Rayno's college basketball insider: No clear favorites

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO
  • Updated: February 2, 2013 - 9:22 AM

 The top team in college basketball this season has been a game of musical chairs. With no dominant team emerging, the run for No. 1 could be an exciting one.

hide

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino talks with guard Peyton Siva, left, guard Russ Smith, guard/forward Wayne Blackshear, and center Gorgui Dieng.

Photo: Alex Brandon, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

At this time last season, we already were pretty sure about the favorite to win the national championship and the supposed Player of the Year.

Kentucky and its star forward/center, Anthony Davis, took over college basketball and led the way from the start of January all the way through the NCAA tournament, with Davis and the Wildcats winning all the trophies they were supposed to win.

This year, however, is a much different story. The No. 1 team in the land already has changed four times, most recently with the elevation of Michigan to the top spot for the first time this season on Monday.

The best player in the country is an argument encompassing a handful of candidates, none of whom is without flaw. The conversations will undoubtedly continue to bend and fluctuate as upsets keep shaking up the top of the rankings.

So basically, this season has become incredibly up for grabs. But does unpredictable equal bad? Does the fact that no team or player has really taken the reins mean it's a down year for college basketball?

"Some people think that parity means bad," CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm said. "But I don't think that's necessarily true. It just means the talent is spread out. ... We haven't had a team like last year's Kentucky team. We haven't had anybody out there like that, that's that good, that dominant. But that's just going to make things exciting."

Some analysts, though, have hypothesized that teams are playing at a slower rate in general. On Saturday, Northern Illinois made headlines after managing to score only 25 points -- and only four in the first half -- against Eastern Michigan. In another game this season, at Dayton on Dec. 1, the Huskies managed only five points in the first half.

Palm, who enters every Division I score into his database by hand, said he's noticed more low scores than usual this season.

"I cannot believe how many scores I see in the 30s and 40s this year," he said. "I'm always saying, 'Gosh, that's another team that scored in the 30s and they won!'"

But even if that's true, along with the lack of a dominant team, college basketball isn't losing any fans in a season that figures to be unpredictable right up until the end.

With Indiana, Duke, Louisville and Michigan all taking turns at the top spot, Kansas -- which is currently Palm's No. 1 seed overall -- might make its move soon as it dominates its Big 12 opponents.

But the field of potential champions is much wider than that. Syracuse, Florida, Arizona, Miami, Michigan State and a handful of others all could probably be in that conversation.

"This year? Good luck filling out a bracket for your pool," Palm said. "You legitimately don't know who's going to win this thing. I mean, Gonzaga? Gonzaga is good enough to win the tournament this year."

SHORT TAKES

• What, exactly, is allowed on the back of a basketball teams' jerseys got some attention recently when the NCAA turned down requests from Iowa -- which wanted to put the name of a former player who died on the back of the jersey of every player -- and Akron, which wanted to use the team's Twitter handle for all its players.

According to the NCAA rule book, which states that the jersey must "identify the school, the school nickname or mascot, or the player's name," the second could actually be allowed (but wasn't). In light of the recent conundrums and obvious institutional desire for creativity, John Infante of the Bylaw blog suggested each team should get to ignore the limitations for one night each year, which could get interesting.

• When Michigan's drought between No. 1 appearances in the AP poll ended Monday after more than two decades, no doubt many Wolverines fans thought their wait was unbearable. But in reality, of all the teams that have been No. 1 at least twice (56 teams have reached that pinnacle overall) since the poll was started in 1949, Michigan's 20-year, one-month, 29-day stint ranked only eighth on the list of longest breaks between that achievement (first reported by the Wall Street Journal). Ohio State is first with 44 years, 11 months and 14 days in between 1962 and 2007. Bonus info: The Gophers are ranked 37th (out of 198 teams) in terms of number of poll appearances with 223.

• Gophers fans have nothing to complain about with Mo Walker's 1 1/2-year absence because of knee and ankle injuries. St. Mary's guard Paul McCoy hadn't played in more than three years before Jan. 19 after undergoing four surgeries on his right knee. The 22-year-old Oregon native is playing limited minutes for the Gaels, writes Paul Buker of the Oregonian, but it's hard not to admire the determination to (finally) make a return.

BIG TEN POWER POLL

  

1. Michigan: Trey Burke is playing out of his mind, plus the Wolverines had only two turnovers against Northwestern on Wednesday.

2. Indiana: I can't really wait for Saturday night's matchup against Michigan at Assembly Hall.

3. Michigan State: Despite a Jan. 27 loss to the Hoosiers, the Spartans are playing their best basketball right now.

4. Ohio State: We've been wondering all year who else is going to score for the Buckeyes, but so far Deshaun Thomas -- even as the only major threat -- cannot be stopped.

5. Wisconsin: The Badgers still have three victories over ranked teams within the past month.

6. Minnesota: We saw some hints of the early 2012-13 Gophers against Nebraska, which might be enough to pull the team out of its recent slump.

7. Iowa: At least we know the Hawkeyes can win the tempo-altered games.

8. Illinois: I'm not saying the Illini couldn't potentially beat anyone -- when a team has that type of shooting, it can -- but otherwise this team is off the tracks.

9. Purdue: A 37-point loss to Indiana? Yikes.

10. Northwestern: Their style will always make them sticky. But right now, the Wildcats don't have the talent to consistently compete.

11. Nebraska: It's a bad night when a team shoots 63.6 percent in the first half, as the Huskers did against the Gophers last Tuesday, and still loses by 19 points.

12. Penn State: D.J. Newbill is doing everything he can, but it's just not enough.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 48 3rd Qtr 5:46
Washington 67
Orlando 67 3rd Qtr 3:57
Charlotte 57
Memphis 45 2nd Qtr 2:48
Miami 35
Indiana 20 1st Qtr 2:31
Brooklyn 19
New Orleans 20 1st Qtr 2:45
Chicago 21
Atlanta 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Utah
New York 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Minnesota 9:30 PM
Golden State
NY Islanders 3 2nd Prd 4:55
Buffalo 0
Detroit 1 2nd Prd 9:08
Ottawa 1
Carolina 0 2nd Prd 5:31
Tampa Bay 1
New Jersey 1 2nd Prd 5:38
NY Rangers 2
Boston 1 2nd Prd 9:16
Columbus 4
Winnipeg 1 2nd Prd 10:20
Minnesota 1
Washington 1 2nd Prd
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 1 1st Prd 8:35
St. Louis 1
Philadelphia 0 1st Prd 8:21
Nashville 1
Anaheim 1 1st Prd 9:16
Arizona 1
Chicago 8:00 PM
Colorado
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
San Jose 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 72 2nd OT 0:49
Georgia 70
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 32 2nd Half 11:05
Ohio State 73
Presbyterian 39 2nd Half 15:33
Virginia Tech 55
Brescia 12 1st Half 8:50
Western Ky 23
Tennessee St 7:30 PM
Tennessee
Kennesaw St 8:00 PM
Illinois
Colorado State 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Portland 8:00 PM
San Diego
Wayland Baptist 8:05 PM
Utah State
Bristol University 8:05 PM
Weber State
Sacramento St 8:05 PM
Utah Valley U
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
UNLV
SD Christian 9:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 3 1st Qtr 10:33
(24) USC 7
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 17 1st Half 10:01
Portland 8

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Gophers head coach?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close