It only sounds like the title to a Harrison Ford blockbuster. In reality, it’s life in D-I basketball. For the fifth week in a row, the Number One team went down in defeat. Claiming the top seed is now a game of Hot Potato and nobody’s winning. And let’s be real: whomever is Number One this week didn’t earn it. It fell off the back of a turnip truck. Four of the Top Five teams lost this week. But that wasn’t even the biggest story of the week. How about that 5OT thriller between Notre Dame and Louisville? How do you blow a seven-point lead with 45 seconds to go? Just ask Rick Pitino. I’m sure he’d be happy to elaborate.
The national rankings are almost trivial at this point, since the B1G remains the most talented league in college basketball. With the exception of the Kansas State-Kansas game tomorrow night, all the intrigue remains with the Big Ten.
So, who’s Number One on Monday afternoon? Here’s how I think it looks.
1. Duke (21–2/8–2). No huge wins, but no losses either (despite their best effort to choke one away to Boston College).
2. Indiana (21–3/9–2). Beating a Top 10 team on the road negates a crushing loss to Illinois. Home games vs. Nebraska and Purdue this week should be manageable.
3. Miami (19–3/10–0). This team is proving it’s for real with three straight double-digit wins.
4. Florida (19–3/9–1). That road loss to Arkansas doesn’t look so bad anymore.
5. Gonzaga (23–2/10–0). Zags are hanging in there.
6. Michigan (21–3/8–3). It gets no easier this week with a road game against Sparty.
7. Michigan State (21–4/9–2). All eyes in the B1G are on East Lansing this week.
8. Syracuse (20–3/8–2). Road game at UConn this week is not a slam dunk.
9. Arizona (21–3/9–3). One step up, two steps back. The loss to Cal might cost them a #1 seed.
10. Kansas State (19–4/8–2). Big game at Phog Allen against KU Monday night will determine just how good these two teams are.
Rock Choke Jayhawk
After three consecutive losses, the question surrounding Kansas is not if they fall from the Top Ten, but How Far? My guess: at least to Number 15. It should be farther, but losses by Creighton, New Mexico and Minnesota provide an unexpected cushion for the Jayhawks. Why are they losing? Good question. Their top scorer, Ben McLemore led the team in points the last three games. But lack of defense against Okie State gave way to poor shooting vs. TCU. And missed free throws may have been the difference against Oklahoma. In short: plenty of blame to go around.
While some might consider Ohio State an elite team, even with six losses, it’s important to point out the Buckeyes are 1–6 against ranked teams this season. There’s no shame in losing to a top-ranked team. But there’s no hiding the fact that Ohio State is not a top-tier team in the nation, much less the conference.
A Confederacy of Dunces
Cincinnati, Creighton, Minnesota and New Mexico had golden opportunities to lay the foundation for moving up in the rankings. And all four threw up on themselves, losing to lesser opponents. Creighton was the worst of the bunch, dropping two games to unranked opponents.
The Law Offices of Scott, Kadji & Larkin
Miami’s triple threat of Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji and Shane Larkin are going to be a force to be reckoned with in March. They combine to average more than 40 points per game. Don’t be surprised if they make a legitimate Final Four run.