By: Chris O’Brien
As of Sunday, January 7th, these were college basketball’s Top 5 teams:
- Michigan State
- Arizona State
So, how did these potential No. 1 seeds start out their first week of 2018?
Four of them lost. And not just lost, all four losses came to unranked teams.
If you go back 10 days, you get Villanova’s unranked loss at Butler.
You’d also get Texas A&M, then ranked No. 5, which seems like a season ago. In less than two weeks the Aggies have lost three games, they are 0-3 in conference, dead last in the SEC. I’m guessing they will be out of the Top 25 in today’s AP poll.
I try not to overreact, but will often fall into the trap of, “This has never happened before!” I forget that every year we have top teams lose on the road in conference play. Every year there are stormings of the court. Every year teams move in and out of the Top 5.
But I was curious because I don’t remember last year feeling this wide open, this void of teams that have separated themselves from the peloton.
I did some digging, pulled up the No. 1 and 2 seeds from last year. At this point in the calendar year, here were there records:
- Villanova – 15-1
- Kansas – 15-1
- North Carolina – 14-3
- Gonzaga – 16-0
- Kentucky – 14-2
- Arizona – 15-2
- Duke – 14-3
- Louisville – 14-3
Which is not, record-wise, radically different from say our current Top 8 teams. But what stands out to me is look at those names above. Blue Bloods. Traditional powers. Those eight teams have combined for 28 National Championships.
And that’s not even counting UCLA’s 11 titles. They ended up being a No. 3 seed. This time last year they were the No. 4 team in the country at 17-1.
In contrast, here are the current 1 and 2-loss teams.
- Villanova – 14-1
- Clemson – 14-1
- Virginia – 14-1
- West Virginia – 14-1
- Texas Tech – 14-1
- Auburn – 14-1
- Michigan State – 15-2
- Xavier – 15-2
- Purdue – 15-2
- St. Mary’s – 15-2
- Miami – 13-2
- Duke – 13-2
- Wichita State – 13-2
- Cincinnati – 13-2
- Oklahoma – 12-2
- TCU – 13-2
- Seton Hall – 14-2
- Mississippi State – 13-2
- Arizona State – 13-2
Texas Tech, Auburn, Miami, Mississippi State, TCU? Are we looking at football or basketball standings here?
It’s not that teams haven’t separated themselves from the pack, I think it’s just surprising to see the names of which teams have.
Now, again, January is still early in the college basketball season. We haven’t really scratched the surface of conference play. But it is unique that you can put a list of 19 teams together with better records than the traditional powers of Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, Arizona, Louisville, Gonzaga, Florida, Connecticut, Georgetown, Syracuse.
If these winning percentages hold up, we might be in for one of our strangest brackets ever.
Would picking a No. 6 Kansas over a No. 3 Auburn still qualify as an upset?
How about a No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Texas Tech?
Could you imagine a No. 1 line of Auburn, Seton Hall, Clemson, and TCU?
Alright, pump the brakes…
If I were to guess, this will all look far more traditional by Selection Sunday. Probably have Michigan State, Duke, Villanova, and — if Kansas can get De Sousa and Preston into the lineup soon — the Jayhawks on the No. 1 line (and if that was too much of a KU homer pick, go with West Virginia/Oklahoma, both of which wouldn’t be shocking to see with such a high ranking).
But we’ll see. This time last year the No. 1 and 2 seeds were already pretty well sorted out.
This year? Still a giant question mark.