As I sit here bored out of my mind in my marketing class, (what kind of teacher doesn’t allow fucking laptops in 2013 by the way?! So I’ll take pride that all of this was written on my blackberry) I can only contemplate on who the best teams are in the NCAA this year. At the moment, it seems as though that the NCAA is stricken by parody as I can’t foresee any elite teams that are worthy of deeming #1 thus far on January 31st. Here’s a list of potential candidates that can be considered some of the top teams in the NCAA this year.
In what is an obvious down year for scoring in the NCAA, teams seem to be slowing the tempo of the game which essentially means that successful teams need to be extremely efficient offensively with their amount of possessions used throughout the game. Florida seems to be the epitome of this theory as advanced statistically, they’re one of the greatest college teams of my generation considering they haven’t lost a game by less than 25 points since the middle of November (however they did lose 2 non-conference road games at Arizona and Kansas St. throughout this stretch) Currently sitting at 18-2 playing out of the Southeastern Conference, the Gators are ranked 2nd nationally in the associated press poll but are actually#1 in the KenPom rankings which assess a team’s overall ability through various advanced statistics. Whether or not they’ll be battle-tested for the rigors of March Madness is yet to be seen, but count on Billy Gillespie to have his players ready to make yet another Final Four push in March.
Another team I consider to be part of a top echelon of teams is Michigan as they currently are #3 in the AP poll and #3 in the KenPom while being the first team in the NCAA to hit the 20 win mark with a 20-2 record after their loss on the road at Indiana this past Saturday. The Wolverines play within one of the toughest conferences in basketball in the Big 10 and played a tough non-conference schedule with games against the likes of Kansas St., Pittsburgh and N.C State. Michigan is a fairly young team lead by Trey Burke and sharp shooting Canadian Nick Stauskas from Missassauga, Ontario who’s shooting over 50% from three.. They have picked up two losses in conference play while playing on the road, but no one would be surprised to see Michigan make a deep run in March and potentially win the whole damn thing if their shooters get hot at the right time.
Picked as the pre-season #1 team according to the associated press, Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers have truly lived up to the bill as they’re currently 20-2 with losses at home against Wisconsin and Butler. After winning on Saturday against Michigan, the Hoosiers have reclaimed the top spot in both polls and currently contain a #2 ranting within KenPom advanced statistics rankings. Lead by sophomore Cody Zeller who is considered a potential #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, the Hoosiers play an up-tempo style of game and are considered one of the best transition teams in the country in terms of scoring off their defense.
Finally, the last team I envision garnering the honor of being the #1 team by the end of the year is the University of Kansas. There is no denying the greatness of the program that Bill Self has created in Lawrence as the Jayhawks have won 8 straight conference championships which looks to be 9 consecutive after this season. The Jayhawks currently sit #5 in the AP poll behind Michigan but #7 in the KenPom ratings and are lead by freshmen phenom Ben McLemore and POY candidate Jeff Withey. Sitting at 19-2 after a devastating home loss to Oklahoma St. on the weekend, the Jayhawks seem to be in cruise control while playing down to their competition in a watered down Big 12 this season. This seems to have deflated their advanced statistics as their margin of victory in most of their games has been minimal. Look for the home loss which has only happened eight times in Self’s tenure in Lawrence to wake up the Jayhawks as they get ready to make another deep tournament run in March.
About the Author, Michael Gray:
Baseball and basketball enthusiast as well as a former baseball blogger for my beloved Toronto Blue Jays. Expect some Midwest bias in most of my writing as I’m currently a Junior at The University of Kansas. Rock Chalk Jayhawk! You can follow him on twitter at @Jays_Fan2.