There are no “great” teams in college basketball this year. The final moments of games featuring top-10 teams have seen mistakes that you would not expect a top-25 team to make. Exhibit A: Villanova’s Jalen Brunson throwing an inbound pass out of bounds in the closing seconds of the team’s win over Seton Hall on Wednesday, Jan 20. The blunder gave Seton Hall a chance to tie the game with eight seconds remaining. Great teams do not make mistakes in the closing seconds of games. We are nearly halfway through conference play, and it is still impossible to pinpoint a favorite for the National Championship. The balance of teams this year is something that has not been seen since the late 1940s. Five No. 1 teams have fallen before February for the first time since 1949, and 14 top-10 teams have lost. Oklahoma was the most recent No. 1 team to fall victim to the “best in basketball” curse, only lasting one day as the top-ranked team before being defeated, 82- 77, by Iowa State on Jan. 18.
Entering Monday, Jan. 25 there have been five teams to hold the top rank. The first unfortunate holder of the top spot in The Associated Press poll was North Carolina, who lasted two weeks, followed by Kentucky, who also lasted two weeks. Michigan State was the luckiest of the teams deemed to be the best in the land, lasting four weeks before Kansas returned to the trend of only lasting two weeks at the top. Oklahoma managed to stay at the top of the poll this week despite athe loss at then-No. 19 Iowa State, who moved up to No. 14 this week. The Sooners likely stayed at the top of the rankings due in part to the Cyclones’ top-25 ranking. But nonetheless, a loss is a loss for a top-ranked team.
In the past week, seven of the top eight teams lost as well. That includes No. 4 Villanova losing to No. 16 Providence in overtime on Sunday and No. 5 Xavier falling to an unranked Georgetown team on Tuesday. It is not just the No. 1 teams that have been struggling this season. Since Jan. 10, 30 teams in the top-25 have fallen to a team that is either unranked or ranked lower than them. Some have lost multiple times. The latest such example is No. 19 Indiana falling to the unranked Wisconsin Badgers. But the madness is only beginning. With over a month until “March Madness,” there will surely be more who fall. This entire season could be leading up to a NCAA Tournament that features more upsets and madness than ever before. We very well may even see a No. 16 seed take down a No. 1 seed in the tournament, a feat that has never been accomplished since the event expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
With as crazy as this season has been, why not? After the new poll came out this week, Oklahoma retained the top ranking this week despite the loss at then-No. 19 Iowa State, most likely due to the Cyclones’ ranking.
The only question now is, how long will they last? Kevin Huebler is a broadcasting major from Forked River, N.J. He can be reached at Kevin.huebler@ student.shu.edu or on Twitter @ Hueblerkevin.