Breaking Down Inconsistent College Basketball Season and What's to Blame
It seems like every day of the week there is an upset in college basketball and we see students storming the court. Is there really just inconsistent teams this season or is there something more to it?
According to STATS LLC, Top 25 teams have lost to unranked opponents 36 times from January 17 to February 6.
That is almost unheard of, and it’s going to continue to get worse.
One week a team appears to be the best in the country, then loses in their next game to a team they should have been able to beat.
It’s not like all these highly ranked teams are losing by small margins either. No. 1 Duke was humiliated on the road at Miami (FL) 90-63 on January 23, No. 10 Oregon never had a chance at Stanford, losing 76-52 on January 30, and No. 2 Florida was outplayed at Arkansas last Tuesday 80-69.
We could be in for one of the most crazy NCAA Tournaments in recent memory. There is no team that is consistent, unless you want to throw the Miami (FL) Hurricanes in there. Who knows though? Even the Hurricanes could be upset in one of their next two road games.
Here are five reasons why teams appear to be inconsistent this season:
1. Parity in College Basketball
Indiana's Cody Zeller (40) jams the ball against Michigan on February 2.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The parity of college basketball has become more and more apparent over the past few seasons.
These types of upsets just go to show that even if you are one of the elite teams in the country, you cannot afford to take a single game off.
This year things have already been chaotic enough, and we are only approaching mid-February.
We have seen Miami (FL) and NC State upset No. 1 Duke, Arkansas take down No. 2 Florida at home, Stanford and Cal upset No. 10 Oregon in the same week, unranked Villanova knock off No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse in the same week and Kansas lose three straight conference games.
What is college basketball coming to? It's complete madness!
2. Ice Cold Shooting
TCU celebrates after upsetting No. 5 Kansas. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)
Highly ranked teams head on the road and then suddenly find themselves not able to shoot the ball.
The most noticeable shooting let down was when the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks went into TCU, who was winless in conference play and only put up 13 points in the first half.
The Jayhawks ended up finishing the game shooting just 29.5 percent from the field and were 3-of-22 from beyond the arc. Cannot say anyone was expecting this type of performance from a Top 5 Kansas team.
Another notable game where a team went ice cold was when the No. 10 Oregon Ducks went to Stanford on January 30. The Ducks ended up finishing the game shooting 34.6 percent from the field, but it seemed far worse than that. Mostly because Stanford shot 51.9 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from beyond the arc.
When Top 10 teams are on the road they have to show up, because unranked home teams have nothing to lose and will give every ounce of energy they have to pull off the big upset.
You cannot have an off-night shooting on the road and then expect to rely on defense. It just doesn’t seem to win many teams ball games.
Duke's Ryan Kelly against Wake Forest.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Injuries always play a crucial role in teams not being able to perform to their highest level. It has seemed to be a noticeable problem for a few teams this season.
There has been no team that has suffered more from this problem than the Duke Blue Devils. Senior forward Ryan Kelly is one of the main leaders and has been missed by his team.
With Kelly, Duke was undefeated and the No. 1 team to beat in the nation.
After going down with his second foot injury in less than a year, the Blue Devils were all out of sorts on offense when they were upset at NC State 84-76 on January 12. Before being injured, Kelly was averaging 13.4 points per game, shooting 52.0 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 5.4 rebounds per game.
If Kelly comes back and his healthy, he will be the main reason why Duke gets to the Final Four.
The injury of Oregon freshman guard Dominic Artis turned out to be a major factor as the Ducks fell three games in a row. They need him to run the point guard position, because the flow of the offense has been shaky and inconsistent since he went out with a foot injury in late January.
Other teams that have dealt with injuries this season have been Miami (FL), NC State and Michigan State.
Miami (FL) senior center Reggie Johnson suffered a left thumb fracture in late December and his team lost back-to-back games against Arizona and Indiana State. The Hurricanes have since won every game and are rolling through ACC Conference play. Johnson made that key last-second tip-in shot to defeat NC State 79-78 on February 2.
Injuries can make or break teams when tournament time comes around. It could end up being the deciding factor that prevents some of the best teams in the nation from winning a national championship.
4. Failing to Be Cool in the Clutch
Louisville forward Chane Behanan against Syracuse.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Not being able to make the big plays when the game is on the line can be what hurts talented teams the most in the end.
An example of a good team that has proven to be unclutch this season has been the Louisville Cardinals.
Louisville lost because of bad final possessions against Syracuse and Notre Dame.
They also couldn't manage to hold off Georgetown in a two-point loss.
Louisville had a chance close out the Fighting Irish in the final minute of regulation this past Saturday, but couldn't get the job done and the game went into overtime. The Cardinals then blew four final possession opportunities in the first four overtimes, before losing to the Irish 104-101 on a last second missed three-point attempt in the fifth overtime.
Making bad decisions on crucial last possessions is what has killed highly ranked teams this season.
Good passing, taking quality shots and hitting key free-throws at the end of tight games is what will avoid these top teams from continuing to fall.
Offense is key, but holding teams off defensively is just as important. You cannot have a defensive collapse on the last play of the game like Indiana did at Illinois on Thursday night. One play can be the difference in your team winning or losing.
It will be interesting to see which teams are clutch when the madness begins in March.
5. The Grind of a Tough Conference Schedule
Michigan forward Mitch McGary (4) against Ohio State.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Take a look at the Big Ten and Big East schedules this season. Imagine playing four games in a week and three of those being against Top 10 teams.
This is what the Michigan Wolverines are about to do as they will play at in-state rival Michigan State Tuesday night. Playing at an unranked Wisconsin Badger team in the middle of this difficult four game stretch seemed to be a rather difficult task as well.
Wisconsin junior guard Ben Brust, of course, hit the huge three-pointer as time expired in regulation on Saturday to tie the game. Brust then helped lead the Badgers to an upset win in overtime 65-62.
Just last week, a solid Notre Dame team had to play at No. 9 Syracuse and at home against No. 11 Louisville. The Irish were just happy they managed to go 1-1.
It's hard to be consistent and continue to win multiple games in a row when you are playing competition that is at the same level or better than you every game.
It's not like the Pac-12 where teams are actually inconsistent and every game is a mystery.
The grind that some of these top teams in the nation have to go through is difficult, and they are going to drop a few games here and there because of how hard their schedules are.