It’s halfway through the NCAA Men’s Basketball season and we’re seeing more and more of what’s become a trend over the last 3 seasons- parity. The teams that were supposed to dominate from start to finish aren’t doing so and mid-major teams are creeping into the top 25. Only 1 undefeated team remains- 9th ranked (way too high for a team that doesn’t play quality competition) Murray State after Syracuse’s 20 game win streak came to a halt at Notre Dame. While tiers have emerged, there is no clear cut lock to take home the National Title on April 2nd. Let’s take a look at the most recent polls:
|AP Top 25|
|13||San Diego State||17-2||832|
- Others receiving votes: West Virginia 96, Gonzaga 82, Vanderbilt 40, Louisville 35, Harvard 32, Wichita State 28, Cincinnati 20, Illinois 11, Middle Tennessee 9, Dayton 3, Iona 2, Long Beach State 1
- Dropped from rankings: Illinois 22, Louisville 23
|ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll|
|12||San Diego State||17-2||403|
- Others receiving votes: Florida State 41, Gonzaga 34, West Virginia 33, Wichita State 29, Middle Tennessee 28, Vanderbilt 20, Nevada 12, Illinois 6, Cincinnati 4, Southern Miss 3, UCF 3, Iowa State 2, Dayton 1, New Mexico 1
As I stated in my Men’s Basketball Preview, Kentucky has what it takes to be the #1 overall team. Anthony Davis is a blocking machine and is a lock for defensive player of the year. Missouri has to be the surprise of the season, basically playing with 4 guards and 1 forward as they run teams out of the gym. Their win at Baylor proves they’re for real. The coaches poll dropped Cuse 1 spot too far in my opinion after their first loss, as you can see the remainder of the top 25 have at least 2 losses. I think Ohio State is a top tier team, but Cuse deserves to be ranked ahead of them until they lose another game (and they will).
The top tier teams are my favorites to win the National Championship. At this point in the season, Kentucky, Syracuse, Ohio State, and North Carolina have separated themselves from the rest of the pack as the cream of the crop. I’m sticking to my guns with my pre-season prediction that the Kentucky Wildcats will cut down the nets when it’s all said and done, but anything can happen. It’s very possible a 2nd tier team will knock off any of these squads.
The 2nd tier teams are very good squads who on any given day can beat anyone in the country. Kansas, Duke, Missouri, Baylor, Michigan State and Florida make up this group. The Jayhawks have player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson leading the charge. They’ve won some big games at home against Ohio State and Baylor but have lost true tests on neutral courts to Kentucky and Duke. Duke finds itself in the 2nd tier due to the home upset against Florida State. Austin Rivers doesn’t seem to fit in very well and simply hasn’t been the superstar he was billed to be. Missouri has had a great season so far but their schedule has been rather favorable. Their quality wins over Cal and Illinois doesn’t make them giant killers, but the win at Baylor was huge. I put Missouri and Baylor at about even, seeing that Baylor managed to win at Kansas State, Mizzou’s lone loss. Baylor lost back to back games (Kansas then Mizz) which could happen again in a few weeks. While Michigan State was overrated last year, you can never count them out because of Tom Izzo. They bounced back from an 0-2 start and after back to back losses at North Western and at Michigan have righted the ship with a big win against Purdue. I doubt they creep their way past the Sweet 16 this year but you never know. As for Florida, they score a ton of points and Kenny Boynton has shown he’s a stud. All 4 of their losses were away games, 2 of which against Cuse and OSU. They manhandled Florida State and Texas A&M and should do the same to Mississippi State on Saturday.
Georgetown, UNLV, SDSU, Indiana, Virginia, Michigan, Florida State, Wisconsin and UConn make up the 3rd and final tier of top teams. There are teams ranked higher than some of these squads who aren’t listed, but I don’t take them seriously (I mean you, Murray State). All of these squads can make a run in the tournament but only a couple of them actually will. The first 8 teams either have stellar records or statement wins while UConn hasn’t really beaten anyone good other than FSU and has lost 5 really bad games. Andre Drummond isn’t living up to the mixtape hype (although he is still projected to go in the top 3 of the NBA draft should he declare). Drummond’s 35% free throw percentage isn’t going to help win many games on any level and there isn’t a player on the UConn roster with even a hint of Kemba Walker’s killer instinct. The only reason they remain on this list is the pure talent Jeremy Lamb, Drummond and Shabazz Napier possess.
I was Right
A few of my early predictions have come true so far:
Kentucky knocking off UNC, becoming the clear cut favorite right now.
Cuse has shown their experience and maturity and have put together a quality season thus far.
Vanderbilt and Louisville both dropped out of the top 25 (although Vandy is surging right now) and both Michigan and Gonzaga aren’t scaring anybody.
Michigan State has gone from unranked to the top 10. How’s that for a sleeper?
I was Wrong
I’m not Nostradamus nor am I professional NCAA Men’s Basketball scout, so I’m going to be wrong from time to time:
Austin Rivers has been impressive at times, but hasn’t dominated by any means.
Unless you’ve watched as many games as me, you probably don’t know who Myck Kabongo is (yet).
Saint Johns will not be making the tournament this year, yet alone the Final Four. I was going out on a limb and the branch broke off and hit every other limb on the way down. Their season was over when sophomore guard Nurideen Lindsey left the team after being one of their more promising players. They have 0 quality wins and are near the bottom of the Big East. I admit, I was way off on that one, but hey, didn’t MSU not make the tournament last year after being ranked #2 overall pre-season? I believe they didn’t. Can’t win ’em all.
All American/POY Predictions
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Kenny Boynton, Florida
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Harrison Barnes, UNC
Perry Jones III, Baylor
Kris Joseph, Syracuse
Marcus Denmon, Missouri
Terrence Jones, Kentucky
POY: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Final Four Predictions
Florida takes Saint John’s sleeper spot in the Final Four. I have a feeling about them this year, I can’t explain it. Kentucky, Syracuse and Kansas make up the other 3 as Duke drops out in the elite 8. Florida vs Kentucky for an all SEC final with Kentucky winning the National Championship.