The first few weeks of the college basketball season have come and gone and a lot has been learned from watching these games. Check it out:
1.) The University of North Carolina (12-7) isn’t worthy of even being mentioned for the national championship. You would imagine that a team would want to defend their national championship, right? Not in UNC’s case. Losing their last three games, and four of their last five, The Tar heels have done one thing well all season: turn the ball over (a lot).
2.) Games have been much closer than they should be. St. Johns (12-7) last night had a lead going into half-time against Villanova (18-1). Nova rightfully thwarted St. John’s in the second half, but why was it even this close to begin with? Number-five Syracuse (19-1) squeezed out a tight one with a Marquette (11-8) team who has looked less than stellar all year. This next one is probably my favorite. Michigan State (17-3) beats Minnesota (12-7) by a free-throw. Yes, giving credit where credit is due, State was losing by eight at half-time and managed to rally back. Although these close games make for great television, it makes me wonder if true dominance has left the game.
3.) Being King-of-the-Hill is hard. Ten weeks into the season, we’ve had two different number-one ranked teams and it’ll be three on Monday morning. Kansas (18-1) road the momentum longest spending a solid eight weeks on top, but their loss to Tennessee (15-3) sent them down two spots and out the target on Texas’ (17-2) back. They didn’t fair as well as Kansas losing their number-one ranking after just two weeks. A few hours from now Kentucky (19-0), the sole undefeated team, will get their first shot at sitting on the throne.
4.) The ACC as a whole hasn’t been up to its normal excellence. Last week I wrote an article about each team from the ACC and within that week, the situation has become more interesting. If I told you that Maryland (13-5) was on top of the ACC and that UNC was second from the bottom, I wouldn’t believe me either. Maybe it’s more mind blowing that the Cavaliers of Virginia (12-5) have beaten a Georgia Tech (14-4) team that has steamrolled the likes of Duke (16-3) and Clemson (15-5) this season. What was thought to be a typical UNC-Duke year has become more atypical then years passed.
5.) The most important thing we’ve learned from this season: There’s a reason we play the game.
Despite everything that we have learned from this season, questions are still being raised. Will UNC get back to contending form? Will the top-25 ever look relatively similar again two weeks in a row? But what I’m still trying to figure out is the following:
Why hasn’t Kentucky been the number one seed yet?
I’ll start by defending the rankings. There was multiple undefeated teams like Texas, Kansas, Syracuse and Villanova. There was also many strong one loss teams like Michigan State, Tennessee and Duke. Also, maybe playing in the SEC isn’t the best conference to play for, but when a team has a “W19″ in their current streak column, it means something.
Now I’ll talk about why the Cats should have been placed on top since the season’s beginning. Kentucky has the best player in the nation in John Wall taking the ball up court. What makes this team special is that Wall also averages 6.7 assists per game. Forward DeMarcus Cousins averages a smooth 15.4 ppg and 9.5 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson make it four Wildcats with an average of 10 points or more. The Wildcats make it almost impossible to stop them averaging 83.2 ppg. More impressive is the mere 65.6 points against per game. That has to be intimidating walking into Rupp Arena knowing that in 19 games, the Wildcats have won by a 17.6 points average. However, all the great game planning requires great coaching.
John Calipari is truly defining himself as the best active coach in college basketball. He has a 416-137 overall record and after all the doubt about not being able to coach outside Conference USA, he’s just led the Wildcats to the number one spot overall in 2010. Yes, his NBA stint with the New Jersey Nets was as bad as dropping a full carton of eggs, but this guy knows how to motivate young players. Derreck Rose, Tyreke Evans and now John Wall are three “one-and-done” players to have been coached by Calipari and unlikely than any other situation, they play with pride for the one season. The one thing that I love about Calipari is that his team never plays to the level of their opponent. When they’re supposed to win big, they beat Hartford (5-15) by 43. When faced with SEC rival Arkansas (8-1), Kentucky made it look like a close game winning by 31.
It’s those big games that define a team as the number-one overall. They won 64-61 over a hot UCONN (13-6) team and going into The Swamp to play the Florida Gators (14-5) and going home a 12 point winner is rather defining. This team can flat out play. If you’re still not convinced that the Kentucky Wildcats should be number one, you should probably re-evaluate the way you watch the game.
If I were asked, I’d say their best chance to lose the rest of the season is February 27th when they travel to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. Who knows, maybe a week earlier on February 20th, the Vanderbilt Commodores (15-3) can surprise the Cats in Nashville. But like I just said:
It’s only a chance.