College Basketball March Madness 2011: The Most Disappointing Teams of 2011
As we approach mid February, teams throughout college basketball are making last-ditch efforts to make one last push to get off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament.
With the expanded field of 68, combined with a year of general parity throughout the country, teams that would have weak résumés in most years find themselves with a lot to play for as the season begins to wind down.
However, some of these teams on the bubble are there because of underwhelming seasons (Kansas State) instead of overachieving (Boston College). Here we review the most disappointing teams so far this season.
Kansas State Wildcats
Yes, they just knocked off Kansas. But almost anybody could have called that. The Jayhawks didn't deserve to be No. 1, and Kansas State was in a must-win nationally televised home game. All added up, the talent difference between these two teams isn't as great as their records show.
That's what makes this win and season for the Wildcats all the more frustrating. They opened the season No. 3 in the polls, but until Monday night's game, they hadn't beaten a team in the top 50 in RPI.
Their SOS (seventh) will definitely help, but they've fallen apart on and off the court, and Frank Martin may have more veins popping out of his forehead than his team has wins this season.
Kansas State came into the season looking for a No. 1 seed in the tournament a year removed from securing a No. 2 seed. This season, they have to make up ground to even get into the tourney.
Michigan State Spartans
At 14-11, Michigan State is in grave danger of not making the tournament. At 6-7 in conference play, including an inexcusable home loss to Michigan, the Spartans have struggled to find any type of consistency whatsoever.
They do own wins over Washington, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but a lot of that is diminished by the home loss to Michigan and a road loss at Penn State. They've even played poorly in many of their wins, hardly escaping teams like Chaminade and Oakland.
Still, none of these failings come close to topping their embarrassing effort at Big Ten cellar dweller Iowa, which saw the Hawkeyes blow out Michigan State.
The Spartans will basically need to win out AND make up some ground in the Big Ten conference tournament to secure themselves a spot in the Big Dance.
Last season, Butler was the Cinderella of America, coming a half-court heave away from knocking off Duke and winning the NCAA Tournament.
This season certainly hasn't been a fairy tale. The Bulldogs, normally dominant in Horizon League play, currently sit in third place in the conference.
Florida State and Washington State are their only two non-conference wins of note, but losses to Evansville and Youngstown State will certainly stick out on their résumé.
If Butler doesn't win the Horizon League tournament, don't expect to see it dancing this season.
This is a very tough team to judge. Their 15-10 record, including 5-5 in the weak SEC (fifth place in SEC East), is ugly. They also have played the second toughest schedule in the country and have done so without head coach Bruce Pearl in the majority of their conference games.
They own a neutral court win over Villanova, a road win at Pittsburgh and a blowout win at home over Memphis. They also own home losses to Oakland, Charleston and USC and road losses to Charlotte and Arkansas.
This team is WAY too talented—Bruce Pearl or not—and the SEC is WAY too weak for them to struggle as badly as they have so far.
But if Tennessee can win five of its last six, it'll hit the 20-win plateau, and a win in the SEC Tournament should be able to lock them up a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Still, for a team that had such high hopes to begin the season, to be in this position this late in the season is disappointing.
Memphis is finding out that Conference USA is greatly improved from the Tigers' run to the NCAA finals with Derrick Rose a few years ago.
The Tigers, currently sitting in third in the conference, have few, if any, big wins—a four-point home win against Miami and road wins at UAB and Gonzaga. But even that list fails to impress.
Seven of the Tigers' 10 games in C-USA have been decided by six points or less, showing that even in victory, the Tigers haven't exactly been blowing teams away.
Memphis is in a good position to run the table and is still probably the most talented team in C-USA. But if they slip up in their two big games remaining (tonight at home against UAB and a road matchup at UTEP), they'll have to get some help to get into the tournament.
The Zags, who usually dominate WCC play, have looked beatable all season.
Currently tied for second in the WCC, it doesn't look all bad on the surface. But once you break it down, it's easy to see just how underwhelming Gonzaga has been this season. They lost three consecutive games in January (at Santa Clara, at San Francisco and Saint Mary's) and have been beatable at home.
Their wins of note are at Baylor and home wins over Xavier and Oklahoma State. They are 1-6 against teams with a top 50 RPI, their strength of schedule is 69th in the country and their RPI is 70. On paper, there's just not much of an argument you can make for the Zags.
But they're a big name team, and since they play a lot of their games late at night, many on the panel may vote on their name, not their track record. If they win out, which would include a win at first-place Saint Mary's, they would have a shot at an at-large bid. But if they can't knock off Saint Mary's, anything short of a WCC Tournament championship will probably leave them short of the NCAA Tournament.
The more I look at Baylor's résumé, the less I can defend the Bears as a tournament team.
They own a road win over Texas A&M and home wins over Oklahoma State and Nebraska. But they're 1-4 against the top 50 RPI, own an RPI of 61 and have played the 62nd toughest schedule in college basketball.
For a supremely talented team that was once rated in the top 10 in the polls, Baylor has seen its season fall apart. They struggled to get by NAIA Wayland Baptist at home on Tuesday night.
Three of its remaining five games are against ranked teams, which gives Baylor time to improve its RPI and résumé. If Baylor is able to win four of its remaining five games, and win a game in the Big 12 Tournament, it'll find a way to get in.
But if the Bears underperform, like they've been doing most of the season, don't expect to see them back in the tournament this season.