Tag Archives: 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Elite Eight

Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

Is this year’s Kentucky team the worst in the Calipari era?

For the first time in the John Calipari era at Kentucky, the Wildcats have fallen out of the rankings. UK’s plummet from the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll comes after consecutive losses for only the second time during Calipari’s tenure in Lexington.

The Wildcats have had a tumultuous start to the season and this year’s team has more losses than last year’s national championship squad. They squeaked by Maryland in their season opener 72-69. Kentucky was not so lucky in its second game of the season when the Wildcats lost to Duke, who is now ranked second in the country. Calipari & Co. then strung together three wins against Lafayette, Morehead State, and LIU Brooklyn. UK was not supposed to beat Notre Dame even though the Fighting Irish were unranked. It was the first true road test for a young team. Notre Dame was 46-0 at home in November with Mike Brey as the team’s head coach. There was a “black out” at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame’s football team had just completed a 12-0 season and secured a spot in the BCS National Championship. Manti Te’o and the rest of the football team lined the court to cheer on their fellow Notre Dame athletes. While the Wildcats only lost by 14 points, they were down by as many as twenty halfway through the second half. UK then had a quick turnaround to play Baylor, who made it to the Elite Eight last season. Pierre Jackson’s 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals lead the Bears to a 64-55 win–Kentucky’s first home loss since John Calipari took over in 2009.

Notre Dame knocks off #8 Kentucky, who made the greatest fall out of the rankings in the history of college basketball. Courtesy of http://www.indystar.com/viewart/20121129/SPORTS/121129040/Notre-Dame-beats-eighth-ranked-Kentucky-64-50.
Notre Dame knocks off #8 Kentucky, who made the greatest fall out of the rankings in the history of college basketball. Courtesy of http://www.indystar.com/viewart/20121129/SPORTS/121129040/Notre-Dame-beats-eighth-ranked-Kentucky-64-50.

Kentucky’s 2012 recruiting class was once again one of the best in the country. They brought in four of the top players on the Rivals 150 Prospect Ranking. The individual talent is clearly present on the Wildcats roster. Archie Goodwin: 16.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.5 apg. Alex Poythress: 15.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg. Nerlens Noel: 11.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg. Willie Cauley-Stein: 8.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg. However, the team lacks leadership and experience. UK has eight players in its rotation, four of whom are freshmen and two are transfers in their first season at Kentucky. Kyle Wiltjer is the team’s only returning player with any significant number of minutes as a Wildcat and he was the seventh man on last year’s national championship team.

In the past, John Calipari has had more players with experience at Kentucky. Last year’s team had sophomores in Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones, as well as senior Darius Miller, all of whom played at least 25 minutes per game.

The Kentucky Wildcats are not short on talent–they have four players who are projected to be drafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, including three top ten picks. However, UK has not developed the team chemistry necessary to be a ranked team at this point in the season. Of course, eight games into the season is way too early to sell on Kentucky. There is no doubt that their young players will greatly improve by next spring when the truly important games are played. Although, all things considered, the 2012-13 Wildcats do not appear to have the ceiling of the past three John Calipari teams, who have gone to the Elite Eight, Final Four, and won the National Championship, respectively.

Ranking the 6 Power Conferences in College Basketball

The majority of the teams that make the NCAA Tournament every spring are from the Power 6 Conferences: the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC. From year to year, the best college basketball conference varies. With three teams in the top five, the Big Ten takes the crown this year.

Big Ten

Ranked Teams

1. Indiana

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

14. Michigan State

23. Wisconsin

All-Americans

Trey Burke-Guard-Michigan

DeShaun Thomas-Forward-Ohio State

Cody Zeller-Center-Indiana

The Hoosiers have taken control of the preseason #1 ranking thanks to Cody Zeller and depth unparalleled in the rest of college basketball. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1319961-big-ten-basketball-predicting-the-2012-13-big-ten-stats-leaders

Big Ten basketball is back. The Indiana Hoosiers are the unanimous preseason number one team with the best player in the country. Ohio State returns junior DeShaun Thomas, who shot 52% from the field last season and doubled his scoring from his freshman year. The Buckeyes also have Aaron Craft, who is arguably the best defender in the country. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which are historically schools focused on their football programs, finished with a record below .500 last season. From top to bottom, the Big Ten has depth in teams and individual players. Minnesota, a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, has a top prospect in power forward Trevor Mbakwe. Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke is a preseason All-American in many sports outlets after averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds as a freshman.

