The video in this article was made for collegetalking.com by Bryan Mallet. Please check out Bryan’s YouTube and Instagram pages for more great sports hype and highlight mixes!
In the 2019-2020 basketball season, Dayton power forward Obi Toppin dominated college basketball in a way that isn’t frequently done. Sure, Dayton didn’t play in a Power-6 conference, but that largely meant that Toppin drew double-teams, sometimes triple teams, yet he still put up huge numbers night in and night out. Those numbers (20 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) came even with Toppin averaging 31 minutes per game, often playing under 30 due to Dayton’s blowouts. He was still the Flyers’ leading scorer in 19 of their 31 games, while leading in rebounding 17 times. Toppin garnered high praise from his peers, with Michigan State’s Cassius Winston saying “He made the game look way too easy on a nightly basis” in an interview back in March. Even if the numbers don’t shock you, only watching Toppin play can truly show the ease with which he dominated the game, flushing down powerful dunks, recording massive blocks – 12 games with two or more – and simply fueling the Flyers through their wildly successful season. The mid-major power lost just twice, both times in overtime – once to Kansas and once to Colorado.
Picking just one or two top games from a player as consistent as Toppin is an exceptionally difficult task, but the two contests we’ve decided to highlight are his season opener against Indiana State, and a late-December clash versus North Florida. In the opener, as Dayton gotten their feet under them against the feisty Sycamores, Toppin simply became their answer to every Indiana State charge. Scoring 29 points on 10-16 shooting, collecting twelve rebounds, and finishing out the game with an 8-11 performance from the free throw line in an 86-81 victory to start the season. Against North Florida, Toppin posted a season-high 31 points, while also notching 8 rebounds in a breezy post-Christmas win. Toppin also showed up in big games, averaging 21.9 points in games decided by less than 10 points. He put up 18 points against Kansas at the Maui Invitational, often while doing battle against Kansas’s Udoka Azubuike, a 7’0 force in the paint.
Toppin has a lot of strengths that NBA scouts love, including his ability to avoid fouls as a big man, averaging just 2.2 per game in 2019-2020, and his offensive efficiency is excellent. At 6’9, 220 pounds, Toppin fits in well as an NBA power forward, although he could probably improve his rebounding a little bit. Averaging a touch under eight rebounds per game certainly does not drop any jaws, given Toppin’s size. He still figures to be one of the top power forwards available, and he’s a virtual shoe-in to go within the first ten picks of the draft.
Prediction: Round 1, Pick 7, Chicago Bulls
Toppin could go way earlier than this, but I think a few of the teams projected to draft earlier than the Bulls simply have other needs. The Hawks and Cavaliers will likely look for best available playmakers, like Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, while the Knicks will likely look to target their point guard of the future. There are a few concerns about where Toppin’s ceiling is, and so teams looking for high upside may go elsewhere. If the Warriors pick #1 and are looking for an NBA-ready player for them to surge back into championship contention, I would not be surprised at all to see Steve Kerr bring Toppin to Cali. However, after the Warriors, I think the Bulls are next most logical spot for Toppin to slot in, and he’ll be headed to the Windy City, where he fills a big need for a versatile 3 or 4 type of player to star alongside point guard Zach LaVine.
The biggest name on the NCAA basketball transfer market made his decision on Wednesday, as former Georgetown star Mac McClung announced his intent to transfer to Texas Tech, the 2019 NCAA runner-ups. It’s a huge pick-up for the Red Raiders, who have lost a few of their top options, including Davide Moretti, who left collegiate ball for pro ball in Italy. McClung became a viral star in high school, and he tore it up with the Hoyas for two seasons before declaring for the draft, while maintaining eligibility. However, McClung recently withdrew his name from draft consideration, and Texas Tech immediately became a favorite to land his services. The Red Raiders are known for their fierce defensive system, but McClung’s fireworks offensively will be a welcome sight in Lubbock, where Chris Beard hopes to compete with Kansas and Baylor for Big 12 supremacy.
