By Riley Saxon
Midway Point Surprises and Disappointments
Now that we’re into March, it’s time to look at the official surprises and disappointments for the college basketball season. At this point, teams are who they are, and, barring miraculous runs in conference tournaments or the Big Dance, fans of the teams pretty much have a feeling about the season that will remain with them for the foreseeable future.
Technically Arizona constitutes a “surprise,” but we saw this coming as each week passed. Providence, picked to finish 8th in the Big East Preseason poll, clinched the Big East regular season title on Saturday, and Wisconsin, picked to finish 9th in the Big Ten, clinched a share of the Big 10 Title Tuesday night.
Tommy Lloyd took a team coming off a postseason ban and a preseason predicted finish of 5th to a number one seed in the tournament, and igf things bounce the right way, potentially the number one overall seed in the tournament. Tuesday night, the Wildcats clinched the Pac 12 Title with a 20 point romp over second-place USC. All that’s left for them before the postseason are Stanford and Cal heading to Tucson, where a big party awaits.
Providence began the year with a secret scrimmage win over Purdue, and from that point forward Providence has been all over the win column. There is that pesky luck factor on Kenpom that everyone keeps referencing, but their performance on Tuesday in a 2 point loss (at Villanova, fresh off a celebration, and missing a couple rotation players) is something to take into consideration as the team moves to the postseason.
The Badgers clinched a share of the Big Ten title Tuesday night in dramatic fashion. Clinging to a three point lead, Wisconsin missed the front end of a one-and-one. Jaden Ivey raced up the court for Purdue and buried a game tying three pointer. Chucky Hepburn took the inbound to the corner and banked in a three that sent Madison into pandemonium. The Badgers can clinch the title outright Sunday against Nebraska.
The disappointments category include two pairs of teams with drastically different preseason expectations as well as completely opposite end-of-season finishes. Purdue and UCLA both expected to be 1 seeds heading into the Big Dance; neither will get there. Georgetown and Oregon State ended last year with amazing runs that, while very fluky, were expected to at least be something to build on heading into 2021-2022.
Purdue and UCLA
As of now, Purdue is a two seed on Bracket Matrix and is the best offensive team on KenPom. UCLA is KenPom’s #8 team and is one of only five teams with a top 15 offense and defense. Yet, both these teams’ seasons qualify as disappointments (so far). Each had title aspirations, but Purdue’s defense is being cited a major Achilles heel and UCLA is popping up on “most-likely-to-be-upset-in-the-first-round” lists all over the place. Both teams have one game left before their respective conference tournaments, so there is some time and opportunity to get back on track, but time is running out.
Oregon State and Georgetown
Nobody expected the Beavers and Hoyas to be world beaters, but the teams have a combined record of 1-34 in conference play, and neither team has a victory in 2022. Georgetown started 6-5, showing some life before completely falling off. Oregon State started 1-0, but it has all been downhill from there: they only have two wins since opening night. Of course, these two teams made their money during their conference tournaments, so technically anything can happen. Even if these teams were to win their conference tournament, they would likely be in the 14-16 seed range. Regardless, a repeat of the 2021 postseason seems very unlikely for these two teams.
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