2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

March Madness 2014: Top Seeds That Will Topple in NCAA Tournament

FILE - At left in a Feb. 1, 2014 file photo, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim  yells to his team during a college basketball game against Duke in Syracuse, N.Y. At right in a Feb. 22, 2014 file photo, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski yells to his team during a college basketball game against Syracuse in Durham, N.C. Madness is ramping up with conference tournaments starting this week and the NCAA tournament just around the corner. What better time to look at match-ups fans might like to see, like Kentucky's Julius Randle facing fellow freshman Aaron Gordon at Arizona or Duke coach Krzyzewski, the career wins leader, against No. 2, Syracuse's Boeheim. (AP Photo/File)
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R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IMarch 6, 2014

While the NCAA Tournament often provides some feel-good stories about the underdog surviving and advancing, there are also a number of favorites that end their seasons earlier than expected.

For every George Mason or Florida Gulf Coast team busting brackets, there is a North Carolina, UConn or Georgetown team that has to be knocked off in the process.

With the insanity of this year's college basketball season, there are bound to be a few top teams meeting the same fate as other top seeds of the past.

Whether it's Syracuse wilting down the stretch by losing four of the last five before its final showdown with Florida State or Duke dropping its last two games away from Cameron, a few of the top seeds have shown weakness as of late.

Here is a look at the top teams that will fall in the early rounds of the tournament, despite earning high seedings during the regular season.

 

Syracuse Orange (26-4, 13-4 ACC)

Feb 12, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim reacts to a call against his team during the game with the Pittsburgh Panthers in the first half at the Petersen Events Center. Syracuse won 58-56.  Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClai
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

My, how the mighty have fallen.

After getting off to a 25-0 start to the season, the Orange have come unraveled and lost four out of their last five—bookended by losses to Boston College and Georgia Tech, teams that have a combined 22 wins.

Those losses all came immediately after two last-second wins against Pittsburgh and N.C. State. Despite the recent struggles, Boeheim is still confident in his team, per the Associated Press:

I try to look at the big picture and not snapshots. We're in good position. When you get in the (NCAA) tournament, you're going to play somebody good. You play good, you have a chance to win. You play well, seeding doesn't matter. It's as simple as that.

The time to start playing well is now. It's as simple as that. And with a disappointing end to the season, the Orange have just one game left before the ACC tournament to get back on track.

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 04:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange looks on against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second half at the Carrier Dome on March 4, 2014 in Syracuse, New York.  Georgia Tech defeated Syracuse 67-62.  (Photo by R
Rich Barnes/Getty Images

After faltering against two teams in the doldrums of the ACC, the Orange may see an early exit from the conference tournament. And with a shaken confidence, Cuse could meet the same fate in the opening rounds of the big dance.

 

Kansas Jayhawks (22-7, 14-3 Big 12)

The talent is clearly there for the Jayhawks, but Kansas hasn't been able to put together enough consistency away from Allen Fieldhouse for the team to secure a No. 1 seed in the bracket.

With their recent loss to Oklahoma State on the road, the Jayhawks dropped their fifth game this season outside of the confines of Kansas. Then there's the fact that Joel Embiid, one of the top prospects in the country, has been hampered by a back injury.

The big man has already missed time and will miss the rest of the regular season, according to NCAA March Madness' official account:

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 18:  Joel Embiid #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts after scoring during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Allen Fieldhouse on January 18, 2014 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The loss of Embiid doesn't mean much for now, but his effectiveness when he returns to the court during the Big 12 tournament will be worth watching. The two freshmen in the frontcourt for Kansas have been a huge part of their success, and Embiid—along with Andrew Wiggins—will once again be crucial to making a Sweet 16 or Final Four.

But with Embiid's health being an unknown and the team dropping seven games throughout the season, Kansas has shown more than enough chinks in its armor to not be trusted in the tournament.

 

Duke Blue Devils (23-7, 12-5 ACC)

After a mostly consistent season, Duke has been anything but in the last four games.

Dropping a game against rival North Carolina on the road isn't something that should harm them too much, but the Blue Devils certainly shut the door on any hopes for a No. 1 seed with a loss to Wake Forest.

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - MARCH 05:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils watches on during their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Joel Coliseum on March 5, 2014 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Yes, the same Wake team that had lost eight of its last nine games coming in, was a loss away from sitting at .500 on the season and had twice as many losses as wins in the ACC.

That's not the look of a team that will make a significant run in the tournament. After Mike Krzyzewski was forced to leave the court near the end of the game, Steve Wojciechowski spoke about the team's effort at Wake, per Laura Keeley of the News & Observer:

To go along with the Devils' lack of toughness, they have also relied heavily upon three-point shooting—something they haven't done well as of late.

Over the last four games, Duke has shot 28-of-103 (.272) from behind the arc. The last time the Devils struggled from distance this much was when they fell to No. 15 seed Lehigh as the No. 2 seed back in 2012 .

With another matchup against UNC to close out the regular season this Saturday, the Devils will have a few more opportunities to rectify the current situation. But without toughness or accuracy from outside, this is a team set for an early exit in the tournament.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.

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