ACC

Ranked Teams

6. North Carolina State

8. Duke

11. North Carolina

25. Florida State

C.J. Leslie leads the Wolfpack to the top ten rankings and NC State is ready for a national championship run. Courtesy of http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/acc/story/2012-04-18/cj-leslie-nc-state/54385466/1.

North Carolina lost four starters and Duke lost two starters to the 2012 NBA Draft, which hurts the strength of the ACC this year. However, North Carolina State is taking over the reigns as a national championship contender because its top four players are returning from last season. C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell all averaged double-digits in scoring last year, when the Wolfpack made a Sweet Sixteen run. They also have the tenth best recruiting class, which is highlighted by shooting guard Rodney Purvis. The bottom of the ACC drops off quickly with teams like Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest, which were significantly below last season.

Big East

Ranked Teams

2. Louisville

9. Syracuse

22. Notre Dame

24. Cincinnati

Peyton Siva is an electric guard and the motor behind the Louisville Cardinals. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/9vA3Yb_luTk/East+Basketball+Tournament+Second+Round/k0L4kz6WMdR/Yancy+Gates.

Louisville was a surprise Final Four team in a region that featured Michigan State and Missouri as the top two teams. The Cardinals return a loaded roster with Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva, and Gorgui Dieng, which is why they sit at the second spot in the preseason rankings. While Syracuse and Pittsburgh are set to join the ACC in July of 2012, the Big East will still benefit from the Orange’s top ten preseason rank. While ‘Cuse lost Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, and Fab Melo to the NBA Draft, they bring back Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas. They also have the fifteenth ranked recruiting class for this year, with forward Jerami Grant, guard Trevor Cooney, and forward DaJuan Coleman. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season by the upset-minded Xavier Musketeers and Cincinnati Bearcats, led by their talented backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, are also ranked going into the season. Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Georgetown are all knocking on the door of the top 25.

SEC

Ranked Teams

3. Kentucky

10. Florida

15. Missouri

While the SEC is the perennial powerhouse in college football, it does not have much depth in college basketball. Outside of its top few teams, the conference is dismal. Kentucky is one of the best teams in country once again thanks to the best recruiting class in the nation with four ESPN 100 players. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley-Stein are the next class of potential one-and-dones who were recruited by John Calipari. Senior Kenny Boynton will have Florida in the spotlight this season. The newest school to the SEC, Missouri is ranked fifteenth in the preseason. Tennessee received some attention in the preseason rankings but is still far off from cracking the top 25.

Big 12

Ranked Teams

7. Kansas

19. Baylor

Kansas’ Jeff Withey is one of the best centers in college basketball and will be crucial to the Jayhawks’ success this season. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Jeff+Withey/Ivo+Baltic/Las+Vegas+Invitational+Day+One/h5A83sDt-ft.

Overall, the Big 12 had a successful 2012 NCAA Tournament. Kansas made the National Championship game and Baylor made the Elite Eight. Three of its six teams lost to the eventual champion Kentucky. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are now in the NBA, which means that this year’s Kansas squad will rely on Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey to take them back to the promised land. Baylor will be a prominent team on the national level. Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State all received votes for the AP Top 25 but fell short of being ranked. Having Missouri leave for the SEC will hurt them.

Pac-12

Ranked Teams

12. Arizona

13. UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad is looking to bring back the glory days of UCLA basketball but that may be hard to do if he is only there one year. Courtesy of http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/ucla-shabazz-muhammad-miss-2-4-weeks-due-005359555–ncaab.html.

