sees two major factors that could be causing these traditionally powerful teams to struggle this season: lack of fans and limited non-conference scheduling.
Vitale said Kentucky lost a handful of close games and said not having fans in the stands could play a role in those losses.
“I’ll bet you if those 23,000 were in the crowd, the passionate Kentucky fans, what an advantage that is. You still have a slight home-court advantage,” Vitale told FanSided. “You’re sleeping in the same bed. You’re shooting at the same baskets the vision that a home-court advantage to a certain extent, but it’s not the same as you’re getting that edge with the crowd there giving you that lift when you’re struggling.”
The Wildcats have won a total of eight NCAA men’s Division I college basketball championships in their history. Their most recent win came in 2012 when the No. 1 seeded Wildcats defeat Kansas 67-59.
With many conferences requiring league-only scheduling, Vitale said the pandemic has disrupted the learning curve young teams need with non-conference games.
“The top three teams in recruiting last year were Kentucky, Duke and Carolina,” he said. “When they got in conference they’ve all been struggling because they couldn’t have those cupcake games part of their season, play five or six games guys get familiar with one another. You learn a little bit about college basketball, get acclimated to what they are going to face.”
Vitale said the pandemic-plagued season has helped schools that normally don’t have players jumping to the NBA early in their college careers.
“You look at Baylor and Gonzaga, they’re great,” he said. “They’re skilled, they’re talented, but they’ve got veterans, they’ve got players who have been through it.”