Arizona lands twin brother recruits Arizona basketball received some big-time upgrades via their international recruiting, as they landed twin brothers Azuolas and Tautvilas Tubelis out of Lithuania. Azuolas led Lithuania in scoring in the U16 and U18 European championships, and he is the top-rated international prospect. Tautvilas spent four seasons playing for the elite Vilnius Basketball School, while also competing at the FIBA U16 and U18 European championships. They both cited Arizona’s campus and fans as reason for their commitment. The Wildcats were strong contenders in a wide-open Pac-12 last season, but they lost seven of eight players who got major playing time. They’ll hope these victories on the recruiting front keep them in conference contention.
Johnny Juzang gets immediate eligibility
UCLA got some welcome news as well for their basketball team, as transfer Johnny Juzang got approved to play immediately for the Bruins, after transferring from Kentucky. Juzang was originally a Class of 2020 recruit, but he re-classified and played 28 games for Kentucky, starting two. His numbers (2.9 points per game) didn’t dazzle, but he also didn’t see much playing time until the back-end of the year, and he put up a few impressive performances, including 10 points in a comeback effort versus Florida, as well as thirteen points against Tennessee. The 6’6 shooting guard hails from Los Angeles, and he’s headed back to his home state to play for the Bruins, where he will be an intriguing option for a team that finished second place in the Pac-12 last season, finishing the year as one of the hottest teams in the country.
Houston’s Fabian White out for the season
Houston lost a key contributor for the upcoming season, as senior Fabian White suffered a torn ACL while working out on his own, forcing him to take a red-shirt for 2020-2021 season to preserve his eligibility. It’s really bad luck for White, who started all 31 games in his junior campaign, and for Houston, ranked nineteenth in the country in ESPN’s way-too-early Top 25, they’ll need to replace one of their best players if they want to be contenders for the NCAA Tournament.
Legendary NCAA Basketball coach Eddie Sutton passed away on Saturday at the age of 84 – he leaves a legacy as one one of the greatest ever to coach at the collegiate level. He coached for 16 seasons with Oklahoma State, eleven with Arkansas, four with Kentucky, five with Creighton, and a final part of a season with San Francisco. In those 16 seasons with the Cowboys, Sutton never suffered a losing season. He reached three Final Fours – one with Arkansas and two with Oklahoma State – and racked up 806 wins, good for ninth all-time.
Texas Tech loses key player to overseas
Texas Tech lost a key contributor from their 2019 national runners-up team, as Davide Moretti opted to leave the Red Raiders in favor of Olimpia Milano in his native Italy. Moretti started 68 games in the previous two seasons, averaging over 11 points per games in both campaigns. He’s nearly a 90% free throw shooter, and 42% from beyond the arc. Head coach Chris Beard and the Texas Tech staff will be looking for immediate replacements for blow to their starting lineup. They are considered players for former Georgetown star Mac McClung on the transfer market, as well as Jonathan Kuminga, the top 2021 recruit who is considering reclassifying to enter the NCAA next season.
Big 12 cleared to return June 15
On Friday, the SEC announced they would allow teams to report to their athletic facilities on June 8, while the Big 10 said they would leave it up to the schools. Saturday, the Big 12 handed down their decision, clearing their football players to return on June 15. Although a week later, this keeps college football on pace for a on-time start. We can only hope.
Caylin Newton heads to Auburn
In a somewhat surprising decision, Cam Newton’s younger brother, Caylin, has elected to transfer to Auburn, where Cam won a national championship, to complete his collegiate career. He’s been one of the best players in the MEAC, with Howard, but he chooses Auburn as his grad transfer destination, despite sophomore Bo Nix have a firm grip on the starting job. It’ll be curious if head coach Gus Malzahn attempts to utilize him in other ways than a traditional back-up quarterback.
Ole Miss snags Mississippi State transfer
A former ESPN 300 recruit, Mississippi State’s Jarrian Jones announced on Saturday he would be leaving the Bulldogs and flipping sides in the Egg Bowl rivalry, as he will don the red and navy blue uniforms of the Ole Miss Rebels in 2020. The defensive back was all over the board during his recruitment, committing and de-committing from two teams before deciding on Mississippi State. He lasted one season with the Bulldogs, recording twelve tackles and two pass-breakups as a true freshman. He’ll have three seasons of eligibility left with the Rebels
Memphis was listed as a 3.5 point road favorite prior to their visit to Tulsa. It may have been generous for the Tigers, given that Tulsa was 4-1 in the AAC with a 12-6 record overall. Granted, Memphis was coming off a good win over a solid Cincinnati squad, but their match-up with the Golden Hurricanes was going to be a much tougher battle.
