Sweet 16 reasons this college basketball season and the NCAA Tournament make no sense
As NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 play begins Thursday, 16 reasons college basketball this season makes no sense:
1. There are teams from 11 different conferences in the Sweet 16. Three teams are from the SEC and Big East. Two are from the Big 12. There is one each from the Big Ten, Conference USA, the American Athletic, the Ivy League, the Pac-12, the West Coast Conference, the Mountain West and the ACC.
2. No. 1 overall seed Alabama was picked to finish fifth in the SEC by the league’s preseason media poll. Alabama plays San Diego State in a South Region semifinal on Friday in Louisville.
3. Arkansas started 1-5 and finished 8-10 in the SEC. After beating No. 1 seed Kansas on Saturday, the Razorbacks play Connecticut in a West Region semifinal Thursday night in Las Vegas.
4. At one point this season, Connecticut lost six of eight games, including five of six. Danny Hurley’s Huskies have now won nine of their last 10 heading into Thursday.
5. Under first-year coach Jerome Tang, Kansas State was picked to finish dead last in the Big 12. After beating Kentucky on Sunday, the Wildcats from Manhattan play Michigan State on Thursday night in New York.
6. Michigan State was 7-7 in its last 14 regular season games before losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament. That’s the same Ohio State that finished 16-19.
7. Princeton started the season 0-2 with losses to Hofstra and Navy. The Tigers play Creighton in a South Region semifinal on Friday in Louisville.
8. Florida Atlantic has had one 20-win season in its 29-year history as a Division I program. That was in 2010-11. Mike Jarvis was the coach. Now the Owls will play Tennessee in an East Region semifinal on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
9. Tennessee went 5-7 in its last 12 games before the NCAA Tournament. It also lost starting point guard Zakai Zeigler to a torn ACL on Feb. 28.
10. No. 1 seed Purdue was led by Zach Edey, its 7-foot-4 center who is likely favorite for national player of the year honors. Purdue lost its first-round game to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, whose starters’ average height was 6-foot-1.
11. This is the second time in three tournaments that blue bloods Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas all failed to make it to the Sweet 16. It also happened in 2021. Before that, you have to go all the way back to the 1979 NCAA Tournament when none of the big four made the Sweet 16.
12. With its loss to Miami in the second round on Saturday, Indiana has not reached the Sweet 16 since 2016. The Hoosiers are on their third different coach since the Hoosiers beat Kentucky 73-67 in Des Moines to reach the East Regional semifinal. IU has gone from Tom Crean to Archie Miller to Mike Woodson.
13. North Carolina, No. 1 in the AP preseason Top 25, failed to make the NCAA Tournament and declined an invitation to the NIT. The Tar Heels are the first preseason No. 1 to miss the tournament since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
14. Besides North Carolina, four other teams in the top 10 of the preseason AP Top 25 failed to make the Sweet 16. The four: No. 4 Kentucky, No. 5 Kansas and Baylor — the two tied at No. 5 — and No. 7 Duke. All four lost in the second round.
15. Seven of the Sweet 16 teams were not in the preseason AP Top 25, including Princeton, FAU, Xavier, Michigan State, UConn, Kansas State and Miami. Princeton, FAU and Kansas State did not receive a single vote.
16. The last time Kentucky went three consecutive college basketball seasons without reaching an NCAA Tournament regional semifinal was the stretch of 2006 through 2009 when UK went four straight years without advancing to the Sweet 16. Those were the last two seasons (2007 and 2008) with Tubby Smith as coach and the only two seasons (2008 and 2009) with Billy Gillispie as coach.
Kentucky fans are right to have high expectations. John Calipari isn’t meeting them.
Ugonna Onyenso is grateful for this season. And he’ll be back for Kentucky’s next one.
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