At first glance, the casual reader might have been thinking of one of these four things while I typed the headline featuring three recent champions and three prominent schools that typically dominate the headlines each and every winter into early spring:
a) Playboy was pulling off an early April Fool’s joke and secretly poses with a bunch of women who posed nude somewhere many miles away from the site of Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, but were too scared to mention the news online.
b) Most of the former Briefcase Gals started filming a reboot of the once popular game show Deal or No Deal–but instead of airing on NBC, it would be airing on satellite TV and have a different host.
c) The thoughts of Shaquille O’Neal talking about his days at LSU…
d) The new CBS Sports graphics need more tinkering before week one of the SEC kicks off the new college football season come early September.
But instead, none of those things really crossed my mind except each of these prominent schools may seed their stranglehold on the top seeds be relinquished to other schools for the first time in several years.
And to pay tribute to the once famous baseball announcer Harry Caray, had he been alive today, he probably would have said this about Duke’s Hall of Fame basketball coach:
“Krzyzewski spelled backwards is ikswezyzrk.”
Duke Blue Devils, Atlantic Coast Conference
Good Wins: November 20, neutral site win vs. VCU, November 22 another neutral site win vs. Georgetown, and December 2 vs. Indiana.
Bad Losses: December 19, neutral site vs. Utah, January 13 at Clemson, January 16 vs. Notre Dame, January 18 vs. Syracuse, and January 25 at Miami (Florida).
RPI Breakdown: overall rank 28, with a 15-6 overall record and 4-4 record in ACC play. The Blue Devils have three wins against the RPI’s Top 100 and only one win against the RPI’s Top 50. Their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency ranks second behind Notre Dame at 122.6 points per game. Meanwhile, their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per 100 possessions is at 101.9 ppg, which is around the middle of the pack at 143rd place.
Analysis: This Duke team is lacking the key swagger needed to close out games. If it is all about Grayson Allen and everyone else just stands there to watch him do his thing, it will be curtains for Duke. The way they have played in the last two weeks is simply not acceptable for the Cameron Crazies, which for thirty years have been mostly spoiled by the school’s constant success. Sure, they had the seventh toughest non-conference schedule in the nation, and that should have them looking anywhere from a 4 to an 8 seed depending on how they fare with the likes of North Carolina State, Louisville, and Virginia all due to pay a visit to Cameron Indoor before their annual showdown down tobacco road with the suddenly resurging Tar Heels from North Carolina.
Percentage chance to reach the Big Dance: 35 percent.
Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12 Conference
Good Wins: January 2 vs. Baylor, January 4 in showdown game vs. Oklahoma, January 9 at Texas Tech, and January 23 vs. Texas.
Bad Losses: January 12 at West Virginia, January 19 at Oklahoma State, and January 25 at Iowa State.
RPI Breakdown: Overall ranked #6 in the nation with a 16-4 overall record, 5-3 in the Big 12. Their AOE (according to KenPom.com) is 116.4 ppg (14th in the nation), while their ADE is 95.7 is good for 36th in the nation.
Analysis: Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk may be clipped en route to The Phog before the final dust settles in six weeks. A showdown game with classic rival Kentucky awaits (please read my brief Big 12-SEC preview in the blog above for some key details for the early Saturday evening marquee matchup). But as Perry Ellis goes, so go the Jayhawks. If they somehow get past the grasp of John Calipari’s multiple platoon lineups, more pitfalls await the Jayhawks when West Virginia provides the opposition on February 9 before the rematch at Oklahoma four days later to kick off Valentine’s weekend. With their current fifth place standing in the Big 12 conference standings, their streak of winning 11 consecutive regular season titles is in very serious jeopardy.
Percentage chance of reaching the Big Dance: 85 percent, just to be safe.
Connecticut Huskies, American Athletic Conference
Good Wins: November 25 on neutral site vs. Michigan and December 29 at Texas.
Bad Losses: November 26 on neutral site vs. Syracuse, November 27 on neutral site vs. Gonzaga, December 8 on neutral site vs. Maryland, January 5 vs. Temple, and January 28 vs. Cincinnati.
RPI Breakdown: Overall rank is 73, with an overall record of 14-6, 4-3 in AAC play. The Huskies have only two wins against the RPI’s Top 50, and are 2-4 against the RPI’s Top 100. Their AOE is 106.2 ppg good for 128th in the nation, while their ADE is 91.9, pegged at the ninth position.
Analysis: The runner by Gary Clark, Jr. with 12 seconds to play will probably be too much to overcome for Kevin Ollie. Just two years ago, they went on that run in March en route to winning the national championship. The only game with true RPI implications is a rematch in Cinncinnati on February 20. Everyone else is having an RPI of 75 and below, with the notable exception of SMU not eligible to play in the 2016 Tournament in the first place.
Percentage chance of reaching the Big Dance: 20 percent, since they have to win the AAC postseason tournament just to get an invite. I think their 96th place in terms of their strength of schedule in non-conference games, while being 88th overall SOS wise spells big-time trouble.