Ranking the Unluckiest Teams in College Basketball This Season

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJanuary 31, 2013

Ranking the Unluckiest Teams in College Basketball This Season

0 of 25

    It may be the single most important determiner in a team's ultimate success, and the one we, as sports pundits, are least likely to acknowledge: luck.

    Pure. Dumb. Luck.

    You see, it's our job as analysts to ascribe meaning, assign blame and project future outcomes. We can't do any of that unless we convince ourselves—and you, the reader—that everything happens for a reason.

    That Kentucky is 14-6 because of some radical default in its composition, or Baylor is 14-6 because the Bears lack balance.

    If those outcomes were merely the providence of misfortune, then what would we media types have to talk about?

    Luck, after all, can't be dissected or corrected or griped about. It can only be.

    And the following 25 teams know that somber truth all too well.

    Note: We're judging these teams under the assumption that losing any player—whether to injury or suspension—is bad luck. Obviously programs can be complicit in the suspension of a player, but we're taking the outsider/fan view that any unforeseen personnel loss is a misfortune.

25. Maryland

1 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck*: -0.42 (267th out of 347 NCAA Division I teams)

    Record: 15-6, 3-5 (ACC)

    The Skinny: A pair of heartbreaking losses to Florida State in ACC play combined with a season-opening setback against Kentucky have a talented Maryland team firmly on the bubble. Which is too bad, because sophomore center Alex Len could do wonderful things on the March stage if given a chance.

    *Note: This is a stat tabulated by Ken Pomeroy, and defined on his website, kenpom.com, as follows:

    "A measure of the deviation between a team’s actual winning percentage and what one would expect from its game-by-game efficiencies. It’s a Dean Oliver invention. Essentially, a team involved in a lot of close games should not win (or lose) all of them. Those that do will be viewed as lucky (or unlucky).

24. Wichita State

2 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Ron Baker (Out six weeks with stress fracture in foot ), Evan Wessel (Broken pinkie finger, out for season), Carl Hall (Missed seven games with thumb injury)

    Luck: +.051 (74)

    Record: 19-3, 8-2 (MVC)

    The Skinny: Can we call it bad luck if the team manages to overcome it? Despite losing three rotation members to injury at various points, Wichita State is well on its way to an NCAA tournament bid. An impressive achievement indeed for the Shockers and their coach, Gregg Marshall.

23. Georgetown

3 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Greg Whittington (Suspended for past six games due to academic issues, out indefinitely), Tyler Adams (Ruled ineligible, out for season)

    Luck: +.067 (42)

    Record: 15-4, 5-3 (BE)

    The Skinny: Although Georgetown has played well in the absence of second-leading scorer Greg Whittington, let's not kid ourselves:  As good as Otto Porter is, John Thompson III could use the scoring punch Whittington provided. It's still not known when the sophomore will return. And although the Hoyas rate as a fairly lucky team by Ken Pomeroy's gauge, it's worth noting that two of their four losses came by three points or less and a third, against Indiana, came in overtime.

22. Wisconsin

4 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.059 (294)

    Record: 14-7, 5-3 (B10)

    The Skinny: Wisconsin only has two loses of 10+ points this year, an 18-point drubbing at the hands of the Florida Gators (and we know how good they are) and a recent 11-point loss to Ohio State on the road. Other than that, Bo Ryan's team has been competition in almost every single game its played. Close losses to Iowa, Michigan State and Virginia have deflated the Badgers' overall record, and unfairly maligned a team with top-15 statistical credentials.

21. Florida

5 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.069 (308)

    Record: 17-2, 7-0 (SEC)

    The Skinny: Yes, it's possible for the fourth-ranked team in America to be unlucky, if only because the Gators have been that freaking good. Florida has the best defense and the second-best offense in the country according to adjusted efficiency ratings (per kenpom.com), but has managed to lose the only two even remotely close games its played in. Meanwhile, all 17 of the Gators' victories have come by 17 or more. Turn even one of those losses into a "W," and Billy Donovan's crew would be getting a lot more national respect.

20. Kentucky

6 of 25

    Notable Injuries/Suspensions: Willie Cauley-Stein (Missed four games with recurring knee trouble)

    Luck: -.043 (268)

    Record: 14-6, 5-2 (SEC)

    The Skinny: No one likes to fret more than Kentucky fans, and the nation's college basketball writers have been more than willing to feed Big Blue's collective angina by pumping out dozens of "What's wrong with the 'CATS?!?!" columns. Truth is, this season would look a lot different if a few of Kentucky's close losses—to the likes of Duke, Louisville and Alabama—had fallen the Wildcats' way. After all, John Calipari's team ranks among the nation's top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency (per kenpom.com).

19. Stanford

7 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Anthony Brown (Out for year with leg injury)

    Luck: -.057 (289)

    Record: 13-8, 4-4 (P12)

    The Skinny: Stanford's 24-point rout of 10th-ranked Oregon on Wednesday might have felt like a bolt from the blue, but the Cardinal are a much better team that their record indicates. That's particularly true on defense, where Johnny Dawkins' crew ranks 22nd in adjusted efficiency (per kenpom.com). Having hung with teams like Minnesota, Missouri, NC State, UCLA and Washington earlier this year, Stanford is well positioned to play spoiler during the season's stretch run.