As it turns out, the game wasn’t a battle – it wasn’t even close. And not in a good way for Memphis. The Tigers were completely outclassed in every phase of the game and walked off the court with the scoreboard reading 80-40 in favor of the home team. For the 20th-ranked Tigers, they became just the fifth ranked team since 1948 to lose by 40+ points.
There was no one area of concern for Memphis that could be easily fixed. They were horrid in every aspect of the game, shooting just 28.6% from the field, including a putrid 2/21 from long range, seemingly befuddled into taking bad shots by Tulsa’s zone. They made just 6 out of 11 free throws, turned the ball over 20 times, got blocked four times, and seemed incapable of stopping Tulsa defensively. Down 23 points at the half, Memphis couldn’t even stop the bleeding, allowing another 40 points in the second half to put the exclamation mark on their horrific performance.
Memphis, without James Wiseman, is looking less and less like a tournament team. Precious Achiuwa is their best player, and he’s averaging 15 points per game. And when he has an off game – as on Wednesday night – the entire Tigers’ offense looks out of sorts. They will almost certainly fall out of the rankings after this week, and with only a pair of ranked games against Houston on their schedule, they’ll have to impress to get any kind of decent seed in March.
After a crazy week in college basketball, Cal, Nathaniel, Andrew, and Aidan put together the second version of our NCAA Basketball Power Rankings. Florida State was one of several risers, while Auburn very nearly crashed out of the rankings. Butler dropped from #8 to off the list entirely, and Ohio State fell from honorable mention to not mentioned as their Big 10 slump continued.
The Tigers are far less scary than they were a week ago, having been blown out twice by unranked SEC teams in Alabama and Florida. The Tigers are still 15-2, but they have some major questions to answer, and another loss could very well drop Auburn out of the rankings.
#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)
Oregon lost a tough road game to Washington State, but they had a big comeback at Washigton to win 64-61 in overtime. That, plus a crazy week in college basketball, keeps the Ducks in the rankings. They’ll be home both games this week with a chance to start climbing.
#8 – Michigan State Spartans (Last Week: 6)
As mentioned last week, the Spartans were given the #6 slot right before they got ripped apart by Purdue. A win at home over Wisconsin kept them in the rankings, but they slide nonetheless. This team is too dependent on Cassius Winston, and they’ll look to find a secondary source of scoring.
#7 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 10)
The Aztecs won two more times this week and took advantage of all the losses at the top of the rankings to move up three slots to #7 this week. In this past week’s Mid-Major report, we identified San Diego’s biggest trap game as their road game at New Mexico, which may be the game that prevents them from going unbeaten.
#6 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: Honorable Mention)
The Seminoles are quietly establishing themselves as a top ACC contender. They won two close ones this week, taking down Virginia at home and Miami on the road. They are now 6-1 in ACC play, which was enough to be our biggest riser of the week.
#5 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 1)
It was quite the dropoff from last week for the Blue Devils. Last week, we were discussing that if not for the Blue Devils’ upset loss to Stephen F. Austin, they would be undefeated and potentially could stay that way throughout the year. One week later, and Duke is nursing a two-game losing streak, to Clemson and Louisville, and have fallen four spots in this week’s power rankings.
#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: #7) – 1 first place vote
The Cardinals were another big riser this week, largely courtesy of their huge road upset of the Blue Devils. It was their third straight conference road victory, and their fourth straight overall. The Cardinals are rising in the ACC and national picture, with their recent upset, they’re looking like a bona fide Final Four contender.
#3 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #2)
Kansas didn’t lose this week, but they looked less than impressive in closing out a mediocre Texas team, resulting in their slight slip in the rankings. The Jayhawks are still an elite team in this country, and their defense has looked the part, but their shooting woes may plague them down the stretch.
