March Madness 2014: Teams That Aren't Peaking When It Counts

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 2, 2014

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim gestures during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, in College Park, Md. Syracuse won 57-55. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Ideally, highly ranked college basketball teams would like to be playing their best basketball when March rolls around.

Take a scan at the teams near the top of the rankings in college basketball. Not every one of them is playing as if it will be a tough out in the NCAA tournament.

Sure almost every team that can call itself a serious contender still has a conference tournament to play.

Perhaps the ones that are struggling can regain their rhythm in that final tuneup before The Big Dance. Here's a look at three teams that have hit hard times on the cusp of the most important month.


Syracuse Orange

KEVIN RIVOLI/Associated Press

Jim Boeheim's team was undefeated and ranked No. 1 most of the season, but the Orange have lost three of their last four games. Most recently, the team lost by 19 to the 12th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday.

It's not time to panic, but with just two regular-season games remaining before the ACC tournament begins, the Orange need to regain their rhythm.

Boeheim talks in the video below after the loss to Virginia. He calls the Cavaliers the best team in the ACC.

While Virginia has proven itself to be a formidable squad, there are definite issues with the way Syracuse has been playing. The Orange haven't shot over 40 percent from the field in any of the last four games. The team has been out-rebounded in three of those contests.

Somehow, the Orange will have to increase their aggression on the glass and find a way to get some shots to go down. If not, the team could be headed for another of its infamous early exits from the NCAA tournament.


St. Louis Billikens

Whitney Curtis/Associated Press

The Billikens were breezing through the Atlantic 10 schedule until their last two games. After consecutive losses to Duquesne and VCU, head coach Jim Crews and Co. are searching for answers.

The first place the team might want to look is its three-point shooting. Through the two-game losing streak, the Billikens have made just eight of their 36 attempts from long range.

That's just 22 percent, which is a far cry from the 32 percent the team has converted at for the entire season. Three of the team's best long-rang shooters: Rob Loe, Mike Crawford and Austin McBroom have made just 1-of-19 three-point attempts in the last two games.

When—and if—the Billikens start making some outside shots again, the team will likely return to the win column.


Kentucky Wildcats

Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

In the last three games, Kentucky hasn't looked good. Its only win came on a buzzer-beater from Julius Randle at home against unranked LSU. The Cats have lost their last two games including a 72-67 defeat to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday.

John Calipari's young team has had its ups and downs, but this is the time the team with the best recruiting class in the nation should be coming together.

Shooting has been a major issue for Kentucky in its two-game losing streak. The team shot a woeful 26.9 percent from the field against the Gamecocks on Saturday. That followed a 34.2 percent shooting night on Thursday against Arkansas.

Shot selection and simply knocking down outside looks is the remedy, but Andrew and Aaron Harrison have yet to show the maturity necessary to lead the offense. 

Raashaan Myers of The Main Event Show talks about one of the ill-advised decisions from Aaron Harrison in the loss to South Carolina:

If Kentucky is going to make some noise in March, the Harrison twins will have to step up their game.


All stat references from 

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