5 College Basketball Teams Bound to Underachieve in 2012-13
The five teams making up this list are five of the most successful teams not only recently, but also in the history of college basketball. For one reason or another, though, I don't believe they will have as much success in 2012-13 as they have been accustomed to or are expected to have.
Many of these teams have lost key players to the NBA draft and will have a hard time replacing them immediately. Other teams have unrealistic expectations based on gaining top recruiting classes for the upcoming year.
While I respect each of the programs listed here, as well as their head coaches, I will stand behind these predictions no matter how unpopular they may be to these teams' strong fanbases. I do not think that any of these squads will be bad teams this year, rather they just won't meet the expectations that experts have given them.
They all have the talent to advance deep into the NCAA tournament, as they have all done in recent history, but for whatever reason will underachieve. I look forward to addressing comments from fans of these respective teams.
Michigan State Spartans
In 2011-12, Michigan State won 29 games en route to a Big Ten Championship behind the Conference's Player of the Year, Draymond Green. Green has graduated, leaving the Spartans with only one senior this year, in the form of recently arrested Derrick Nix.
While Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in all of college basketball, the loss of Green is one that will take time for MSU to get used to. While I think Michigan State has Final Four potential in 2013-14, I think that this coming season will be one where expectations are not met.
The Spartans may come into the season as a top 10 team, behind the likes of Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson, Keith Appling and Gary Harris. Payne and Appling still have room for improvement, Dawson will be recovering from a torn ACL and Harris will have to get acclimated to the fast pace of NCAA basketball.
While I believe Michigan State will still be a threat this year, I am predicting them to finish fifth in the Big Ten, a spot they are not accustomed to. Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin all bring back enough talent to overcome the Spartans, while Minnesota will also be dangerous.
After a season of turmoil in 2011-12, the Bruins look to get back to the NCAA tournament and beyond this year, thanks in large part to an outstanding recruiting class from Ben Howland. Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson all come to California, hoping to get the Bruins back to the promised land.
In 2011-12, the Bruins finished 19-14 in the weak Pac-12. Although the Pac-12 should be improved this upcoming season, which UCLA will contribute to, it still lacks the depth of the other power conferences. Anything less than a Pac-12 title would be a disappointment for this talented team.
Former North Carolina players Larry Drew II, David Wear and Travis Wear return, as well as Joshua Smith and Tyler Lamb, along with the three freshmen mentioned above. Reeves Nelson is no longer with the program, which should also help team chemistry.
UCLA will be much better in 2012-13 than they have been recently, which makes putting them on this list a difficult decision. Still, I believe that a Sweet 16 appearance is the very furthest that UCLA has in the tank, at least for now.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Roy Williams' two worst seasons in Chapel Hill came the seasons after the Tar Heel's national championships. In 2006, UNC lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament, while in 2010 the team went 5-11 in the ACC and were only invited to the NIT.
While UNC did not win the 2012 National Championship, they could have had Kendall Marshall stayed healthy. Marshall, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller all are in the NBA now, leaving Williams with a young roster.
While the Tar Heels should be tournament-bound in 2013, they are projected to finish third in the ACC behind both North Carolina State and Duke. I believe the Tar Heels could even contend for the ACC title, although this will be a down year for the ACC.
James Michael McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland give UNC plenty of athletes, but the roles for each of these players will be much different than they have been in the past. Like UCLA and Michigan State, the Sweet 16 would be the very furthest I could even see UNC advancing.
Texas has not advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2008, and I don't see that streak changing this upcoming season. J'Covan Brown left Texas for the NBA, while Clint Chapman was lost to graduation from last year's team that finished in the bottom half of the Big 12.
While Brown played selfishly at times in 2011-12, he also was the only player on the Longhorn roster that could create for himself and provided most of the team's offensive firepower. Myck Kabongo did not meet expectations as a freshman, and will be called on to score more as a sophomore.
If Rick Barnes isn't already on the hot seat as the head coach of Texas, he will be following this season. Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis will help take the load off Kabongo. The Big 12 will now have West Virginia and TCU as members of the conference; however, Missouri and Texas A&M have both left for the SEC.
Kansas should win yet another league championship in 2013, followed by Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State and newly added West Virginia, leaving Texas in the bottom half of the conference and possibly without an invitation to the NCAA tournament in 2013.
Now that Kentucky has won a national championship for the first time since Tubby Smith was their head coach, yearly expectations will be through the roof for coach John Calipari's squad. And so long as Calipari brings in top recruiting classes, Big Blue nation will expect to win each and every game.
Coach Cal brings in Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein as his 2012 recruits, while also adding North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow. The Wildcats do, however, lose their top six players from last year's national championship squad.
While it seems plausible that a group of freshmen, a transfer and Kyle Wiltjer can give UK a repeat championship, I don't see it happening. Calipari proved that a team full of one-and-done players can win a national championship, but for it to happen two years in a row would be a bit much.
Last year's Kentucky freshmen were even more special than usual, leading the Wildcats to a two-loss season only to falter at Indiana on a last-second prayer, and to Vanderbilt in the conference tournament finals. I see this year's UK team losing in the Elite Eight, just like the John Wall-led team a few years ago.