#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #5) – 1 first place vote
The Bears may have caught a little disrespect from our ranking last week coming off their big win against Kansas. They responded this week with an easy win over Iowa State and a gutsy comeback versus Oklahoma State. Their offense, a prior concern, has established some small level of consistency, and their defense remains elite.
#1 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week #3) – 2 first place votes
BYU gave Gonzaga their biggest challenge of the past two weeks – and they lost by 23 points. Gonzaga has been absolutely dominant, possibly exemplified no more than in their 50-point win over a 15-3 Santa Clara team. West Coast Conference or not, this team is legit, and they’re our #1 squad this week.
Wow. What a weekend of college basketball. Three Top-5 Teams lost on Saturday as #3 Duke lost a tough one at home to #11 Louisville, while #4 Auburn and #5 Butler both lost decisively on the road to unranked opponents, with Florida and DePaul doing the job respectively. Along with those upsets, here’s the rest of the headlines from a crazy Saturday of college basketball.
Unexpected Heroes Highlight Unexpected Results
To pull a big road upset, a team often needs some unexpected contributions, and the Louisville Cardinals took that to a new level. Cardinals’ guard David Johnson was averaging 3.7 points per game, but he balled out for Louisville on Saturday, posting 19 points to go with seven assists, and four rebounds. Johnson’s stunning day outweighed a big performance from Duke’s Cassius Stanley and lifted Louisville to the 79-73 victory over Duke, who will be sure to drop in the polls after two losses this week.
Auburn came to Florida and, after starting the year 15-0, the Tigers looked nothing like a top-5 team. The Gators got their own unexpected contributions, as Omar Payne, averaging 4.7 points per game, dominated Auburn to the tune of 19 points and 11 rebounds. After gleaning a 28-23 halftime edge, Florida ran away in the second half for a 69-47 victory. The Tigers are starting to slip badly after two blowout road losses, while the Gators look to be climbing back towards the team many thought they would be in the preseason.
Depaul hosted a vulnerable Butler squad on Saturday. The Bulldogs were coming off a demoralizing home loss to Seton Hall, and they failed to come out of the gate fast, falling behind by ten at halftime. From there, DePaul closed it out, leading by as much 17 in the second half, eventually knocking off Butler 79-66.
Not only did three top-5 teams lose in one day, they all suffered losses previously in the week, so expect some major shakeup in the AP Poll (and our Power Rankings) tomorrow.
The Other Upsets
While the upsets of Duke, Auburn, and Butler stole the headlines, there were some other notable upsets that occurred on Saturday. Kansas State dominated West Virginia, converting a 42-25 halftime lead into a 16-point victory. Cartier Diarra scored 25 for the Wildcats in a significant upset, as Kansas State improved to 8-9 and earned their first Big 12 win, dropping West Virginia to 14-3 in the process.
Houston went on the road and earned a statement win over Wichita State, as no Shockers’ player had more than seven points, and Houston used a strong defensive performance and a steady offensive outing to put away the 16th-ranked team in the nation, 65-54.
Arizona held serve on their home court, as the Wildcats played host to the #20 Colorado Buffalo, but Arizona didn’t let their visitors stick around in the game too long. ‘Zona outscored Colorado by eleven in the first half and ten in the second, earning a statement victory, 75-54. Most impressively, Arizona spread their offense around, with no scorers notching more than 13 points. Zeke Nnaji had 12 points and 12 rebounds to spur the offensive attack.
And last but not least, in Big 10 play, it was Penn State dominating the skidding Ohio State Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions scored at will, putting up 42 points in the first 20 minutes, before heating up further and lighting up the scoreboard for 48 more in the second half. The Buckeyes drop to 2-5 in Big 10 play, and they could very well slip out of the rankings – barely two weeks after being a #1 seed in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology.
Strong Road Performances Separating Elite Teams
Homecourt is a huge advantage, and its impact has become a noticeable trend throughout college sports. The home team is always expected to win more games, on any given day, but there are teams who look competent and capable of playing on the road – like Louisville on Saturday. But there are also teams who look like world-beaters at home but turn into limp noodles on the road. The Big 10 offers several examples of this, with Ohio State – the #20 team in the nation – playing putrid basketball on the road, to the tune of a 1-4 road record. Michigan is 11-6, but they are 0-5 in true road games, and Penn State, a formerly ranked team, is 1-3 on the road. In an age where homecourt advantage is becoming ever more prevalent, the ability to win on the road will define which teams are capable of a deep run in March.
