Butler and 10 Teams That Will Not Repeat Last Year's Success
Every year, you can count on teams like Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Ohio State, Syracuse, etc. to be in the top 25 and get a relatively high seed in the NCAA tournament. And even when these types of teams have disappointing seasons, they usually end up in the NIT or some other postseason tournament.
However, there are also other teams that put together one good season, or maybe a handful of productive years, but then fall back down to mediocrity for a little while.
Here are a list of teams that had plenty of success last year and went to the 2011 NCAA Tournament that will not be having the same type of success in the 2011-12 season.
*Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and information.
If you've been following college basketball this season, it should be no surprise that Butler leads this list; Butler's Final Four days are over—at least for now.
After finishing as the national runner-up in each of the last two seasons, coach Brad Stevens finds himself in a hole. Butler's two leading scorers from last year, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, departed, in addition to Shawn Vanzant (8.1 PPG) and Zach Hahn (4.9 PPG).
Although Butler still has some good players on this year's roster, the talent level has not been the same as the last two seasons.
Khyle Marshall and Chrishawn Hopkins could eventually be Horizon League stars, but right now they are not ready to do what the likes of Gordon Hayward, Howard, and Mack did in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Even if the Bulldogs pull things together in the Horizon League and get the conference's automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, they would most likely be eliminated during the first weekend of the postseason.
Of course, we cannot doubt the Bulldogs too much; Brad Stevens' teams are known for playing their best basketball late in the season.
UCLA did not have an exceptional 2010-11 season by UCLA standards, but the Bruins still took a trip to the Round of 32 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins are off to a poor 3-5 start, with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee. And although they did blow out Chaminade and Pepperdine, they just barely squeezed out a 77-73 win over Penn on Saturday.
UCLA has an easy finish to its non-conference schedule, but, even in a relatively weak Pac-12, it will most likely struggle and fall short of a NCAA tournament bid.
But there is a bright spot in UCLA's future; the Bruins are bringing in a pair of top 100 recruits for next year, including the No. 5 high school senior, Kyle Anderson.
Morehead State not only went to the NCAA tournament as a No. 13 seed last year, but the Eagles also won a postseason game over No. 4 seed Louisville.
But at the conclusion of the season, their two leading scorers, Kenneth Faried and Demonte Harper, graduated.
Without those two to anchor the team, Morehead State has fallen back to mediocrity.
The Eagles are 4-7, and three of their wins are against non-Division I teams; the only D-I team they have beaten is Princeton.
Without Faried and Harper, Morehead State is no longer an elite mid-major.
With a young, short-handed team, St. John's chances of returning to the NCAA tournament were slim from day one.
But things went from bad to worse for the Johnnies when Nurideen Lindsey, their starting point guard from Redlands Community College, decided to transfer. Lindsey had been averaging 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game before leaving the team.
The Red Storm still has a lot of talent, but this team is simply too young and too thin to do any real damage in the Big East this year.
St. John's got off to a solid 3-0 start and then played close games with Arizona and Texas A&M, but now the Red Storm has lost three straight games, including losses to Northeastern and Detroit.
Look for the Johnnies to be a top 25 team once again in a year or two, but this year they will just be another mediocre squad in the Big East.
Notre Dame was already set for a relatively disappointing season after earning a spot as a No. 2 seed in the 2011 Tournament. The Fighting Irish lost leading scorer Ben Hansbrough and forwards Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash.
At the start of this season, the Fighting Irish still looked like a potential NCAA tournament team, but everything changed when leading scorer and fifth-year senior Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL during practice.
Just to show how much Notre Dame will struggle against Big East teams, it lost to the 5-3 Maryland Terrapins and just barely pulled out a win over Maine last week.
After winning 27 games last year, Notre Dame might need the Luck of the Irish just to finish at .500.
The Princeton Tigers beat out Harvard for an Ivy League championship, ending a seven-year hiatus from the Big Dance.
