The 10th conference game seems like a good time to take a look at which NCAA teams have been the biggest disappointments of the season so far.
This list isn’t a prediction of future success. At this point last season, Connecticut probably would have appeared in this space. Of course, they rattled off an 11-game winning streak that culminated in their cutting down the nets in Houston.
But looking at the season’s flops, there is an evident mix of teams that haven’t played up to expectations, have been plagued by injuries or were just simply overrated. With that being said, here goes:
10. North Carolina (19-3, 6-1 ACC) Yes, I know the Tar Heels are still a top-10 team. But they are nowhere near as dominant as they were thought to be at the beginning of the year. They only have three losses, and one of those was to No. 1 Kentucky. But losing as the consensus No. 1 team by 33 points to Florida State has to knock you down a peg.
9. Alabama (14-7, 3-4 SEC) Anthony Grant’s Crimson Tide don’t have any “bad” losses, but they also dropped four straight games in-conference and have no signature wins. Other than Hollis Thompson’s miracle trey when Georgetown went to Tuscaloosa, the Tide has a lackluster offense to thank for their predicament.
8. Connecticut (14-7, 4-5 Big East) The defending national champs did well early with an easy schedule but have flailed in conference play. Home losses to Cincinnati and Notre Dame were unpleasant, road losses at Seton Hall and Rutgers were bad and a defeat at Tennessee was downright ugly. Without Kemba Walker to take over games late, these Huskies seem a few eggs short of a full dozen, as many of us saw in person Wednesday night.
7. Xavier (15-7, 6-3 Atlantic 10) However its season ends, Xavier’s year will be known for the indelible images of a brawl against Cincinnati. The suspensions handed down after that melee cost the Musketeers, but recent back-to-back losses to Dayton and Saint Louis have shattered the illusion that Xavier is a top-25 team.
6. Pittsburgh (14-9, 3-7 Big East) I was hesitant to put the Panthers on this list, but when a team tabbed for the top 10 loses eight in a row, that’s certainly a disappointment. Jamie Dixon’s squad struggled with junior guard Tray Woodall out with an injury, but his return should mean Pitt makes the most of the rest of its season.
5. Vanderbilt (16-6, 5-2 SEC) The Commodores may have turned the corner in conference, but part of that has been beating up on conference laggards — and not particularly convincingly. But it isn’t easy to get past home losses to the mediocre Cleveland State and the even worse Indiana State. With the better part of their remaining schedule on the road, Kevin Stallings’ squad has its work cut out for it.
4. Texas A&M (12-9, 3-6 Big 12) The Aggies have played a very tough schedule with road losses to Baylor, Kansas and Missouri, so it was hard to decide where to place them on the list. Injuries have wrecked College Station, though, with Kourtney Roberson and Khris Middleton both missing games. The result has been an erratic season that hasn’t nearly met expectations.
3. Louisville (17-5, 5-4 Big East) Diaper dandy Wayne Blackshear was injured before the season started, and revolving casts of Cardinals have ridden the bench with everything from torn ACLs to ankle sprains. But even when the team was firing on all cylinders, Louisville looked lackluster in losses to Georgetown and Kentucky. And a 90-59 defeat at Providence dropped this preseason top-10 squad out of the top 25.
2. Memphis (15-7, 6-2 Conference USA) The Tigers were thought to be a lock for the C-USA title and a potential national threat. And while they still are in contention in their diminished league, they haven’t beaten anyone of note. Losing freshman swingman Adonis Thomas to an ankle injury hasn’t helped matters, either. Maybe having a coach who looks like a 16-year-old wasn’t such a good idea after all.
1. UCLA (12-10, 5-5 Pac-12) Given that the Pac-12 has remained the nation’s worst basketball power conference, UCLA’s struggles are somewhat of a puzzle. Abysmal road performances have led to losses at Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal. Instead of talking a title, most of the buzz in Westwood is over Ben Howland’s job security.
Evan Hollander is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a deputy sports editor for The Hoya. TOP OF THE KEY appears every Friday.