As the college basketball season continues, teams have begun to show their identity, emerging into tiers of national title contenders, bubble teams, dark-horses, and a number of other levels. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi sends fans into a frenzy with every edition of bracketology, as fans desperately hope for their squad’s inclusion in the latest projection, or perhaps a higher seed. Rather than look at everything on a broad level, this article will offer a quick breakdown of each Power-6 conference with title favorites, surprise contenders, duds, and teams to watch among the topics covered. Skip to your team’s conference or browse through to see where things stand within each conference. The categories are based off performance so far and expected performance for the rest of the year given each team’s schedule. Our first Mid-Major report will be coming shortly.
Title Favorite: Duke
The Blue Devils are possibly the best team in the country, with only one shocking home loss separating them from unbeaten status. They’re the clear favorite in the ACC.
The Best of the Rest: Louisville, Florida State
These two squads are the only team not named Duke with more than 3% chance at winning the title. In our recent NCAA Basketball roundtable, Louisville was one of my Final Four picks, and Florida State was my ACC champion pick. I really like both these teams and their odds to challenge the Blue Devils.
Darkhorse Title Pick: Virginia
The defending national champs have not been as elite as they’ve been in recent years, but they’re still a bona fide contender in the ACC and have a shot at a decent seeding in the NCAA tournament with a strong performance down the stretch.
Title Unlikely, Could make a run: NC State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame
All three of these teams have shown a lot of negatives, but they have reason for hope. Notre Dame can compete with anyone with their defense, NC State nearly took down Auburn on the road, and Virginia Tech have road wins over #15 Michigan State and Syracuse.
Despite their recent home loss to Baylor, the Jayhawks still have the best odds to win the Big 12, and they strike me as the more talented team with a more stable foundation; the Bears have won a lot of tight defensive struggles, which seems less sustainable.
The Best of the Rest: Baylor, West Virginia
West Virginia was my Big 12 title pick in our recent roundtable, and they have a lot of upside, and Baylor has undoubtedly performed extremely well this year, culminating in their recent upset of the Jayhawks.
Darkhorse Title Pick: Texas Tech
The defending national runners-up don’t look like favorites in the Big 12, but much like Virginia in the ACC, they’re very capable of making a run, as they demonstrated last March. Don’t count them out.
Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Oklahoma, Iowa State, TCU
The Sooners, Cyclones, and Horned Frogs all have definite NCAA tournament potential, but with a loaded top of the conference, they may be on the outside looking in of the Big 12 picture.
Below Average: Oklahoma State, Texas
The Worst: Kansas State
Title Favorites: Butler, Seton Hall
Both of these teams hover in the 24-26% chance to win the Big East in the latest projections, so they split the title favorite category in the Big East. Butler has only a 1-point loss to Baylor on their resume, while Seton Hall is unbeaten in Big East play and has looked very impressive doing so.
The Best of the Rest: Villanova
The Wildcats are definitely in the running for the title and got a couple of votes to do so in our roundtable. Their win over Kansas was a statement, but a loss to Marquette have kept them out of the Big East lead.
Darkhorse Title Picks: Marquette, Creighton
Marquette has been very inconsistent, but they definitely show potential as evidenced in their 81-70 win over Villanova. Creighton handled Marquette a few weeks ago and boast road wins over #23 Texas Tech and conference rival Xavier.
Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Georgetown, Xavier
The Hoyas have flashed a lot of potential, winning five straight by double digits heading into Big East play, but they are just 1-3 in conference games so far. Xavier has suffered a letdown after a big rivalry win over Cincinnati; the Musketeers are just 3-4 since that game, including a 1-3 Big East mark.
Below Average: Providence, St. Johns
The Worst: DePaul
Title Favorites: Michigan State
Until their recent dud against Purdue, the Spartans looked to be on a quick rise back towards the top of the rankings. After struggling early, they’ve turned it on, led by Cassius Winston. They’re undoubtedly the team to beat in the Big 10, especially given Ohio State’s struggles.
