2013 NCAA Tournament Teams Least Likely to Be Dancing in 2014
First, a confession: this picture of Marquette's Todd Mayo is deliberately misleading. This list of teams will not feature the Golden Eagles. The picture merely fit the appropriate mood of defeat and dejection.
Got the attention, though, didn't it?
After Saturday's demoralizing loss to Ohio State, Marquette looks far from an NCAA tournament team. Shooting 18.9 percent in any game, even one against a defensive buzzsaw like the Buckeyes, is alarming.
Still, it's only the third game of the season, and head coach Buzz Williams has richly earned his reputation for maximizing his talent. Marquette should be fine by the midpoint of Big East play.
Other teams, however, may not be quite so lucky. These eight schools were in the 2013 NCAA tournament, but attrition and realignment make a return trip extremely difficult. It's still early, but these teams have already shown disturbing signs.
The Butler Bulldogs already had a transition in their future with iconic head coach Brad Stevens leaving for the NBA. A slight transition with assistant Brandon Miller taking charge, but a transition nonetheless.
Losing junior forward Roosevelt Jones to a season-ending injury was also supposed to be a crippling blow for a program new to the revamped Big East Conference.
The Bulldogs are 2-0 on the young season, but the second victory was a tightly-fought victory over Ivy League contender Princeton. That two-point victory saw the Tigers miss on two chances to force overtime. Butler needed four threes from sophomore guard Kellen Dunham and three from freshman Elijah Brown.
At the end of November, the Bulldogs travel to Orlando for the Old Spice Classic, an event that could see them tip off against Oklahoma State, Memphis, LSU or Purdue. All of those would be major tests. Add a scheduled meeting with the Boilermakers in Indianapolis, and Butler will need every win it can get out of an otherwise forgiving non-conference schedule.
The new Big East is almost as potent as the old one. Butler's fellow potential bubble teams like Xavier and Providence have already carded solid wins over Tennessee and Boston College, respectively. The Bulldogs don't have a lot of chances to match those markers, so they'll need to pull at least one upset in Orlando to help their at-large odds.
Colorado State can be excused for losing a blowout to Gonzaga last week. The Zags appear to be reinventing themselves nicely as a guard-oriented team capable of raining threes all night. That loss will not stand as a bad one on CSU's resume.
Tuesday's meeting with UTEP in El Paso will be a swing game for both teams. The Miners need a win of value themselves, trying to shake the memory of their 30-foul performance in a loss to New Mexico State.
Both the Rams and Miners play New Mexico State and Denver in their non-league schedule. Colorado State will face Colorado, while Texas-El Paso will face Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis. There, the Miners have the chance to add quality wins against programs like Xavier, Iowa, Villanova or Kansas, although the latter would likely require a run to the title game.
CSU is helped by the fact that it won't leave home again until Mountain West play starts, but opponents like Bethune-Cookman, Illinois-Chicago and Lamar won't get the selection committee excited. The Colorado, New Mexico State and Denver games will be crucial.
By season's end, it's possible that UTEP and Colorado State will post similar blind resumes. The Rams must battle for victories over Mountain West contenders like New Mexico or Boise State because the league won't be as strong from top to bottom as it was last year.
The words "Northern Colorado" are already a profanity in Manhattan, Kan. Kansas State's non-conference schedule looked Charmin-soft aside from a game against Gonzaga in Wichita and possible tests against Ole Miss and George Washington.
Then, the Wildcats shot 10 percent from three-point range and 48 percent from the foul line against the Bears in the season opener. Shooting like that against a Big Sky team bodes ill for a team that still must face representatives of the Atlantic 10, SEC and a full Big 12 slate.
A shaky season for the Big 12 may be the biggest blessing head coach Bruce Weber's team can receive. Wins over the likes of TCU and Texas Tech will never excite the selection committee, but the middle of the pack contains teams like West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma. That trio will battle K-State for at-large consideration all season.
Those wins may help, but Texas has survived tight games with Mercer and South Alabama. West Virginia has lost to Virginia Tech. The Big 12's underbelly could be even softer than we expect.
Without help from those teams, KSU must pull some upsets over Baylor, Oklahoma State or even arch-rival Kansas. So far, the odds that the Wildcats have the scorers to knock off those potent programs look long.
As if we needed more clues that this would be a transition season in Coral Gables, St. Francis (NY) and Georgia Southern provided plenty in their visits to the Hurricanes.
Miami opened the season with a four-point overtime loss to St. Francis and a one-point OT win against a GSU team that will play this season without its best player, forward Eric Ferguson. And these are the forgiving parts of the Canes' non-league schedule.
Monday night will see the U travel to the College of Charleston. The two teams could meet again in a loaded Wooden Legacy tournament in California. That bracket features Creighton, Arizona State, San Diego State, Marquette and Miami's first-round opponent George Washington. Another Miami/Charleston game could very well be for seventh place.
Games at Nebraska and home for La Salle won't be easy, either. Not when a team is posting a 44.8 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) through three games and allowing opponents to shoot 39 percent from the arc.
