Ranked College Hoops Teams That Will Crash and Burn Down the Stretch

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2013

Ranked College Hoops Teams That Will Crash and Burn Down the Stretch

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    College basketball wins in November and December are nice.

    Victories in January once your team gets into conference play are important.

    But the most significant games of the college hoops schedule are played in the second half of league play.

    As teams face the stretch run of the regular season, every contest moves them toward success or failure.

    Here are four ranked teams that have shown signs that they will crash and burn down the stretch:

Ole Miss Rebels

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    Ole Miss (17-2; 6-0 SEC) is off to its best start in....just about forever.

    Andy Kennedy has the Rebels leading the Southeastern Conference as we close out the first month of league play.

    However, Mississippi has been a notoriously weak road team on Kennedy's watch.

    Over the weekend, the visiting Rebels needed last minute heroics from Marshall Henderson (pictured), who hit two free throws with seven seconds left to beat Auburn (8-11; 2-4 SEC).

    Before this year and over the last six seasons, Ole Miss went 23-45 (33.8 winning percentage) away from the "Tad Pad."

    If Mississippi doesn't turn this trend around, we could witness a serious second-half collapse.

    The Rebels will play half of their remaining 12 SEC games on the road and will visit Florida and Missouri in early February.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Minnesota (15-5; 3-4 Big Ten) started off the 2012-13 season by winning 15 of its first 16 games.

    However, if you are a U of M fan, you've been disappointed by a fast start before.

    Last year, after opening the season 12-1, Tubby Smith's squad went 6-12 in Big Ten play.

    After knocking off their first three conference opponents this year, the Golden Gophers have dropped four league games in a row (Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin).

    To add injury to insult, Minnesota's leading rebounder and interior scorer, Trevor Mbakwe, re-injured his right wrist.

    Depending on the severity of this injury, the Gophers will be seriously limited in the paint and on the glass because of a lack of frontcourt depth.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    Kansas State's start to the Bruce Weber era has been good.

    The Wildcats are 15-4 (4-2 Big 12) in Weber's first year in the Little Apple.

    One challenge that K-State needs to deal with is how much it depends on senior wing Rodney McGruder.

    He is the only Wildcat who is averaging in double-figure scoring (15.4 ppg).

    And when McGruder is not on, it's bad news for the Cats.

    ESPN Stats points out that in K-State's first three losses of the season, "he's shooting 31.4 percent while scoring 11.0 ppg, compared to a 45.8 percent clip while averaging 16.3 in 15 wins."

    After winning their first four Big 12 games, the Wildcats have now lost two straight (Kansas, Iowa State) in conference play.

Michigan State Spartans

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    So far in 2012-13, Michigan State is rockin' the regular season (17-4; 6-2 Big Ten). The Spartans are sitting in third place as they close out the first month of league play.

    They love to play physical Izzo-ball and can bang with the best teams in the country.

    What could come back to bite them as they make their way through the gauntlet that is the Big Ten schedule is their inability to score enough from beyond the arc.

    In their first 20 games (going into this past weekend), MSU was only scoring 20.2 percent of its points from downtown. That's good for a rank of No. 314 in the nation in that category.

    In their game against Indiana this past weekend, the Spartans hit on 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) of their three-pointers and still lost.

    As they face Michigan (two times), Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin, their lack of three-point success could be the difference in the outcomes of several close games.