With this year's NCAA tournament just a few days away, some teams that made last year's big dance won't have the same privilege this year. Be it because of a tough schedule, underachieving or bad luck, they have not met the standards expected of a tournament-caliber team.
That means that as much as we'd like to see it, John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats will not be defending their title in 2013.
The same can be said for other teams, who just didn't have what it took to reach the next level and return to the tourney this season. While other teams are fighting for that ever-elusive trip to the Final Four and even more elusive trophy, these squads will sadly be left on the outside looking in.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have indeed improved in each season under third-year head coach Fran McCaffery, with their mark of 21-12 being their best under him yet. Unfortunately, the team is part of the Big Ten, which proved to be incredibly deep this season.
Iowa only managed to go 9-9 in conference play, and it was unable to fight off a rallying Michigan State team in the second half of the Big Ten Tournament. By the final buzzer, the Spartans had completed the comeback and won 59-56.
Without a trip to the conference semifinals, plus the blown lead, it's becoming harder and harder to see Iowa as a realistic choice to make this year's tourney.
After star forward and shot-blocker Nerlens Noel injured his knee against Florida on Feb. 12, the Wildcats began their free fall. The team only went 4-4 over the remainder of the season and finished with a conference record of 12-6 in a horribly weak SEC.
However, with a victory over Florida on March 9, it looked like the team had moved off the bubble, or at least close enough off of it that it could garner some consideration with a strong SEC Tournament.
That bubble sadly burst after Vanderbilt blew Kentucky out in the SEC quarterfinals, with a 64-48 victory. The Commodores were in control from start to finish, leaving Coach Cal's men out of the big dance once and for all.
In 2012, the Bears reached the Elite Eight under head coach Scott Drew, thanks to a key trio of Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III. All three later departed via the NBA draft, leaving the Bears treading water this season.
The team went just 18-14 on the year and 9-9 in conference play, though guard Pierre Jackson and freshman Isaiah Austin performed well as Baylor's go-to guys. After a huge win against Kansas on March 9, it appeared as though the Bears had a rally brewing that would translate into a strong Big 12 tournament.
Unfortunately, such was not to be. A heartbreaking loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the opening round of the conference tournament killed Baylor's hopes of returning to the tournament, leaving the team's fans with nothing to do but look forward to next year.
That signature win against Kansas was indeed nice, but nowhere near enough to make up for what was, for all intents and purposes, a bad season.
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