Similarly to the SEC, the Pac-12’s top tier is elite and the rest of the conference struggles greatly. Arizona and UCLA are both bringing in top 25 recruiting classes and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons will certainly bolster the Wildcats’ lineup this season. The Pac-12 is looking to improve upon its overall performance last season, where only Colorado and California made the NCAA Tournament.

The Year of the Upset

At the start of the NCAA Tournament Thursday afternoon, it seemed that there would be very few upsets. The first nine games went the way of “chalk,” meaning that the lower, favorited seed won. March became a little madder when VCU followed up its Final Four appearance in 2011 by upsetting the #5 seed Wichita State by three points. In the final matchup of the opening day of the tourney, Colorado set the tone for Friday’s games by shocking the UNLV Running Rebels, #6 seed and #25 overall in the AP poll. As a whole, the number of upsets was surprisingly small. On average, there are eight upsets in the round of 64 based on the seed, putting this year’s tournament to fill only half of the “quota.”

After all the games are finished for the second round, there were eight upsets on Friday, including two #15  seeds beating #2 seeds. North Carolina State, who finished 22-12 and fifth place in the ACC, trumped #6 San Diego State 79-65. The game was close at halftime, with the Wolfpack leading by four points, but NC State took over in the second half, led by Richard Howell’s twenty-two points.

Courtesy of http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/tag/_/name/2012-columbus-region

Entering the 2012 edition of the NCAA Tournament, #15 seeds were 4-104 all-time against #2 seeds. That’s an average of one every 27 years. In historic fashion, two #2 seeds fell on Friday to their higher-ranked opponents. The Missouri Tigers were a trendy favorite to represent the West region in the Final Four. Mizzou was 30-4 in the regular season and won the Big 12 Tournament by defeating Baylor handily in the championship game. Three of their four losses were to ranked opponents and tournament teams, proving to be a tough out all season. In its first NCAA Tournament appearance, the Norfolk State Spartans shocked the basketball world by upsetting Mizzou 86-84 thanks to a great shooting performance. Three Spartans had at least twenty points and the team shot 54% from the floor. Missouri fought back at the end of the game and had a three-point attempt at the buzzer but it clanked off the rim and Norfolk State completed to unexpected upset. What made the night even more unpredictable was when Lehigh came back from being down by two at halftime to stun Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. Led by junior guard C.J. McCollum, who scored thirty points, grabbed six rebounds, and had six assists, the Mountain Hawks go on to play Xavier.

Courtesy of http://www.silive.com/sports/index.ssf/2012/03/a_pair_of_no_2s_out_of_ncaa_to.html

While a #9 seed beating a #8 is not usually considered an upset, Saint Louis beat Memphis behind Kwamain Mitchell’s 22 points. Robbie Hummell and the Purdue Boilermakers narrowly beat St. Mary’s 72-69. Two years ago, the Ohio Bobcats as a #14 seed stunned the Georgetown Hoyas in the first round. Some of those same players are on the current squad that upset #4 Michigan 65-60. In the final games of the night, South Florida handed Temple a fourteen-point loss to be the second twelve seed this year to upset a five seed. Lastly, Xavier rallied to overcome a ten point deficit to beat Notre Dame after a bad lane violation call nullified a Fighting Irish one-and-one.

At this rate, this will be the craziest March Madness in the history of the tournament. Almost every game is down to the wire and anyone can beat anyone else. While Kentucky is playing at a higher level than every other team in the field, it is a toss-up for the matchups in the round of 32. If you ignore that seeds of the teams and compare them without a bias, there is very little separating the teams who remain in the tournament.

Courtesy of http://msn.foxsports.com/collegebasketball/story/Xavier-Musketeers-beat-Vanderbilt-Commodores-in-overtime-112811

Out of the remaining teams who upset a lower-ranked seed, I predict Xavier, VCU, and South Florida to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Out of the 32 teams left in the field, Xavier, South Florida, and Murray State have the best chances to make it to the Elite Eight. Although, no matter who wins, I think everyone can agree that this has been the greatest opening weekend of the tournament we have ever seen and it can only get better from here.