18. Iowa State

8 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.048 (277)

    Record: 14-6, 4-3 (B12)

    The Skinny: With a few breaks, Iowa State could easily be 7-0 in conference play. The Cyclones' overtime loss to Kansas was one of the Jayhawks' stiffest tests in months, and nail-biters against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were well within State's grasp. Fred Hoiberg's bunch is a handful on the offensive end, and could be a dangerous first-round match-up for an unsuspecting favorite if it stays in the 10-to-12 seed range.

17. Dayton

9 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.115 (343)

    Record: 12-8, 2-4 (A10)

    The Skinny: The Flyers have four losses by two points or less this season, including an OT heart breaker against USC. Kevin Dillard and Co. have had a particularly rough go of it in conference play, where they've lost to Butler by six, LaSalle by two and Xavier by five. Even harder to swallow, those latter two came on the road.

16. Minnesota

10 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.044 (269)

    Record: 16-5, 4-4 (B10)

    The Skinny: A recent four-game slide in conference play dimmed Minnesota's national star, but a look inside that losing streak reveals a series of hard-luck outcomes. The Golden Gophers lost to Indiana by seven on the road, number-one Michigan by eight at home, Northwestern by seven on the road and Wisconsin by one on the road. With the possible exception of Northwestern, those are four pretty defensible losses, and an illustration of just how daunting the Big 10 is this year. Provided Andre Hollins and crew can survive their own conference, Minnesota will be a dangerous team in a one-and-done scenario. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Golden Gophers have the statistical profile of a top 10 team.

15. Virginia

11 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Malcolm Brogdon (out for season with foot injury, medical redshirt)

    Luck: -.045 (274)

    Record: 15-5, 5-2 (ACC)

    The Skinny: Of Virginia's five losses this year, four have come by six points or less. Early-season letdowns against George Mason (63-59) and Delaware (59-53) were particularly damaging since the Cavs played such a weak non-conference schedule overall. Sitting just 95th overall in RPI, Virginia, one of the nation's best defensive teams, now needs at least one marquee conference win to make the NCAA tournament field.

14. Illinois State

12 of 25

    Notable Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.103 (336)

    Record: 12-10, 3-7 (MVC)

    The Skinny: You could fill an NCAA tournament resume with the opponents Illinois State has lost to by less than 10 this year: Louisville (by 3), Indiana State (by 2), Creighton (by 7) and Northwestern (by 3, in OT). Illinois State even beat Indiana State the second time around, proof (finally!) that this Redbirds' team has some serious talent. 

13. Duke

13 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Ryan Kelly (Foot injury, out indefinitely)

    Luck: +.052 (71)

    Record: 18-2, 5-2 (ACC)

    The Skinny: I know the anti-Duke crowd will cringe at this pick, but let's play fair here and admit that the Blue Devils losing Ryan Kelly is one of the most significant injuries sustained by a Final Four contender so far this year. Kelly's sneaky good interior defense and ability to space the floor were major catalysts behind Duke's hot start. It doesn't help that the Blue Devils came into the season short on proven front-court depth players.

12. Baylor

14 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.084 (324)

    Record: 14-6, 5-2 (B12)

    The Skinny: Big 12, beware: five of Baylor's six losses have come by seven points or less. And with highly touted freshman Isaiah Austin still growing into his role (and body), the Bears look like they could be a dangerous team come tournament time.

11. VCU

15 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Jordan Burgess, Mo-Alie Cox (both ruled ineligible by NCAA)

    Luck: -.033 (253)

    Record: 17-5, 5-2 (A10)

    The Skinny: Burgess was Shaka Smart's top incoming recruit, so losing him before the season was a significant blow to VCU's depth. On the court, all five of the Rams' losses have come by single digits. Thanks to its "havoc" defense, VCU has run step for step with Duke (nine-point loss), Missouri (three-point loss) and Wichita State (two-point). Give the Rams a couple of those games, and VCU would be squarely within the top 25.

10. Seattle

16 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Sterling Carter (dismissed)

    Luck: -.158 (347)

    Record: 6-13, 1-8

    Luck: Well, it had to be someone. According to Ken Pomeroy's luck metric, the Seattle University Redhawks are the unluckiest team in America. In just its fourth season since returning to Division I, Elgin Baylor's alma mater has, by Pomeroy's measure, lost about three more games than it should have over the course of the 2012-13 season.

9. Oklahoma State

17 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Jean-Paul Olukemi (knee injury, out for season), Brian Williams (wrist, out for season)

    Luck: -.055 (286)

    Record: 14-5, 4-3 (B12)

    The Skinny: Any team that has faced Oklahoma State this season knows that Travis Ford's bunch can get down on defense. For that reason alone, the Cowboys will be a tough out in March. But folks in Stillwater have to wonder what this team could be accomplishing with guys like forward Jean-Paul Olukemi and guard/forward Brian Williams in the rotation. As presently constituted, OK State ranks 310th nationally in bench minutes (per kenpom.com).

