Beyond the Bison: The shape of things to come

Doug Hendry, Senior Editor

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This year’s college basketball landscape has seen a lot of changing leaders, more so than ever before. Last year, AP top five teams had suffered 21 losses throughout the entire season. This year? AP top five teams already have been upset on 23 occasions—and it’s only early February. We usually see a set of dominating teams each season that we believe could make a national championship run. We don’t have that luxury this season—the top-ranked teams aren’t giving followers any reason to put their trust in them. And with a little over a month remaining until conference tournaments begin, all we can do is wait and see if any team wants it badly enough to take charge and stay dominant throughout their remaining games.

Looking at how diverse the rankings have been, North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Kansas, and Duke filled the top five in the preseason poll. At the week 12 polls, North Carolina and Kansas have managed to stay in that listing after falling out earlier in the season. But we also have Oklahoma in the top five, as well as two teams who were not even ranked at the beginning of the season in Iowa and Texas A&M.

So what does this all mean? It means it’s going to be a chaotic and entertaining month of March. March is a time for Cinderella teams, and that’s exactly what we’ll get this season. No number one or number two seed will be safe in tournament from those who wish to steal the spotlight from them. So with that being said, it is time for some predictions.

At the week 12 AP poll, there is No. 3 Iowa, No. 7 Xavier, No. 10 Providence, and No. 16 Louisville. Each of these teams are over-ranked—their records may show that they are deserving of being ranked highly in the polls, but they won’t end up making it past the Sweet 16 in the national tournament.

Also in the poll are No. 11 Virginia, No. 18 Arizona, and No. 22 Wichita State. These teams might not be ranked as highly as other top teams, but each of these three teams has the experience to go deep in this year’s tournament.  As for some sleeper squads, South Carolina, Utah, VCU, Valparaiso, and Monmouth are all teams to watch. They certainly have had the consistency all season to make an upset or two in this year’s tournament, and especially with the uncertainty in top teams this year, one of these squads could be making a long run.

In the end, your guess is as good as mine as to who is going to win a national championship. The landscape will be altered tremendously from now until the end of conference tournaments. But for now, my team to win the championship would be 17-4 Kansas. Sure, they’ve suffered a few losses against top teams that they could potentially face in the tournament. But their extremely difficult Big-12 schedule will hopefully prepare them for March, and Bill Self and his experienced players have a quality opportunity to make it to the Final Four.

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