Not only did Princeton go to the NCAA tournament, but it fell just one basket shy of an upset over No. 4 seed Kentucky, which eventually advanced to the Final Four, in the second round.
The Tigers went 25-6 last and 12-2 in the Ivy League.
But then two of their three leading scorers graduated, leaving a hole in the squad. Although Ian Hummer and Douglas Davis have done a good job of stepping up this year, the Tigers have been unable to achieve similar success; they currently sit at 4-6.
Of course, conference play gives Princeton a second chance. But that second chance will almost certainly amount to nothing.
Harvard will most likely win the Ivy League and take the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, leaving Princeton as spectators in March.
If you look solely at Penn State's record, things would not look too terrible; the Nittany Lions are 6-5.
However, they have no quality wins to this point in the year, and they have lost three consecutive games, including a painful loss at home to Lafayette.
Last season, Penn State went to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. As a No. 10 seed taking on No. 7 seed Temple, the Nittany Lions took the Owls down to the wire but ultimately lost, 66-64, on Juan Fernandez's buzzer beater.
At the conclusion of last season, Penn State lost its three leading scorers, Talor Battle (20.2 PPG), Jeff Brooks (13.1), and David Jackson (9.9). A tough season was inevitably in its future.
The good news for the Nittany Lions is that they should be returning most of their team next year. Only third-leading scorer Cammeron Woodyard is a senior.
Under Jim Larranaga, George Mason was consistently one of the best mid-majors in college basketball. The Patriots have not had a losing season since Larranaga's first season in 1997-98.
But the Larranaga era came to an end when he accepted a job at Miami (Fla.) last offseason after taking George Mason to the Round of 32 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament and a 27-7 overall record.
Although George Mason is still having a solid year under former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, the result at the end of the season will not be the same.
The CAA is not as strong as it was last year, but there will be other teams, such as VCU, Old Dominion, Drexel, and maybe even Georgia State, competing with the Patriots for a conference title.
Plus, George Mason does not have as much talent as it did last season. The Patriots lost two of their three leading scorers, Cam Long and Luke Hancock, who were the two main leaders of last year's NCAA tournament team.
The Patriots might even get back to the NCAA tournament as the CAA champions this year, but their chances of winning a game once they get there will be very slim.
USC just barely made the 2011 NCAA Tournament thanks to the expansion to 68 teams, and, although the Trojans lost their first round game to VCU, there was good reason to think that they would return to the NCAA tournament this year.
However, things changed dramatically when point guard Jio Fontan, who transferred from Fordham and scored 10.5 points per game last year with USC, tore his ACL during the summer.
In addition, the Trojans had already lost leading scorer and rebounder Nikola Vucevic to the NBA.
This year, the depleted Trojans are a miserable 4-6 with an ugly loss to Cal Poly on their home floor.
USC's offense has essentially been nonexistent. The Trojans are No. 339 in the nation with 53.7 points per game.
They have been held to 41 points or less on three separate outings, and they are yet to break 70 points.
Luckily, the Pac-12 has some other teams at the same level as USC, so this season should not be a complete disappointment for the Trojans. But still, don't expect more than a few more wins out of them this season.
Lastly, there is Tennessee.
The Volunteers had plenty of negative attention on them due to Bruce Pearl's recruiting violations, but they still managed to go to the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed, where they lost to No. 8 seed Michigan, 75-45.
To make things worse, Tennessee lost its two leading scorers and five of its top six scorers at the conclusion of last season.
The 2011-12 Volunteers have not found a way to replace those losses.
They are currently just 3-5. Tennessee's wins have been unimpressive, coming over UNC-Greensboro, Louisiana-Monroe, and Chaminade. And although the Volunteers played close games with Duke, Memphis, and Pittsburgh, they have also lost to Oakland and Austin Peay.
The SEC is primed for one of its best years in a while, currently with five teams in the top 25. It could be a long road for Tennessee, which still has nine games against ranked teams on its schedule.