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No Clear-Cut Favorite in College Basketball

By Dave Martin
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 14, 2013 Last Updated: February 14, 2013
Related articles: Sports » College Sports
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Cody Zeller leads the top-ranked Hoosiers in both scoring and rebounding as Indiana is relevant again on the national scene. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Cody Zeller leads the top-ranked Hoosiers in both scoring and rebounding as Indiana is relevant again on the national scene. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

With four different number ones in the last five weeks, the college basketball poll voters clearly are as confused as everyone else when it comes to ranking the best team in this hectic season. Unlike last year where Kentucky held the top spot for 10 weeks, there is no clear-cut, dominant team. Let’s look at some of the contenders and see where each one is.

Unlike last year where Kentucky held the top spot for 10 weeks, there is no clear-cut, dominant team.

Indiana: The Hoosiers were the preseason top pick and are currently back to No. 1 in the polls despite their loss to Illinois. Fortunately for them, the loss was sandwiched between wins against Michigan and Ohio State as the Big Ten is shaping up to be the best conference in the land this season. They are probably at the top of the list of contenders.

Duke: The Blue Devils have rallied without the services of their long-distance shooting power forward Ryan Kelly to the tune of five straight wins. Of course, the win streak was preceded by a 27-point loss at Miami and it’s very hard to get excited about a team’s prospects with a black eye like that on their resume.

Miami: Speaking of Miami, the Hurricanes would be ranked higher in the polls had they not had ugly losses themselves to Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana State way back in November and December. That said, anytime you beat both Duke and North Carolina by more than 20 points, you have to be mentioned as a contender.

 

Kansas: The Jayhawks started 19–1, but it was more fool’s gold than anything else. Kansas doesn’t have that usual scoring/rebounding power forward to rely on in the post this season that they always seemed to have had in the past. The team has topped 70 points just three times since December. Although center Jeff Withey (third nationally in blocks) and tenacious guard Travis Releford make this a great defensive team, they’ll need to get some more scoring to go much farther.

Kansas high-flying freshman Ben McLemore is the lone source of scoring for a team that relies heavily on its defense. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Kansas high-flying freshman Ben McLemore is the lone source of scoring for a team that relies heavily on its defense. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Michigan: The Wolverines were rolling until conference play with nonconference wins against Kansas State, Arkansas, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and N.C. State. Still right in the mix for the Big Ten title, Michigan may have the best guard tandem in the country in point guard Trey Burke (16.1 points, 7.1 assists per game) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (18.2 points per game).

Syracuse: The Orange, with the return of forward James Southerland, who once hit nine 3s earlier in the season against Arkansas, are instant contenders. With his academic eligibility questions seemingly in the past, Syracuse, which is 16–1 with him and 4–2 without him, is clearly a different team. Any questions about them being contenders will be answered in a three-game stretch late in February against three ranked teams: Georgetown, Marquette, and Louisville.

Florida: The Gators are a bit of a mystery. Despite impressive wins against Wisconsin (74–56), Marquette (82–49), and Missouri (83–52) Florida was on the opposite end of a rout at Arkansas, though a late run made the 80–69 score seem less damaging. Their only game left against a ranked opponent is their regular season finale at Kentucky, which is at the bottom of the top 25 and might not still be ranked.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are at it again and though they are dominating a weak conference (10–0 in the West Coast Conference through Monday) it should be noted that they played an extremely aggressive nonconference schedule. Among their early wins were tilts against Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor, and Washington State.

Butler: The second mid-major on this list, the Bulldogs will always be contenders as long as young phenomenon Brad Stevens is in charge. Stevens, who coached the team to back-to-back runner-up finishes in the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011, has had a couple of hiccups in conference play against Saint Louis and La Salle. Fortunately, he can more than balance those out with wins over Indiana, North Carolina, and the aforementioned Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Arizona: It’s tough to figure out the Wildcats right now, as they make this list and have a high national ranking mainly due to the program’s rich history. Currently, there is only one other ranked team in the Pac-12 (Oregon) and the Ducks don’t scare many teams right now. As for Arizona it has played just two ranked teams (Florida and San Diego State) and won both games by a single point.

Louisville: The Cardinals had a brief stay at No. 1 in mid-January that was followed by three straight losses to put some serious doubt into their worthiness of being a contender. Countering those losses though are nonconference wins against Missouri and Kentucky and though they lost the five-overtime thriller Saturday night at Notre Dame, they have another date with Syracuse still left, to be able to prove their mettle.

Michigan State: The Spartans are another program that will never be counted out come March, in large part to their coach Tom Izzo. Izzo, who has six Final Four appearances through 17 seasons, has the team atop the Big Ten but with a murderers row lineup to follow. State will face Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, and then Wisconsin in a four-game slate against all ranked opponents.

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