The Best of the Rest: Ohio State, Maryland
I apparently really didn’t like picking favorites to win conferences, as I picked Maryland to take the Big 10. They’ve definitely got a chance and so do the Buckeyes, assuming they turn it around; they were a Top-5 team before sinking into a four-game skid that left them in last place in the conference.
Darkhorse Picks: Purdue, Michigan
Honestly, I wouldn’t bet on either of these teams, but Purdue is absolutely incredible on their home court, which they proved with a 71-42 beatdown of Michigan State, and the Wolverines absolutely dominated Gonzaga on the road, handing the #1 team their only loss.
Title Unlikely, Could Make A Run: Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois
Again, I haven’t found these teams extremely impressive, but that’s what this category is about. They each have upside, and could definitely find themselves in the NCAA tournament with a solid conference performance.
Below Average: Rutgers, Indiana, Penn State, Minnesota
The Worst: Nebraska, Northwestern
Title Favorite: Arizona
The Wildcats have been very impressive, despite their recent two-game skid. Prior to that, they dominated Arizona State 75-47, and came within five points of upsetting both Gonzaga and Baylor.
The Best of the Rest: Oregon, Colorado
Colorado won a head-to-head matchup with the Ducks and they were my title pick in the Pac 12. The Ducks are ranked in the top 10 and just earned a big win over Arizona.
Darkhorse Title Picks: Stanford, Washington
Wouldn’t bring this pick to Vegas, as neither of these teams have inspired confidence on a consistent basis, but both the Cardinal and Huskies could make a run in a tournament if they got a favorable draw.
Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Oregon State
The Beavers are the only team to make this category, largely due to their recent big-time upset of Arizona, as they dominated the Wildcats 82-65. They could be a fun underdog team to check out in March.
Below Average: USC
The Worst: Utah, UCLA, Washington State, Cal
Title Favorites: Auburn, Kentucky
This conference is fairly wide open, but three of our four roundtable contributors picked one of these two squads to take home the title (guess who didn’t?!). The Tigers are still unbeaten and a controversial foul call away from riding a winning streak approaching 30 games while Kentucky has bounced back from a shaky start with an unbeaten start to SEC play.
The Best of the Rest: LSU, Florida, Arkansas
In terms of title contenders, I think the SEC is the deepest conference. I could definitely see any of these three teams taking home the crown, and Florida was my pick. The Razorbacks have suffered just one conference loss – a road 2-point loss to LSU – while the Tigers are unbeaten in SEC play and have been impressive minus a weird home loss to Eastern Tennessee State.
Darkhorse Pick: Missouri
They’re only 1-2 in SEC play, but that one win was a 12-point win over Florida, and the Tigers also boast a win over #24 Illinois on their resume.
Title Unlikely, Could Make A Run: Alabama, Tennessee
The Crimson Tide and Volunteers have both had their moments, with Tennessee recently beating Missouri on the road while Alabama pushed both Florida and Kentucky to the brink on the road.
Below Average: Mississippi State, Georgia
The Worst: Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
If there is one conversation that virtually every sports fan will have an opinion on, it is dynasties. If you love Alabama, or more recently, Clemson football, you love dynasties. If you are a fan of one of their SEC or ACC victims…probably not as much. So whether you’re rooting for your program’s dynasty to continue, or desperately waiting for your rival to cease their dominance, discussing dynasties is almost always topical and interesting.
This brings us to a series of questions…what is a dynasty? How should we measure one, and hat is the difference between dynasty and elite? And when is it acceptable to declare a dynasty dead?
To answer these questions, we’ll look at a modern-day college program who has unquestionably been a dynasty for a long time: The UConn Women’s Basketball program. Under the expert tutelage of Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have dominated, winning ten national titles since 2000. Only once in that span has one of Auriemma’s teams eclipsed five losses in a season; on the flip side, the Huskies have finished unbeaten five times. They have unquestionably been the dynasty of the modern era of college women’s basketball, but lately, their stranglehold on the top spot has begun to slip.
