You could call it the "Top-Ranked Curse," but staying at the top of the rankings for college basketball has become one of the most difficult challenges recently. For many teams, you're there one day and gone the next. With the constant shuffling of the Top 25, you have to begin to wonder: why is it that the No. 1 spot has evaded so many?
No matter how excellent a team may look, within one game, that excellence can suddenly disappear. Despite the amount of talent that exists in the current season, there is no clear No. 1 team. Here I take a look at five reasons as to why.
The Top 25 in itself has become the wrench in the machine of bestowing the heavily sought after but elusive No. 1 spot. With teams that have only lost four or fewer games, facing a team that may be ranked lower than you are cannot be written off so easily. Just ask Duke after the thrashing they received from Miami.
The competition has become fiercer this season, as those who find themselves at No. 1 quickly realize when they face lower ranked teams. While they may be up for one night, the next they find themselves facing an upset. There is a constant flux of upsets due to the talent being shown this season.
Even teams who aren't ranked in the Top 25 are stunning those at No. 1. Teams like Georgetown, Villanova, and Wisconsin have become the team to dethrone the supposed dominating forces in College Basketball. Not one to focus on the rankings, these teams have taken charge and shown the weaknesses of the top teams.
With the talent spread across the board this season, it's hard to determine then who is the best. Does one team dominate, or is it, perhaps, that the teams are more evenly matched than ever before?
I do believe that it has become evident that the rankings paint a murky picture of the teams in the Top 25. While some are ranked higher than they should be, there are others who are proving themselves to be more capable than others. This has been the season of upsets and the rankings show just that.
While the rankings may give a general view of the team's winning record, it certainly does not show the depth of the team. What may look like a No. 1 team may not in fact be a No. 1 team. The rankings simply place a team in a position to be knocked off a few days later.
Not to mention that one week of being ranked will suddenly have fans coming out the woodwork. Playing environments become more hostile; it becomes more and more difficult to play on the road. Suddenly, it is a lot harder to live up to that No. 1 spot. The rankings have played an effective role in making this season's coveted No. 1 spot a hot topic, and thus harder to maintain.
Sure, the rankings are great for giving us an organized view of the top teams of this season, but it does not reveal who deserves to be No. 1.
Perhaps the most obvious reason for not having a true No. 1 team is that there is no clear "cream-of-the-crop" team this season. Judging solely from the constant change of the No. 1 spot, it's obvious that there is no team that has a clear shot of running this season.
Starting out, it seemed as if Indiana, Louisville, and Duke were clearly the best. Now, that cannot be certain. Last season, it was clear to many that Kentucky was the team to beat. Now, there are several that can and will be beaten leading up into the NCAA Tournament.
All three teams certainly have what it takes to dominate, but are they truly deserving of the top spot? Recent games have proved otherwise. Whether it be a lack of focus or an inflated ego, these teams are slowly losing sight of the matter at hand.
Or maybe they just aren't what everyone has expected them to be.
Unless there's a team that can emerge unscathed throughout the rest of the season, and I have no reason to believe that there will be, the fight for the No. 1 spot will continue.
In light of there being no "cream-of-the-crop," the push for the NCAA Tournament turns up the heat for the latter half of the season. With all the hype surrounding the constant shift in the Top 25, teams are steadily losing their stability. No team is safe.
This season's tournament will certainly not be an easy feat judging from the competitors that have emerged. Once a team gets a little notoriety, it becomes easier to fall. With the Tournament not so far away, that added energy continues to plague this season's teams, especially those in the Top 5.
With sustaining an enviable record in the Top 25 comes perks in the NCAA Tournament. However, it also comes with a giant target. Perhaps we are already getting a taste of what these top teams are experiencing. Their striving for a perfect position in the NCAA Tournament have other teams on the hunt to take them down. Could this be the reason that so many top teams continue to fall?
Aside from the competition that stems from the Top 25, there also emerges the competition from a team's own conference. Conferences are showing a bit more perseverance and fight than from last season. Teams at the top are finding it more and more difficult to beat their conference opponents.
Just taking a look at the last week in upsets, all have the common thread of losing to a conference opponent, not to mention on the road. Fans are lethal and ready to pounce; emotions are high. This kind of environment makes a team that much more susceptible to a loss.
At these games, teams such as Duke, Louisville, and Indiana were shooting well below their standard field-goal percentage. They were not performing at their best, and opponents took advantage of that. Conference opponents are simply giving the top teams a run for their money, and us lovers of college basketball plenty of entertainment.
Underdogs are showing their strength as the top dog is left with his tail hanging between his legs. With the challenge that conference on-the-road games have presented, there seems to be no single team that has handled the pressure well. Is this a tell-tale sign of the NCAA Tournament?
While it may be disconcerting to find that there is no perfect team this season, it sure does make this season that much more exciting to watch. It makes viewers more eager to tune into a game that seems lopsided, only to find that their presumptions were wrong.
Isn't this what we all love about college basketball? The continuous shuffle of the deck, waiting to see who will emerge victorious is what makes it what it is; the Cinderella team that surprises everyone, even themselves, as they show just what they're made of. College basketball gives us that season in and season out.
It just so happens that this season has been one mysterious roller coaster ride. Through all of the upsets, there is sure to be one team that will stand alone and prove its worth once the season is over. However, not knowing just who it will be keeps us tuned in, waiting to see what will happen next.
To that, all I can say is to expect the unexpected.