This season in college basketball has seen an unusual amount of parity and teams at the top of the rankings being knocked off. No exception to this chaos is a lot of college basketball’s blue blood programs. The perennial contenders we typically expect to make deep postseason runs are really struggling at the moment. Here is the biggest problem with each of them.
More specifically, frontcourt depth. Billy Preston, the 18th ranked high school player in the 2017 ESPN 100, has yet to see the floor due to suspension which leaves Kansas with just a seven-man rotation and just two forwards.
The Jayhawks, who are historically dominant at home, are just 1-3 against major conference opponents in Allen Fieldhouse this season. And with the Big 12 having three other teams in the AP top 10, it looks like Kansas has a realistic shot of losing its streak of regular season Big 12 titles.
Things could improve in the later part of the season as reclassified forward and #28 ranked high school player in the class of 2018 Silvio De Sousa has arrived on campus and is starting to get minutes with the team.
Which is always the case. John Calipari consistently recruits at least the second best class in the country every season and the biggest flaw with the team every year is that they are ultra talented, but don’t know the college game and don’t know how to play together.
These things of course come with experience, which is why a lot of Kentucky teams follow a very similar trend. Ranked very high at the beginning of the season, head-scratching losses, then they finally become experienced enough by the NCAA tournament to make a run. The Julius Randle led 2013-14 wildcats were ranked #1 in the preseason, were only an 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, and then made it all the way to the national championship game.
Here’s why I think this year’s team will not have the turnaround the 2013-14 team did. For all of Calipari’s young teams, this one is the youngest, and from where I’m sitting, the least talented. Last year, Kentucky had three lottery picks and went to the elite eight. This year they have at most one in Kevin Knox, and Knox, although I think he’s a really good college player, does not seem like an Anthony Davis, or a Julius Randle, or a De’Aaron Fox that can takeover the game on a big stage and lead his team to victory.
North Carolina: Inconsistency
North Carolina is 3-2 in the ACC and have lost to Wofford at home this season. They are ranked #15 in the AP rankings which isn’t bad, but you would expect more from the defending national champions.
To me there isn’t any one thing about this team that explains their less than stellar first half of the season other than just being inconsistent. Some days they are just better than others. Early in the season they shot 5.6% from three against Michigan State, and in their next game against Michigan, shot 46.7%. Recently they were only able to score 49 points against Virgina, but just three days later scored 96 against Boston College.
You might want to attribute that to the change in quality of competition, but even then it’s a huge difference. This is especially surprising considering this team’s experience. North Carolina is led by seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, and junior, Luke Maye, all of which were on teams that went to the last two national championship games.