Is the 2023 Final Four proof that NIL and the Transfer Portal will bring more parity?

Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger discuss the 2023 Final Four field featuring Connecticut, Miami, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic, and debate if the field full of first-timers is a sign of things to come in college athletics.

Video Transcript

PAT FORDE: These are interesting teams. These are fun teams. And this is the way this season should have ended, frankly, given the way it went most of the year.


DAN WETZEL: Just as predicted, you know, we taped an episode, it got, like there were technical problems or something, it never got released. But I know we all had FAU.

PAT FORDE: Yeah, we nailed it.


ROSS DELLENGER: All four of them.

DAN WETZEL: San Diego State and UConn, I think that was definitely– I mean, who wouldn’t? Who didn’t see this coming? We will have FAU will play San Diego State and Miami will play UConn, in I guess what constitutes the varsity game. They always got to pick a game.

First Final Four ever without a 1, 2, or 3 seed. UConn is the top seeded team, at 4. It is the– we have three first-time Final Four participants. Florida Atlantic, Miami, and San Diego State have never been. UConn obviously has been. This is their sixth appearance. They’ve won it four times.

And this is the first time we’ve had three new participants since 1970, when New Mexico State, Jacksonville State, and Saint Bonaventure showed up, and UCLA just laughed.

PAT FORDE: I mean, it’s a completely wild Final Four. Nobody was picking these teams. Tons of fresh faces and new terrain and everything. But it fits thematically with this season in college basketball, because it has been one of those years that people have been saying since November, December, like is anybody really good? You know, are there any powerhouse teams?

And no. This is the season distilled to its final essence here of, yeah, giving us the Conference USA champion and the Mountain West champion. And Miami, which has had a good program but is, you know, like the ninth school you think of when you think of basketball in the ACC.

So you know, I imagine the ratings will be bad. There may not even be any ratings for the FAU-SDSU game. But that’s OK. These are interesting teams. These are fun teams. And this is the season we– this is the way this season should have ended, frankly, given the way it went most of the year.

ROSS DELLENGER: It felt like we were due for one of these, especially after last year, right. We had all the four blue bloods, what, Kansas and Duke and North Carolina, and who am I leaving off?

DAN WETZEL: Villanova.

PAT FORDE: Villanova.

ROSS DELLENGER: Villanova, yeah. It’s crazy that from one year, one year away we basically have four blue bloods. And now, we have this grouping.

I was reading Pat’s column today on it. And I don’t know whether to, as you wrote, Pat, like I don’t know whether to look at this as just this one-off kind of year, or is this something, some kind of trend. It’s hard to say it’s some kind of trend or some kind of NIL or portal reason behind it. Because just a year ago, we had all the power. So I don’t know what to make of it.

But it sure is, it sure is incredible when you look at some of the stats about it, the three first-timers, the no 1 or 2 or 3 seed. It’s pretty incredible.

DAN WETZEL: I don’t think you can come to the conclusion, I think they’d be, like you said, I mean, you have Kentucky– or not Kentucky, geez, I wish– Carolina, Duke, Kansas, and Villanova a year ago. It’d be ridiculous to say, oh, look what this trend is, because you could say last year was different.

So I don’t think it says that the transfer portal and NIL and all of that is here, is how you get to the Final Four, or allows it. But I don’t think you can say it’s not how you’re getting there. Like let me rephrase. I don’t even know, I’m saying it wrong, but like you can’t sit there and say, oh, small schools can’t make it. That’s what I’m getting– all right, I’m not sitting there saying, well, from here on out, just shake up the lottery balls and see who the heck comes out, and any team can follow this path of getting it brought. I don’t think you can say that. But you certainly can’t sit there and go, well, see, with the transfer portal and the NIL, only the blue bloods are going to get good.


DAN WETZEL: So it’s more wide open, but that doesn’t assure anything. The strength is still with the programs that historically have strength. It’s just in this case, it didn’t happen.

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