As hard as it is to believe, we have reached the midpoint of the college basketball season. With non-conference play behind us and conference matchups in full swing, it’s time to review what we’ve seen so far and project what lies ahead before the NCAA Tournament.
Today, we take inventory of some teams that haven’t been as good as expected.
That’s right, it’s time to go Frank Costanza and “air some grievances” about the college hoops world. The seven most disappointing teams this season:
Georgetown Hoyas (10-9, 1-5 Big East)
After missing the NCAA Tournament two of the past three seasons, patience is wearing thin for John Thompson III at Georgetown. And the Hoyas' performance this year certainly isn’t helping things.
Georgetown is just one game over .500 and tied for last place in the Big East, and its signature wins (over Oregon in Dillon Brooks’ first game back from injury, Syracuse and UConn) aren’t “signature” at all.
Even worse, the Hoyas can’t seize any momentum. Two days after rallying from a 14-point deficit to beat UConn on Saturday, they fell on the road at Providence. And things won’t get any easier for the Hoyas with their next three games against ranked teams (at Xavier, vs. Creighton and at Butler).
USA TODAY SportsEvan Habeeb
Oklahoma Sooners (7-9, 1-4 Big 12)
We all knew that life after Buddy Hield (and to a smaller degree, Isaiah Cousins) wouldn’t be easy, but no one knew things would get this bad. Just 10 months after making the Final Four, the Sooners are under .500 and in eighth place in the Big 12. A return to the NCAA Tournament has long since been forgotten and even an NIT bid seems unlikely.
The biggest problem is that – outside of Jordan Woodard – no one has really stepped up in the absence of Hield, Cousins or Ryan Spangler, who all left after last season. Even Khadeem Lattin – who started most of last season – has struggled. His 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game aren’t much higher than they were a year ago when his role was much smaller.
UConn Huskies (7-10, 2-3 AAC)
There are two ways to look at the Huskies’ abysmal season. On one hand, it’s hard to put too much blame on Kevin Ollie and his club after two starters (guard Alterique Gilbert and forward Terry Larrier) suffered season-ending injuries within the first five games of the season. Few teams – if any – could handle that sting.
Texas also started the year in the Top 25, but it can’t blame its struggles on injuries. Instead, the problem is youth; the Longhorns' top four scorers are either freshmen or sophomores, and to make matters worse, their leading scorer, Tevin Mack, was recently suspended.
Still, youth isn’t an excuse in this era of college hoops when the top teams (think Kentucky, and generally Duke) have to play freshmen big minutes every year. It’s also not an excuse when you remember that in addition to the logical losses – at Baylor on Tuesday night, West Virginia – there are illogical ones, including home defeats to UT-Arlington and Kent State.
It’s been a season to forget for Shaka Smart’s club. And sitting in ninth place in the Big 12, there's no reason to think it'll get better any time soon.
Duke Blue Devils (14-4, 2-3 ACC)
It might seem preposterous to put Duke this high on the list. But “disappointing” is a subjective term, and considering where the Blue Devils started this season, few teams have been worse. Duke began the season as a near-unanimous choice for No. 1, and many were calling this team one of the best in a recent generation. A small minority even wondered if these Blue Devils could go undefeated.
That’s why it’s hard not to put the Blue Devils on this list. Most didn't expect Duke to lose four games all season, yet here it is with three losses in five ACC games and three straight losses on the road. And the Blue Devils are basically out of excuses; Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are back from injury and Grayson Allen is no longer suspended.
At a certain point, it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with Duke and accept that maybe the Blue Devils aren’t that good.
Syracuse Orange (11-8, 3-3 ACC)
After a slow start last season, Syracuse not only made the NCAA Tournament but went on a surprising run to the Final Four. And with Tyler Lydon and Tyler Roberson back alongside transfer Andrew White and freshman Tyus Battle, there was reason to believe that the Orange could build off last season’s late success.
Well, that didn’t happen. Syracuse has been a disaster from the start and has suffered some of the most shocking losses of any major team this season. That includes defeats to two teams on this list (Georgetown and UConn) as well as a 33-point thumping at home to St. John’s -- a loss that remains unexplainable a few weeks later.
To Syracuse’s credit, it has turned things around with three wins in its past five games. But in the loaded ACC, will the Orange be able to pick up enough victories to reach the Big Dance?
Washington Huskies (8-9, 1-4 Pac-12)
No one expected this club to be great or anywhere near the top of the Pac-12 standings. But if I’d told you before the season that Markelle Fultz (the potential No. 1 pick in this year's NBA Draft) would go for 22 points, six rebounds and six assists per night, could anyone have guessed the Huskies would be this bad?
The worst part is that each loss seems worse than the previous one for Washington. There was a season-opening defeat to Yale at home, when the Bulldogs were without their best player. There was a loss to Gonzaga that looks respectable on paper, until you remember that the Huskies literally got run off the court in the process. And a Pac-12 opening loss to Washington State, which had already been beaten by noted powers New Orleans, San Jose State and Loyola-Illinois in its non-conference slate.
It’s been bad in Seattle and it looks Fultz could become the second straight No. 1 overall pick to miss the NCAA Tournament, following in the footsteps of Ben Simmons.