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.

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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

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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.

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Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Chicago 6:00 PM
Cleveland
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Washington
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
New York
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

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