We are now less than two months away from Selection Sunday and a lot can happen in that time. But, in this season of starts, stops, and pauses, things have looked different and unpredictable. One of the more surprising things that are unfolding is the lack of success that some of the blue bloods of the sport; I am looking at you Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Polls don’t mean much, but the AP poll that came out on Monday was the first time since December 1961 that neither Duke, North Carolina, or Kentucky have been ranked.
Duke Blue Devils 5-4, 3-2
Duke has been one of the harder hit teams in terms of early-season instability. They have had to adjust to four cancellations and two postponements. After a 15-point loss to Illinois, coach Mike Krzyzewski caught some flack when the team opted-out of their remaining non-conference schedule. Duke was 3-2, with both losses came at the hands of other top-25 teams.
Some thought the pause was, at least, in part due to the slow start. Since their self-imposed stoppage, Duke is 3-2 and there is talk that the team may be in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina Tar Heels 9-5, 4-3
Duke’s tobacco-road brethren North Carolina has had a nearly uninterrupted season. Despite a 3-0 start, have gone 6-5 since and find themselves in the middle of the pack in the ACC. The success of the Tar Heels this season is predicated on their dominant frontcourt.
The trio of Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, and freshman Day’ron Sharpe have been dominant, combining to score 31.3 points per game. They also make North Carolina one of the best rebounding teams in the country pulling down 22.6 boards per game.
The issue for North Carolina has been turnovers; the Tar Heels average 15 per game. Defensively, they are allowing opponents to shoot 42% from the field and 35.8% from beyond the arc.
Kentucky Wildcats 4-9, 3-3
Of the three teams in this piece, Kentucky has had the worst of it to begin the season. Wednesday’s loss to Georgia snapped extended their current losing streak to three games and dropped the Wildcats record to 4-9. After a season-opening win over Morehead State, Kentucky found themselves at 1-6.
They found the win column again, but it took double overtime to beat Mississippi State. They knocked off Vanderbilt by just three and things seemed to have turned a corner after they beat Florida on the road for their third straight win. Then, Alabama beat them by 20 and was outscored by 11 in the 2nd half at Auburn falling 66-59.
There have been murmurs among the media that something in Lexington should change. The Wildcats’ wins on the recruiting trail haven’t translated to on-court success. That is beginning to make the faithful uneasy.
None of the three are currently ranked, and while polls are relatively meaningless and there is plenty of time to turn things around, the outlook in terms of the NCAA Tournament is not good. The three blue bloods have a combined record of 1-12 in quadrant one games. All three rank outside the top 51 in the NET, and none of them are higher than 27 in any of the major metrics through games on Jan. 20.
In this season of never-before-seen uniqueness, if things don’t turnaround it could be an NCAA Tournament like no other: a tournament without Duke, North Carolina, or Kentucky.