Ranking the 10 Most Enigmatic College Basketball Teams

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Enigmatic College Basketball Teams

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    Some college basketball teams are a flat-out mystery.

    It's hard to understand how they can play so well one game and then so unpredictably for the next two or three.

    It's puzzling to watch games that feature teams that are ready to break through, only to see them fall flat.

    Here are the 10 most enigmatic college basketball teams of 2012-13.


    All stats and team information provided by ESPN.com

10. Northern Iowa Panthers

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    Three years ago, Northern Iowa had a remarkable NCAA tournament run, beating UNLV and then Kansas to make it to the 2010 Sweet 16.

    Since then, the Panthers (18-13; 11-7 MVC) haven’t returned to the Dance.

    This year, UNI has been tough as nails at home (12-3) where they have had quality wins against Creighton, St. Mary’s and Wichita State.

    But since the Panthers only won four of their first 10 Missouri Valley Conference games, the only chance that they have to make it to this year’s NCAA tournament is by winning the MVC tourney in St. Louis.

    Not likely.

9. Boise State Broncos

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    The Boise State basketball program has a long, long way to go if it wants to catch up to the school’s celebrated football program.

    The Broncos (20-8; 8-6 MWC) have made a total of five NCAA tournament appearances but have never won a single game.

    This year’s team has won 11 of 12 home games, including quality victories against UNLV, Colorado State, Creighton and Wyoming.

    But BSU’s downfall has been when they’ve played away from Taco Bell Arena.

    The Broncos are an unexceptional 5-7 on the road.

    Leon Rice’s squad is pulling it all together at the right time, winning their last four games. They have two monster games (at UNLV and at home against San Diego State) remaining in the regular season.

    If they can win either of these, they might set themselves up for another shot at their first NCAA tournament victory ever.     

8. Villanova Wildcats

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    Villanova is having an uneven season in what is the last year for the current version of the Big East.

    The Wildcats (18-12; 9-8 Big East) have a nice collection of quality wins over Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse and Connecticut.

    But the ‘Cats have not been able to get any momentum going since the start of conference play or to put more than two wins together before losing a game or three.

    With two weeks left until Selection Sunday, Nova has some work to do. They have one game against Georgetown before the Big East tournament opens.

    Getting into this year’s NCAA tournament looks like a long shot.

7. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    This year’s Arkansas Razorbacks are a Jekyll-and-Hyde team.

    They’ve been almost unbeatable (17-1) at Bud Walton Arena, and they can hardly win a game (1-8) on the road.

    Arkansas’ wins against Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee show that they are getting close to being in the thick of the SEC.

    Unfortunately, they’ve dropped too many games, and their only hope for getting into this year’s NCAA tournament is to win the conference tournament.

    Doubtful, unless the tourney is at the Bud.

6. Baylor Bears

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    Just because Baylor’s Scott Drew continues to score big in the recruiting realm doesn’t mean that the Bears will have uninterrupted success on the court.

    By signing 5-star recruit Isaiah Austin, Drew was supposed to be able to fill the gap left by Perry Jones III’s early departure to the NBA.

    In their Big 12 season preview, Athlon Sports said, 

    Proud as they are of their recent success, the Bears are ready to take the next step by winning an outright conference championship for the first time since 1948.

    However, Baylor (17-12; 8-8 Big 12) has been unpredictable and inconsistent all season.

    They’ve beaten some solid opponents, such as Oklahoma State, Kentucky and BYU, but they’ve lost to some inferior ones, such as College of Charleston and Northwestern.

    The fact that the Bears have their backcourt of Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip back from last year’s Elite Eight team makes this season’s up-and-down results that much more puzzling.

    Jackson currently leads the Big 12 in both scoring (19 PPG) and assists (6.4 APG).

5. Temple Owls

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    Temple is a good team in a good league, but it is more than a little surprising that the Owls (21-8; 9-5 A10) are No. 5 in the Atlantic 10 conference with one week to go in the regular season.

    Their wins against Syracuse, St. Louis and LaSalle produce some nice accomplishments for their March Madness resume. Unfortunately, the selection committee will also note their confusing home losses to St. Bonaventure, Canisius and Duquesne. Ouch!

    Temple is riding a five-game win streak going into the last week of the regular season, and they will play Fordham on the road and VCU at home.

    There’s still time for the Owls to shore things up.

4. San Diego State Aztecs

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    Though San Diego State should be solidly in the NCAA tournament, it doesn’t stop the Aztecs (20-8; 8-6 MWC) from being a puzzling team.

    They have pretty much the same core that went 26-8 last year. They are still led by arguably the most versatile player in college basketball: Jamaal Franklin.

    But SDSU has been unpredictable. They went 11-2 in November and December and were ranked No. 17 on Christmas Day.

    Since then, they haven’t been able to peel off more than three wins in a row and have lost to five different teams in MWC play (UNLV twice).

    The Aztecs’ lineup is loaded with experienced upperclassmen. Two years ago, they made it to the Sweet 16.

    To make that kind of run again, San Diego State will have to use their final two games (Air Force and at Boise State) to build some quick momentum heading into their conference tournament and beyond.

3. Colorado Buffaloes

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    On paper, the Colorado Buffaloes should be one of the best teams out west this season.

    Junior forward Andre Roberson leads the nation in rebounding (11.5 RPG). Dynamic sophomore guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker lead CU in scoring.

    Yet Colorado’s uneven performance has led to frustrating losses on the road, where the Buffs are an erratic 5-7.

    This week, CU has home games against Oregon and Oregon State.

    If they can win these two contests, and come out on top in a game or two in the upcoming Pac-12 tournament, then Tad Boyle could possibly pull off a Colorado basketball first.

    David Fox of Athlon Sports reports, “The Buffaloes have never made it into postseason play in three consecutive seasons.”

2. Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Talk about a season of extremes.

    Illinois is another team that was fast out of the gate. The Fighting Illini finished November and December with a 13-1 record, having beaten Butler and Gonzaga on the road.

    However, U of I also had a rude awakening as they opened Big 10 play, dropping seven of their first nine conference games.

    But now Illinois (21-9; 8-8 Big Ten) has turned things around at the right time, winning six of seven games, including a huge last-second upset of No. 1 Indiana and a nice road win at Minnesota.

    First-year coach John Groce has had a wild ride, and the season is not over yet.

1. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Minnesota is the most enigmatic team in college basketball.

    The Golden Gophers started off the 2012-13 season going 15-1, including their first three Big 10 games.

    Unfortunately, their results turned drastically starting in mid-January. Tubby Smith’s squad lost six of their next eight games.

    But recently, Minnesota has turned things around by winning monster home games against Wisconsin and No. 1 Indiana.

    Because they play in the toughest conference in the nation, the selection committee may be generous in the number of Big Ten teams they pick for this year’s NCAA tournament.

    Most leagues’ seventh-place teams wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance to make it into March Madness.