With losses this week by the top two teams in the country, as well as Purdue’s loss of its best player for the whole year and Villanova getting its fourth loss in seven games, a popular refrain has settled in among the college basketball punditry: There are no elite teams this year! The front line is weak! No team is unbeatable!
Well, obvs. College basketball is not like college football, where dominant teams often do seem unbeatable. College basketball teams don’t go undefeated—not anymore—and therefore, they are all beatable. No. 1 seeds are going to lose at some point during the season, but that doesn’t mean the sky is falling.
It’s popular to compare this season’s probable No. 1 seeds with UNC from last year, the preseason favorite that coasted to a National Championship. But the idea that last year’s Tar Heels were unbeatable or invulnerable is revisionist history, stemming largely from the fact that UNC did not face a significant challenge in the NCAA Tournament.
At this point last season, though, UNC was the #4 team in the country, behind Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, and UConn. They started out 0-2 in ACC play, including a loss at home to an unimpressive Boston College team, and at this point in the season had three total losses—one more than Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse have this year. It’s true that the ACC was a stronger conference last year, and that the Tar Heels were generally considered the favorites throughout the year, but they were by no means an unstoppable behemoth, surviving close calls at Florida State and at Miami. Continue reading »