For the first time since 2005-2008, the Huskies have gone three successive years without claiming a national title; they do not have a player on their roster who has won a championship. Within their era of success, such a statistic is unprecedented. But, while they may not have claimed their usual spot atop the basketball world, they’ve still knocked on the door each year, losing in the Final Four the past three years. They’ve been among the last four teams standing for a stunning 12 straight years. But the lack of recent titles and Final Four success has people questioning if UConn’s dynasty is over. Just recently, their 98-game home winning streak came crashing to a halt when they scored just 6 fourth-quarter points in a 74-58 loss to defending national champion Baylor.
If you measure a dynasty by consistency in claiming titles, then you might be right in declaring the Huskies’ dynasty dead. But such a measurement is faulty and doesn’t encompass the true nature of a dynasty. A dynasty is winning titles but also maintaining a certain level of dominance. Teams can win a couple of titles and not be considered a dynasty – remember the San Francisco Giants winning titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Three years in five titles may be considered a dynasty, but in 2011, 2013, and 2015, the Giants were just 246-240 and didn’t make the playoffs. They never felt like a dynasty because they never maintained their success – it just felt like they got hot at the right time. That’s certainly not what UConn has does, and it’s why we shouldn’t make their title count the sole measure of their dynasty.
I believe the perfect measurement was described by Kurt Russell when he depicted USA hockey coach Herb Brooks in the movie “Miracle”. Any sports fan knows about the 1980 USA hockey team, which stunned the Soviet team that had won four consecutive Olympic Gold Medals in historically dominant fashion. In the movie, Brooks watches Soviet film with his team and says, “They know they’re going to win. And so does their opponent.”
This is the essence of a dynasty. It’s a level of intimidation, a sheer presence that has your opponent cowering before the first whistle. UConn still has that presence in the world of college basketball. Maybe the most elite teams believe they have a shot, but to this day, no one has shown the ability to consistently beat this team. Last year, UConn finally dropped to a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament, but when they ran into #1 Louisville, the Huskies led the entire way and still advanced to the Final Four. Even on a so-called down year, the Huskies maintained their place among the best in the country.
UConn’s recent loss to Baylor threatened the veil of invincibility that has long surrounded their program. A double-digit home loss will do that, but the fact remains that until UConn starts losing when it truly matters, their dynasty prevails. It was extremely similar with a dynasty like the New England Patriots; they may not have won the Super Bowl each year, but they maintained a certain level of dominance, and nobody wanted to play them in January. But a 1st-round playoff loss at home was an announcement that the AFC has caught up, and they no longer fear New England. That message has not been sent to UConn. They continue to win, often by brutally large margins. They are 106-0 all time in AAC play, and before last year’s ‘lackluster’ 35-3 season, they had not lost a regular season game since November 14, 2014. One loss does not destroy a dynasty and neither does three straight semifinal losses. The Huskies are still here about about 95% of the time they take the court, they know they’re going to win…and so does their opponent. They may have a few challengers at the very top, but none of those teams have even come close to maintaining a similar level of continued success. Therein lies the difference between a dynasty and an elite program. Everyone loves to declare a dynasty dead, but now is not the Huskies’ time to go.
With the launch of our website comes the first of our weekly NCAA Men’s Basketball Top 10 Power Rankings. Aidan Thomas, Nathaniel Lapoint, Andrew Degeorge, and Cal Christoforo all voted to create this week’s edition. We will offer three honorable mentions in no particular order before jumping into the top 10:
Florida State – 14-2, 4-1 in ACC
Ohio State – 11-5, 1-4 in Big 10
Kentucky – 12-3, 3-0 in SEC
#10 – San Diego State (17-0, 6-0 Mountain West)
The mid-major program has thoroughly impressed in their unbeaten start to the season. Massive wins over #25 Creighton and Utah were very impressive, as well as their domination in Mountain West play earned them the tenth spot this week.
#9 – Oregon (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12)
The Ducks slipped up at Colorado to start Pac-12 Play, but they have rebounded with three straight wins to earn their spot in the Top 10. One of their losses was a 1-point road loss to Gonzaga, and they have ranked wins over Michigan and Seton Hall.
