In college basketball, upsets are nothing out of the norm, and are sometimes even expected to happen when glancing at the schedule in preseason. As for the 2017 season, teams tended to follow each others lead, and quite a few times this season, the nations top teams fell.
On January 25th, 2017, numbers 1, 2 and 4 all lost (Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky) and man was it exciting. The last time three of the top four teams (1, 2, and 4 more specifically) lost on the same night, was 1979. As Villanova lost by a score of 74-72 to Marquette, completing a 17-point deficit en-route to knocking off the number one team in the nation at the time, many were unaware of what was happening around the nation.
In Morgantown, West Virginia, Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers were poised to compete against the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks at the time, who were 18-1 on the season. As many know, the defense of West Virginia are nicknamed “Press Virginia” and on the night of the 25th, it exposed the interior offense of Kansas and helped them achieve the intended result. As the Mountaineers scored 34 points in the paint, Bob Huggins cashed in yet another paycheck (25,000 to be exact) due to the pay incentive he gains once he beats Kansas.
To round out the night of disasters for the top teams in the nation, Kentucky fell to Tennessee on the road by a score of 82-80. For the second season in a row in Knoxville, Rick Barnes and the Volunteers took down a ranked Wildcats team who only had two losses prior to the shootout in Tennessee. Robert Hubbs III had a team high 25 points, matching the total for Malik Monk, the Freshman sensation for the Wildcats. The biggest story of the night by far, were the Vols production off the bench. Outscoring the opposition by a total of 37-4 meant everyone had each other’s back, helping to take down a Division 1 powerhouse.
Looking forward now to the “Bracktology” segment of this piece, Joe Lunardi of ESPN produced an early look at what the March Madness field could entail once the calendar changes. The break-down for the number one seeds are as follows, East: Villanova, West: Gonzaga, South: Baylor, Midwest: Kansas.
I believe that the majority of these picks will remain the same, other than Baylor. With a record of 20-3 and sitting just behind Kansas in the Big-12, their remaining schedule may trip them up coming down the stretch. Having to play seven of their last eight games against Big-12 opponents (four of which are on the road) they have an uphill battle.
Being that we are rapidly approaching the month of March, teams are starting to play their best basketball. Teams that at the beginning of the season may have got a bad rap from the sports world, could surge to the top and make a run at the leaders.
Only time will tell whether or not Lunardi’s predictions are accurate, but for the most part, they’re set in stone. Make sure that you have a comfortable seat for the beginning of March, and buckle up. It’s going to be a good one.