8. Pittsburgh

18 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: None

    Luck: -.072 (312)

    Record: 17-5, 5-4 (BE)

    The Skinny: Pittsburgh gave Michigan a stiff test at Madison Square Garden in November, an indicator of the talent level on Jamie Dixon's squad. Buoyed by one of the nation's most efficient offenses, the Panthers have routed the likes of North Carolina, Georgetown and Villanova. Tough losses against Louisville, Marquette and Rutgers, however, have hurt Pitt's appeal with voters. Right now, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Panthers as a nine seed. If I'm a number one seeded team, Pitt's the last team I'd want to see in my quarter.

7. Harvard

19 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Kyle Casey, Brandyn Curry (cheating scandal, out for season)

    Luck: -.023 (237)

    Record: 10-6, 2-0 (IVY)

    The Skinny: Harvard's chances at a third-straight Ivy League title took a major hit in November when Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry—two of the team's top four scorers from a year ago—withdrew from the university following allegations of academic fraud. The Crimson have soldiered on in their absence, and might still win in a weak Ivy League. Harvard's chances to make a second-weekend tournament run, however, are all but finished.

6. Texas

20 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Myck Kabongo (suspended by NCAA through February 13), Jonathan Holmes (out 3-to-6 weeks with broken hand)

    Luck: -.065 (301)

    Record: 9-11, 1-6 (B12)

    The Skinny: It's been a downright miserable season for Rick Barnes' Longhorns, leaving folks to wonder how this talented-but-starcrossed group might have fared with sophomore playmaker Myck Kabongo in the lineup. Kabongo is currently serving a 23-game suspension for reportedly lying to university officials about receiving impermissible benefits. The Toronto-born guard can return on February 13, but Texas' chances for a postseason berth are already long gone.

5. Hofstra

21 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Dallas Anglin, Jimmy Hall, Kentrell Washington, Shaquille Stokes (all accused of theft, out indefinitely), Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (knee, out for season)

    Luck: +.008 (163)

    Record: 5-15, 2-5 (CAA)

    The Skinny: Hofstra's season took a devastating turn on November 30 when four players—three freshman and one transfer—were arrested in connection with a series of dorm robberies on campus. Hofstra was 3-4 at the time of the announcement, including a win over South Dakota State and standout point guard Nate Wolters. Since then, the Pride have gone 2-11.

4. Lehigh

22 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: C.J. McCollum (out 8-10 weeks with foot injury)

    Luck: +.048 (80)

    Record: 15-5, 5-1 (PATRIOT)

    The Skinny: Entering the 2012-13 season, few teams' fate was as tethered to one player as Lehigh's was to C.J. McCollum. Now that the future NBA draft pick has broken his left foot, little Lehigh will struggle to even win its league. And if it does, it's unclear whether or not McCollum will risk re-injury to play in March Madness.

3. Wyoming

23 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Luke Martinez (suspended indefinitely in connection with incident at off-campus bar)

    Luck: +.003 (178)

    Record: 15-5, 2-5 (MWC)

    The Skinny: Wyoming was 12-0 and riding high until a December 30th incident at an off-campus bar led to the arrest and indefinite suspension of leading scorer Luke Martinez. Now what once looked like a program-defining season for the Cowboys has quickly gone sour. Simply put, Wyoming doesn't have the talent to survive a brutal Mountain West schedule without all hands on deck.

2. Missouri

24 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Laurence Bowers (sprained MCL, missed five games), Keion Bell (ankle injury, missed last three games), Jabari Brown (missed first nine games due to transfer rules), Tony Crisswell (missed three games with broken finger)

    Luck: +.053 (66)

    Record: 15-5, 4-3 (SEC)

    The Skinny: The Tigers haven't been at full strength for any significant portion of the year so far, and it's starting to show. Senior gaurd Keion Bell, transer Jabari Brown, junior forward Tony Crisswell and oft-injured forward Laurence Bowers have all missed time. Add to that the ongoing Frank Haith imbroglio, and Missouri feels like a team that's wearing down.

1. Providence

25 of 25

    Major Injuries/Suspensions: Kris Dunn (missed first nine games with shoulder injury), Ricardo Ledo (ruled ineligible by NCAA)

    Luck: -.119 (344)

    Record: 10-10, 2-6 (BE)

    The Skinny: Nothing has gone right for Ed Cooley's Friars this year. Start on the personnel end, where neither of Providence's blue-chip freshman has made an impact. Ricardo Ledo was deemed ineligible before the season began while Kris Dunn got a late start due to the lingering effect of offseason shoulder surgery and has yet to look comfortable in his new surroundings. Meanwhile, the Friars that have managed to play rate among the nation's unluckiest squads according to Ken Pomery. Despite a fairly efficient offense and passable defense, Providence has just 10 wins on the year.

    I'll wake you up when it's over, Rhode Island.