Being ranked number one in the nation in college basketball is a tremendous achievement for any program. Whether in the AP or Coaches poll, being ranked as the top team in the country is an incredible accomplishment. You’re number one above 300+ teams in the country. But does that really matter?
Don’t get me wrong, any fan and any player would be proud to say the cheer on or represent the nation’s best team, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot this time of year. Conference play started about a month ago and since then it seems like no one can keep the number one ranking for more than a couple weeks.
The first #1 went down on Dec. 15 when Indiana, everyone’s (and I mean everyone’s) pre-season #1 fell to Butler in overtime, 88-86. Duke then ascended to the top of the polls, only until they fell at North Carolina State 84-76 on Jan. 12. Louisville then took over the reigns as “college basketball’s top team,” which lasted all of a week. The Cardinals fell to Syracuse at home on Jan. 19, 70-68. Duke then regained the top spot, only to get embarrassed at Miami on Jan. 23, 90-63. Finally, the Michigan Wolverines took over the top spot in the polls last week and beat Northwestern 68-46 during the week before heading to Indiana to take on the #3 Hoosiers. As you probably already know, Michigan fell to the Hoosiers, 81-73. Indiana finds themselves ranked #1 in the nation at this point in time.
In the last four weeks, the #1 team in the country has changed every week and every week, that #1 has lost. Duke was even able to get back to the top spot just a week after losing it, only to squander it again. With seven weeks until Selection Sunday, we now see Indiana ranked just as high as they were in the preseason, and a wide open field for March. With so many upsets and no clear-cut #1 team, this really could be the year of the Cinderella. Let’s look at some of the top contenders heading into the final stretch of the season.
Indiana: You can’t look away from the current #1 as they sit at 20-2 and might have the most complete team in the country.
Florida: The current #2 team is 18-2 and is currently riding a 10 game win streak in which every win has been by 14+ points.
Michigan: Although they lost at Indiana, the Wolverines proved they were for real. Trey Burke might be the best guard in the nation.
Duke: The Blue Devils are undefeated anytime they aren’t ranked #1, so they might shy away from that top ranking from now on.
Kansas: Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey look like they’ll lead Kansas to a ninth straight conference crown.
Don’t be surprised by these guys:
Gonzaga: The Zags are for real and my pre-season pick of Mark Few for National Coach of the Year is lookin’ pretty damn good.
Syracuse: Jim Boeheim might only have one title at Syracuse, but his teams are almost always among the nation’s best.
Louisville: Other than a dreadful three game losing streak, Louisville has looked very good this season.
Michigan State: There’s no way you can count out a Tom Izzo coached team by now. Especially with Keith Appling leading the way.
Butler: The Bulldogs are finally getting the regular season recognition they deserve, but can they make another run in March?
The best part about college basketball in comparison to college football is that the polls don’t matter nearly as much. You can afford a loss here and there as long as you show up when it counts: in March. One thing is certain: there is a lot of basketball left and this season is already looking very promising.