Absolute Madness: The Craziest College Basketball Season in Years
Over the last several seasons in college basketball there has been at least been one team to stand out and rise above the others in the regular season. Over the last three years those teams have been Kansas (2009), Ohio State (2010), and Kentucky (2011). Those teams were not to be taken lightly with, and it caused the public to pick those teams to win it all in their brackets. Last year in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge 35.1 percent of the contestants picked Kentucky to win it all, while the next closest team was North Carolina at 17.9 percent. This year, it is a crapshoot as to who is the best; and that is what’s making everything crazy. Let’s look at the madness that has happened which is making experts scratch their heads when they try to decipher it, as if they had just watched an episode of LOST.
Indiana was this year’s preseason number one ranked team heading into the regular season, because they were bringing back all of their starters from a very good squad last year. Well, they have lost to Butler and unranked Wisconsin and Illinois. The Hoosiers are good, but they are nowhere near as elite as Kentucky was last year.
Louisville was ranked second in the AP Poll at the start of the season, but have fell to eleventh after dropping three out of four at one point in the year. The Cardinals are likely to fall even further down the rankings after their loss to 25th-ranked Notre Dame in that epic 5OT battle on Saturday night. Most of ESPN’s experts have picked them to win it all, but I don’t understand why. Pitino’s team has holes, and if you can get Dieng in foul trouble they can become quite vulnerable on defense.
Kentucky was ranked third in the country to start the season, but have already dropped six games and sit unranked at 17-6. They survived a must-win scenario when they went into Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago and have suddenly caught fire to win five straight. Their next contest is maybe their most important if they want to make the big dance when they visit the SEC-leading Florida Gators. If Kentucky can make the tourney they would be one of the toughest eight or nine seeds in history, just because of their talent.
North Carolina State was supposed to be locked and loaded for a title run and because of that were ranked 6th in the AP Poll when it first came out. Since then they have lost a whopping seven times including their last three. They have self-destructed and despite their veteran presence, I don’t see the Wolfpack making any noise come March.
Kansas was ranked in the top ten to start the year, but have lost three straight for the first time since February of 2005. All three of those losses were to unranked teams, including TCU who was winless in the Big-12 until their win over the Jay Hawks. Some experts said statistically it was one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history when talking RPI (Kansas #9, TCU #201). Despite these losses Kansas can make a deep run in the tourney, but they are running on thin ice.
Michigan was ranked in the top 5 when the Preseason AP Poll was released, and they have played like it for most of the season. Michigan was America’s top team last week, until they went into Indiana and lost to a very good Hoosier team. Then on Sunday they went into Wisconsin and lost in overtime in a very crazy basketball game that included a half-court buzzer beater from Wisconsin to force the extra period. Michigan is very good, and a good amount of people will take them to win it all, but they are nowhere near a consensus number one.
Florida has been ranked the highest they had been all year at number two when they went into Arkansas in what seemed to be an easy win for them. Well, they ran into a freight train as the Razorbacks led from start to finish thats to eight threes and excellent defense. Florida just lost forward and key-rebounder Will Yegete for the rest of the season which will hurt their front court badly, but their speed and talent can overcome that loss and help them make a run to the Final Four.
Miami is this year’s biggest surprise as they have gone from unranked to 8th in the country, and rising. Their huge win came at home when they smacked Duke in one of the worst losses in program history for the Blue Devils. Miami romped North Carolina on Sunday and will continue to mow down ACC opponents because of their consistent and deadly three-point shooting. Some people want Miami to be ranked as the best team in the nation, and they might get their wish soon if “The U” continues to set a fire across the ACC. They are undefeated in conference play and have regained the Hurricane swagger that had been lost for many years. Miami is legit and deserve to be feared by all.
Butler is once again a dangerous team and are now ranked 14th in the country. They have taken down Indiana this year, as well as Gonzaga and UNC so they are battle tested. Brad Stevens will once again have his bunch locked and loaded come tourney time. With Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke, the Bull Dogs have a go-to man down the stretch, just like they had with Gordon Hayward when they reached the Finals several years ago.
Syracuse has hovered around the top 5 for most the season and got as high as number three before falling to Villanova and Pittsburgh on the road. Cuse’ has been without their sixth man James Southerland for the past month and a hearing about his eligibility was held on Friday. The results of that hearing could shape the fate of the Orangemen in March. They just came off a huge home win against Notre Dame as they might have played their best all-around game so far. Syracuse is a title contender for sure.
Duke was undefeated for a long time until they fell at NC State and at Miami. The NC State game was not as big of a surprise as the Miami affair, however. Duke was embarrassed to the point where Dick Vitale said he hadn’t seen that happen to the Duke program since he started watching college basketball. They lost by 27, but ever since have reeled off four in a row. When the new rankings are released Duke will most likely find themselves sitting number one, but they have unfinished business. March 2nd they host Miami in what will be a revenge game to say the least. The Blue Devils are missing a key player, Ryan Kelly, due to a lingering foot injury and if they can get him back they would become a serious favorite to make it to the finals.
Doug McDermott has Creighton ranked in the top 25, and is looking to make a run similar to what Jimmer Fredette did several years ago. “Dougie Fresh” is the nation’s second leading scorer at 23.3 points per game, while the Blue Jays lead the country in field goal accuracy. Fredette put BYU on his back and made it to the Elite 8. Can McDermott do what Jimmer never could and win it all?
Above I listed twelve teams that could win the whole thing this year, but it does not stop there. Some other teams that deserve mentioning are Ohio State, Michigan State, Kansas State, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Arizona, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Pittsburgh. The teams that sit high in the rankings have at least two losses, and by tournament time I guarantee that number will be four. There is no best team in the country this year. This past week four of the top five teams in the country lost! Over the past five weeks the number one team in the country has fallen. Could this be the year a 16-seed takes down a number one? Well, TCU beating Kansas this year was something very similar to a 16-seed victory. The parity this season is incredible, and because of that, March Madness will be absolutely insane. So who are you picking to win it all? Odds are a lot of people beg to differ, good luck.