#8 – Butler (15-1, 3-0 Big East)
Despite their gaudy record, the Bulldogs slot in at #8 due their lack of a statement victory. Their win over #25 Creighton is their only ranked victory. While their only loss was a 1-point defeat to Baylor, the Bulldogs have been led by their defense, with their offense scoring 71 or less points 12 times already. They’ve been impressive here, but the boys are a little cautious about putting them higher than this.
#7 – Louisville (13-3, 4-1 ACC)
Two recent slip-ups versus Kentucky and Florida State took the Cardinals off the national radar a little bit, but they’ve still been very impressive of late. They boast a signature win – a 58-43 thumping of Michigan, and outside of the FSU loss, they’ve been impressive in ACC play, cruising past Miami twice, routing Pittsburgh, and pulling off a gutsy road win at Notre Dame. If they continue to slip against ranked teams, they won’t stay here, but for now they earn the #7 spot in our rankings.
#6 – Michigan State (13-4, 5-1 Big 10)
This slot was determined right before Michigan State went in and laid an absolute dud at Purdue yesterday. So they’ll need to rally in impressive fashion to keep their #6 spot next week after their 71-42 setback. However, that loss did snap an impressive 8-game win streak for the Spartans, who racked up blowout wins over ranked opponents in Illinois and Michigan during the run. The Spartans are a good team, but they’ll need an answer for when opponents key in on Cassius Winston.
#5 – Baylor (13-1, 3-0 Big 12)
This may be a touch too low for the Bears, but they’re facing some tough competition at the top. Their win over Kansas was very impressive, but we’re keeping the Jayhawks above them due to their overall body of work to this point. Christoforo listed Baylor as the team he trusted the least in the Top 10, and a lot of that may be due to inconsistencies offensively. While they’re defense is elite, having given up just one game of over 70 points, they’ve been held under 60 points three times, and under 70 three additional times. In their wins over Butler, Texas Tech, and Kansas, Baylor averaged just 59 points per game. The Bears are finding ways to win and could rise further up this list, but for now they slot in at #5.
#4 – Auburn (15-0, 3-0 SEC)
On Feburary 23, 2019, the Auburn Tigers were run out of Kentucky by the Wildcats, losing an embarrassing game, 80-53. Since then? The Tigers have lost exactly one game – a controversial 63-62 Final Four loss to Virginia. The streak last year was impressive, but after losing several key contributors, the Tigers were supposed to return to the pack this year. But they’ve done anything but so far, and they land at #4 in this week’s power rankings. A recent 22-point beatdown of a tough Georgia team cemented their status as national contender.
#3 – Gonzaga (18-1, 4-0 West Coast) – 1 first place vote
The Bulldogs have finally locked down the #1 spot in the AP Poll for several straight weeks, after the slot was a revolving door to start the year, with several teams moving in and out, including Duke and Kentucky suffering unthinkable upsets. A takedown of Oregon is their only ranked win to date, and their ugly home loss to Michigan prevents them from moving further up in the rankings. It’ll be tough for them to overtake the two teams ahead of them with a lack of quality opponents ahead of them on their schedule.
#2 – Kansas (12-3, 2-1 Big 12) – 1 first place vote
We’re well aware that Kansas just lost to Baylor. But before that, Kansas had lost two games by a total of three points to Duke and Villanova. They just beat the life out of Iowa State on the road, and they boast impressive ranked wins over Colorado and West Virginia. Their record may be a little less than Baylor, but we are still convinced their style of basketball is more sustainable than Baylor’s approach. Kansas takes the #2 slot and eyes their February 22nd rematch with the Bears.
#1 – Duke (15-1, 5-0 ACC) – 2 first place votes
The Blue Devils, outside an absolutely shocking loss to Stephen F. Austin, have been the best team in basketball this year. Coach K lost one of the best core group of guys he’s ever had in Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, and Zion Williamson, but his team has come back and performed as well and possibly even better. Since their upset loss, Duke is winning by nearly 23 points a game, including 3 ACC wins by over 30 points. Wouldn’t want to face this team at all right now, and they’re our pick for #1 in the debut of the Top 10 Power Rankings.
Come back next week to see the updates after another week of conference play!