The race for the national freshman of the year has been in flux for most of the season, which is great news for lists like these.
Jabari Parker started on a hot streak before Aaron Gordon took center stage in a head-to-head matchup between Duke and Arizona. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid have both looked like Kansas’ best freshman at certain times. And the rest of the Big 12 — Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma — have provided candidates for the most underrated freshman of the season.
Of all the first-round upsets in last season’s tournament people picked, almost no one took Harvard over New Mexico. La Salle was just as much of a surprising moving from the First Four to the Sweet 16.
And then there’s Florida Gulf Coast.
Surprises are tough enough to figure with the bracket in your hand. In our weekly roundtable, we’ll try anyway as January comes to a close.
Name a team outside the top 25 that could make a run to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.
The weekend in college basketball ended with another coaching milestone for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, one he extended Monday with a victory over Pittsburgh.
Saturday, though, will be perhaps just as notable. The first meeting between Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim since the 1998 NCAA regional semifinal will pit two coaches with at least 900 wins at their current schools, and both teams have national title aspirations.
When the two last faced each other Krzyzewski sat on 431 wins at Duke (and added one with a win over Syracuse) while Boeheim had 528 at Syracuse.
Recent weeks have presented the classic conundrum for those who spend time ranking teams: Do you rank a team based on what they have been all season, what they can be or what they are right now?
Tough life, right?
Teams like Wisconsin and Iowa State have seen winning streaks turn into losing streaks. Right now, clearly, they’re not very good, but the body of work suggests they’re still among the best in the country.
Let’s get this out of the way: The greatest conference in college basketball history the ACC is not. ... yet.
Don’t blame the powerhouses, though. Even though North Carolina has two losses it would like to forget, the Tar Heels have three wins as good as anyone in the country. Meanwhile, Syracuse and Duke are contending for the ACC and probably more thanks to the play of key freshmen — Jabari Parker at Duke and Tyler Ennis at Syracuse.
Before the season started, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski talked of the newly expanded ACC as perhaps the best conference in the history of the game.
To accomplish that, the ACC may have to overcome the Big Ten. The Big Ten was the nation’s top league through last year’s regular season, and last year’s tie in the conference challenge was the first time since 2008 the Big Ten didn’t win.
The ACC is formidable, indeed, with Duke and Syracuse leading the way. Michigan State joins the Blue Devils and Orange as national championship contenders.