The Three Most Disappointing Teams in College Basketball This Season
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With three weeks until Selection Sunday, I took a look back at Sports Illustrated’s college basketball preview to see who they had ranked in their top 20. What a difference a few months make. Much has happened since the beginning of the season, but what’s most intriguing is watching which teams haven’t progressed as planned. Injuries have played a part for some, but the key element lies in the expectations of the players on the floor. Did all the hype on a great recruiting class result in teams blowing out too quickly like Jason Biggs in “American Pie”? Did a projected star sophomore age as poorly as Jenna Jameson or Kirstie Alley? Let’s take a look back at the three teams that have been the most disappointing thus far in the college basketball season.
Connecticut (Preseason SI Rank: 10)
Connecticut entered the season with confidence and swagger. Fans were excited about an electric backcourt of Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson running the break with the pogo stick known as Stanley Robinson, a man who’d be welcomed with open arms into the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest after that snooze-fest we watched last weekend. But in the NIT Season Tip-Off against Duke back in November, Connecticut fell flat on their faces, shooting 36 percent from the floor and missing the only four three-pointers they attempted, en route to a completely uninspiring nine-point loss. The bottom has since fallen out, including a 3-8 stretch in January and early February. Some of that can be attributed to Coach Jim Calhoun’s absence, but not all of it. According to John Gasway at Basketball Prospectus, UConn is “on track to make perimeter-abstinence history, devoting just 19% of shots to 3’s” in Big East Games. College basketball has been revolutionized by the three-point shot and Calhoun missed the memo somewhere in the last five years. He hasn’t recruited a good outsider shooter since Rashad Anderson. Apparently he’s too busy feeding his ego by yelling at reporters to find someone who can stoke it from distance. Walker has also struggled to become the leader the team needs, while the senior Dyson seems more concerned on the selfish aspect of being a Big East scoring leader.
Connecticut has turned things around in the last week, but they’ll still need to win three of their next four games and at least one game in the Big East Tournament to see the Madness. They lose three players (Dyson, Robinson, and Edwards) from their rotation in ’10-’11. Two guys are signed for next year and two others have verbally committed, but only one of them is a guard. Why am I not surprised? The guard in question, Jeremy Lamb, isn’t even known to be a good shooter. Nice job there, Jimmy. Then again I should be worried Coach will come after me if I’m overly critical.
North Carolina (Preseason SI Rank: 7)
There’s obviously a small grace period after you win a national championship, but that might not be applicable to North Carolina. Recruiting, once again, seems to be the major factor as to why Carolina has fallen so far from last year. Roy Williams has always been known as a great recruiter (the real reason behind his two championships as it’s sure as hell not his ability to coach the game of basketball), but he missed the boat on preparing for the 2009-10 season. Williams thought it would be good to have six highly recruited big men on his squad, all of whom are limited to playing only power forward to center. Meanwhile the talent level around the perimeter is equivalent to a Saturday night house party at Bryn Mawr College (don’t expect that school to be written up by Waffles anytime soon). Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland are young, but that same youth hasn’t been an issue for Kentucky with John Wall and Eric Bledsoe leading their squad. Old Roy should have one of his tall dudes go Greg Oden on the Internet to take some attention away from the worst UNC season in his tenure.
Can Harrison Barnes save the program? Arguably the best recruit in the country, Barnes is going to have to live up to the hype. He’ll have some help with elite wing-player Reggie Bullock and point guard Kendall Marshall, who will be ready to step in if Drew and Strickland continue to come up short.
Michigan (Preseason SI Rank: 15)
In year three a new system no longer becomes an acceptable excuse for a head coach. One would argue John Beilein should be able to recruit (yes, that word again) better players at Michigan than he did at West Virginia, but that hasn’t been the case. Oh, how he longs for the days of Pittsnogle and Gansey. For an offense based around three-point shooting, it’s pathetic that no one on the roster can shoot above 40 percent from range. Michigan also sits in the lower third of the country in defending the two-point shot, showing the personnel doesn’t necessarily fit the much-heralded 1-3-1 zone. The only respectable win the Wolverines have in conference is against an Ohio State team that was missing its best player. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, leaving Beilein rather lucky that the piss-poor football team takes away some attention from his underachieving bunch.
Beilein might need to start looking for a broker to sell his Ann Arbor home because the future looks bleak as Deshawn Sims and possibly Manny Harris (both Amaker recruits) leave town. Fans better hope Tim Hardaway, Jr., got the “killer crossover” from his dad and not his homophobic tendencies that would set off a PR shitshow a few years back. “