A look around College Basketball
We are about a month away from Selection Sunday and we don’t know much more now than we did two months ago. Seth Bondroff and I take a look at what is going on around the game and what we could possibly see in the coming weeks.
Things are getting a little more “normal” as we sit 4.5 weeks away from Selection Sunday, though seeing Baylor, San Diego State, and Dayton in the top is still a bit jarring. Teams we expected to be Final Four contenders back in November like Louisville, Maryland, Duke, and Kansas are now all solidly in the Top 10 and are looking at high seeds in the NCAA tournament. Michigan State has been a huge disappointment, now falling out of the top 25, but it wouldn’t be wise to sleep on a Tom Izzo team in March. MSU is the first team since the 2013-2014 Kentucky team to be a preseason #1 and end up out of the polls at some point during the year but they have a lot of opportunity to turn things around (including 2 games vs MD) and could still end up as a 3 or 4 seed.
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Looking around the country, the bubble is very weak and the teams that will be in the tournament aren’t much better. I don’t a lot of confidence in any one team to win the title this year. There is no team, outside of 1 vs 16 matchups (apologies to UMBC), that I see as a definite winner in their first game. Obviously, matchups can change that but generally speaking, I just don’t see any stand out teams. This is a wide open field but realistically, there are probably no more than 8 or so teams that can win 6 games.
All of the top teams have flaws, whether it’s a lot of youth, inconsistent play on either side of the court, not being battle tested or just not having that player(s) that you can rely upon to take over a game. The NBA draft this year is viewed as a weak one, which certainly adds up to the play on the court in college basketball this year. There is, of course, good and bad news to that. The bad news is that some may be drafted higher than they should because of the weak draft but the good news is that we should see more guys staying this year, which should make for a very good season next year.
The question now is, how legit are teams like Dayton and San Diego State? Dayton had a great run in Maui back in November and could run the table in the A-10 though they still have to play VCU & Rhode Island on the road, two teams that will play somewhere in postseason. The Aztecs really only have one semi tough road game left, at Boise State and could be undefeated going into the tournament. Kenpom likes each of these teams, as SDSU is 5th and Dayton is 6th in the rankings. Dayton also has Obi Toppin, the player who is seemingly the clubhouse leader for National Player of the Year. Wichita State pulled that off (going undefeated in the regular season) a few years back but fell as the #1 seed in the second round. I think there are several Maryland fans who would love for the Terps to be the #2 or 3 seed in the Aztecs bracket.
Speaking of the Terps, it seems like the student body and the MD fans have stopped the coaching search for the time being. MD is 8th in the Kenpom rankings. They have been one of the best defensive teams all year and while the offense has been up and down, the have been able to be a top 35ish offense for most of the year. They have won 6 in a row and 9 out of 11. The Big Ten has been the best conference in a very down college season this year and Maryland’s schedule to end the year will not be easy but they should be a #2 or #3 seed by the time the season ends. I do not think they can get a 1 because of the lack of good OOC wins and, while they are in the best conference, it’s not like there are many great wins because the top of the Big Ten is good but not great.
Staying locally, Towson is having a pretty nice season in the CAA, sitting at 8-5 in a really competitive conference. Hofstra and Charleston appear to be the strongest teams, but Towson (and others) could make some noise in the CAA tourney in a few weeks, which will be in DC this year. This will be one of the many “small conference” tournaments worth seeing, including the WCC. While Gonzaga rules the WCC, some think they can get as many as 3 teams in this year and even a team like San Francisco is pretty decent as well. Gonzaga is an elite offensive team whose defensive efficiency keeps getting better and better. They are deep and talented and can attack you in many ways. They have as good a chance as any to win the NCAA tournament this year.
The end to this season has a lot of intrigue. Will the ACC get more than 3 or 4 teams? How do the top teams like Duke, Louisville, Dayton, MD, etc…end the year? Will the Big Ten get 12 teams? Can SDSU stray undefeated? Will the loss of DeSousa hurt Kansas as we approach March and cost them 1 or 2 seed lines? Even in a down year, March will always bring a lot of excitement.
A former co-host of Sports Tonight with Rob & Chris on BSL Radio, Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570.