This year’s field of 64 is on the verge of looking a lot different
from years past, primarily because many of the so-called lock teams
like UCONN and UNC have had a down year so far. Not only have some
power teams been on the decline this year, but power conferences like
the Pac-10 have also had their struggles. This has allowed conferences
like the A-10 which usually gets only 1 or 2 teams in the NCAA
Tournament the opportunity to get 3 or 4 teams in this year.
I can’t think of a more underrated, underappreciated, and overlooked conference than the A-10. Temple is the lone representative in the rankings for the A-10 conference, sitting at #21. But what the A-10 lacks in respect in the top 25 rankings, it gains in overall NCAA resume recognition. The A-10 currently ranks 6th in overall conference rpi and 7th in strength of schedule, ahead of conferences like C-USA, Mountain West, and the Pac-10. The A-10 also has 6 teams ranked in the top 45 in terms of rpi along with 6 teams ranked in the top 50 in terms of strength of schedule. To wrap up my case for the A-10 lets look at the projected NCAA tournament field as of today. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the A-10 has 6 teams in the tournament. That’s tied for second most by a conference with the ACC and Big East and is more than the Big Ten, SEC, and Mountain West.
The Pac-10 as a whole has been absolutely non-existent this year. Granted the conference did lose 9 of their top players to last year’s NBA draft, but with highly touted teams like Arizona and UCLA and above average teams like Oregon, USC, Cal, and Washington the Pac-10 has almost always recovered from one season to the next. To put into perspective how down the Pac-10 is this year lets look at the rankings. At this time last year the Pac-10 had 3 teams ranked in the top 25, this year the Pac-10 has zero. The Pac-10 also had 6 teams in the NCAA tournament last year and this year according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi the Pac-10 currently has only the automatic bid that is awarded to the team that wins the conference tournament.
Now before I come off as just another UNC hater I would liked to point out that I understand that the Tar Heels lost 4 starters to the NBA draft and obviously that’s a lot of stat stuffing and experience to replace. With that being said, the Tar Heels always bring in 5-star recruits with NBA potential and continue to roll along, but not this year. UNC freshman like Dexter Strickland, the Wear twins, and John Henson have played average basketball at best and pale in comparison to star freshman across the country like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Derrick Favors and others. The Tar Heels and coach Roy Williams are in a downward spiral they’ve never seen before. UNC stands at next to last in the ACC with a 2-7 record in league play and a 13-11 record overall. The Tar Heels have lost 8 of their last 10 games and are currently riding a 4 game losing streak. To make matters worse, star forward/center Ed Davis has a broken wrist and will miss at least a month. Sorry UNC fans, looks like you’ll have to wait ’til next year.
South Carolina Stymies Ole Miss (SCAR-16, #4 Miss-10)
The “Old Ball Coach” usually beats his opponents using his superior offensive knowledge but not against the Rebels. It was actually the Gamecocks’ defense that held one of the nation’s best offenses to only 10 points and made Jevon Snead look eerily uncomfortable. Mississippi let the pressure of being on prime-time television get to them and South Carolina took advantage of the Rebels lackluster performance.
Hawkeyes Tame the Lions…Again (Iowa-21, #5 PSU-10)
Iowa has now won 7 of their last 8 games against Penn State, who were the #5 team in the country basically by default. The Nittany Lions did not deserve to be ranked #5 and it showed against Iowa. PSU moved into the top 5 because of early upsets within the top 10 and by playing weak teams early on (Akron, Syracuse, Temple). PSU is a top 15 team at best until they can prove themselves against a somewhat worthy opponent.
Oregon Thumps California (Ducks-42, #6 Bears-3)
This wasn’t the usual underdog puts in a great effort and comes away with a close, hard-fought victory kind of upset win. This Oregon win was that of an absolute thrashing of the Golden Bears of California. The Ducks dominated from the start, seamlessly playing like there wasn’t a defense on the other side of the ball. Oregon did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted on both side of the ball. On the other hand, Cal had one of their patented “didn’t show up” games against a very dangerous opponent. This looked like the year that the Golden Bears were finally going to play consistent football throughout the season and challenge the already one loss Trojans for the Pac-10 Title, so much for that.
If you’re looking for my thoughts on #9 Miami losing to #11 Virginia Tech, there aren’t any. I don’t consider VT beating Miami in Blacksburg an upset.
As always your thoughts and comments are welcome and encouraged.