Guards Rion Brown and Garrius Adams (38.6 and 29.2 eFG% per Ken Pomeroy, subscription required) must get their shots right. Past history says that they will, but it'll have to happen quickly for Miami to get anywhere near the bubble in a loaded ACC.
Minnesota, like Miami, lost a great deal of experience from last year's tournament team, including its coach. Like last year's Golden Gophers, however, new boss Richard Pitino's team should be capable of producing a strong non-conference record.
Expected Atlantic 10 contender Richmond fell victim to a strong closing spurt to lose by 15 to the Gophers at home. That's the only true road game on Minnesota's early-season slate. There are no more true highlights other than a visit from Florida State.
Minnesota's chance to earn non-conference resume wins must come in its trip to the Maui Invitational, and it must first come against a Top 10 foe in Syracuse. Arkansas, Cal, Baylor and Gonzaga also lurk in that field.
The Big Ten will be as strong as ever, with as many as nine teams entertaining legitimate NCAA tournament hopes. Minnesota's conference schedule is somewhat kind with Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois and Nebraska as its single-play opponents. Still, there are 10 games against current Top 25 teams.
Drake transfer Joey King has started out well as a supporting scorer for All-Big Ten guard Andre Hollins, but can he produce 13 points per game in Maui, let alone the Big Ten? Point guard Dre Mathieu will also need to tighten up his 27.2 percent turnover rate.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy pushed all his chips to the center of the table when he took on talented junior college scorer Marshall Henderson and all of his baggage. It worked, as the Rebel gunner teamed with veterans Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway to get Ole Miss into its first NCAA tournament since 2002.
This season, Buckner and Holloway are gone and Henderson is serving a staggered three-game suspension (season opener and first two SEC games) for various missteps, both on-court and off.
Point guard Jarvis Summers has had two solid games, including scoring 28 points in the opener against Troy. Henderson made multiple plays good and bad in the final minutes of his debut, a two-point road win over Coastal Carolina.
Better teams than Coastal await on the non-conference schedule, including Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Oregon, Middle Tennessee and Dayton. The Rebels can't afford high-wire acts in games like those.
The SEC could be fairly forgiving outside of powers Kentucky and Florida, but again, Henderson must make his gambles count. This team's not winning 27 games again, and even 20 may not be enough to get back to March Madness if the Rebels can't pull some convincing wins in those non-conference matchups.
In last season's NCAA tournament, Khalif Wyatt nearly carried Temple past Indiana by himself, so his graduation was the offseason's major storyline. However, the Owls had four other seniors on last year's team who were important contributors, and replacing all of them would be difficult for anyone.
The Owls nearly blew a 15-point lead to Penn in their opener, then lost tough battles with Kent State and Towson. Redemption will need to come in Charleston, S.C., site of the Charleston Classic.
The Classic has an interesting field headlined by New Mexico and UMass, but Temple starts its draw off with Clemson. Either Georgia or Davidson would await in round two, and a pair of wins would at least provide some salve for the two rough losses last week.
The Philly Big 5 round-robin always provides some signature wins, and that may be where Temple hangs its hat. Having St. Joseph's and Villanova at home will help, and La Salle is staggering out of the gate itself.
Once Temple reaches play in The American Athletic Conference, results could vary. Memphis, Louisville and UConn appear to be on their own tier. Cincinnati should sit just a step below those three, with Temple, SMU and South Florida fighting to give the AAC a fifth tournament bid.
The Owls desperately need wins over the American heavyweights, but they'll need to straighten out the three-point shooting (26.4 percent) and start forcing some turnovers (11.4 percent per Pomeroy).
In a loss slightly more disappointing than Kansas State falling at home to Northern Colorado, we give you UC Santa Barbara 86, UNLV 65. It was an all-around ugly shooting night for the Runnin' (Limpin'?) Rebels, as they hit 38 percent from two-point range, 33 percent from three and 55 percent from the foul line.
Three nights later, Vegas survived a nervous evening against Nebraska-Omaha, breaking a tie with 12 seconds left to win by three. Both the loss and the near-loss came in the friendly confines of the Thomas and Mack Center.
Good news: The Rebels' next three games are also at home. Bad news: The first two are against Arizona State and Illinois.
A trip to Arizona is the only other major roadblock in the non-conference schedule, but then comes another hard slog through the still-tough Mountain West.
New Mexico, Boise State and San Diego State should all be considered legitimate NCAA teams, with Utah State lurking in wait. The rest is not quite as potent as in years past, but then neither is UNLV.
The Rebels turned the ball over 21 times against UNO. Also, they're only hitting 43 percent of their two-point shots and 50 percent of their threes through three games, while turning the ball over on more than 22 percent of their possessions according to Pomeroy.
As has been a recurring theme in these slides, UNLV has struggled even in what should have been the tune-up games on its schedule. What happens when the Rebels move up in weight class starting with Arizona State on Tuesday?
If you want to place a bet, by all means go to Vegas. It might not be a wise idea to bet ON Vegas, however.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron. Now playing: Poll Dancing, TBI's official top 25 ballot.