Is There More Parity In College Basketball Today?


If there is more parity, then the distribution of Net Game Efficiencies across all D1 teams would all gravitate toward 0.0000. However, each year there are enough teams with Net Game Efficiencies of 0.2 ppp or higher to separate them from the pack. Similarly, enough teams with Net Game Efficiencies of negative 0.200 ppp or less who separate themselves from the pack in the opposite way.

Every year, the bulk of the teams have Net Game Efficiencies between -0.100 ppp and +0.100 ppp. This year is no different.

Those who argue against greater parity have it right, and those who want to speak of greater parity are those whose teams fall in that vast middle range. When a team is in that middling range, each game is an adventure, and outcomes are never certain. This year, UK has a Net Game Efficiency of roughly 0.05, and it is only natural that UK fans will want to rationalize their team's struggles with the parity argument.

That argument is for the middling teams. I doubt that Florida fans or Duke fans are too concerned about the "parity" in college basketball this season.

If you want to have championship teams, you must have the best talent and the best coaching, and that talent will emerge and separate your team from the pack. The Net Game Efficiency shows that separation best. When a team has a Net Game Efficiency of 0.15 and above, that team will separate itself from the pack. When a team can post a Net Game Efficiency of 0.200 or higher, that team will compete for championships. However, when a team has a Net Game Efficiency between -0.10 and +0.10, it is in the Middling range, and it will struggle. Generally speaking, Teams with 0.1 to 0.15 will probably be good enough to play in the tournament.

PARITY is a rationalization used by fans and coaches of middling teams to explain why every game they play is a struggle to survive.

However, some still want to argue that there is more parity today in college basketball, and that the greater parity is a result of scholarship reductions from 15 to 13, thus distributing the talent more broadly, the shot clock, and the 3-point line.

Let us examine each of those arguments briefly.

From the UK archives, the 1966 team is an example of a great team that had 15 players on its roster. See below:

1965-66 UK roster
Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Pts.

x-Pat Riley F 6-3 205 Jr. 22.0
x-Louie Dampier G 6-0 167 Jr. 21.1
x-Thad Jaracz C 6-5 230 So. 13.2
x-Larry Conley F 6-3 172 Sr. 11.5
x-Tommy Kron G 6-5 202 Sr. 10.2
Cliff Berger C 6-8 225 So. 3.4
Bob Tallent G 6-1 179 So. 3.0
Steve Clevenger G 6-0 185 So. 2.2
Brad Bounds C-F 6-5 207 Jr. 2.1
Jim LeMaster G 6-2 188 So. 1.4
Tommy Porter F 6-3 188 So. 1.3
Gene Stewart F 6-2 187 Jr. 1.3
Bob Windsor F 6-4 230 Jr. 1.0
Gary Gamble F 6-4 185 So. 0.9
Larry Lentz C 6-8 217 Sr. 0.0

I don't think that a 13 scholarship limit would have impacted that team, or made college basketball games more of an adventure for that team. If Rupp could have only had 13 players, then he would have to do without any two of the following:

Gary Gamble F 6-4 185 So. 0.9
Brad Bounds C-F 6-5 207 Jr. 2.1
Larry Lentz C 6-8 217 Sr. 0.0
Gene Stewart F 6-2 187 Jr. 1.3 or
Bob Windsor F 6-4 230 Jr. 1.0

I seriously doubt that you could place any two of those players from UK onto any other team in America that year and change the outcome of UK's season. These players availability was not sufficient to overcome the illness on the team during the final four that year either.

The great teams will use 8 to 10 players to win championships, and the great teams will still be able to attract the great players in those numbers, and in fact still do.

Parity is a myth.

Prop 48, the shot clock, or the 3 point shot would not have adversely affected the 1966 team. Great teams are simply great teams. The great talent is enhanced by the faster pace that the shot clock forces upon all competitors, and the great teams have the ability to score from outside and inside, thus the 3-point shot also enhances the talented teams. Prop 48 has the effect of limiting the talent pool, thus works against the idea of greater parity because the great teams will attract and obtain the best available talent from the depleted talent pool. The wannabes have tried rule changes throughout the history of the game to take advantages away from great players and great teams. Nevertheless, each year we see a sufficient supply of great teams emerge. UK used to be in that group with regularity, but now UK is not in that group nearly often enough.

Parity is a rationalization used by middling teams to explain why their "great" team seems to struggle with each and every opponent.


Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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