There have already been four different Associated Press No. 1 teams this season.
According to the NCAA’s David Worlock, if there is a fifth, which there will be next week (and it should be Ohio State) following top-ranked Louisville’s loss Tuesday night, then that will be the seventh time a season has featured five different No. 1 teams.
If a sixth team reaches the top of the poll — and it will — it will be the eighth time that many teams reached No. 1 in the same season. If a seventh does it — and it will — it will be just the second time seven different teams were ranked first by the AP. The other season? 1983. And since it’s Jimmy V Week, it’s only appropriate we’re talking about a season that ended with Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State team winning a title in one of the most memorable endings in sports history. Maybe that’s the path we’ll be starting down when the Madness begins in 97 days. Given what’s happened in the first five weeks of the season, it would only be appropriate.
That’s the type of season college basketball is in and likely heading toward. It’s the good kind of chaos where high-profile teams are on equal footing, meaning the bracket will be busted quite often. Could there be a one-bid conference team that makes a run (like Stephen F. Austin or Vermont)? Sure. Could there be a brand team — albeit not from one of the power conferences that makes it to Atlanta (like say Dayton out of the A-10)? Sure.
“It’s very unusual,’’ said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s Executive Vice President in charge of basketball. “There is a lot of parity in the game. The great teams haven’t emerged yet. A lot of good teams but they prove to be beatable. We’ve already seen four really good ones early.”
This is what we call a trend. So, too, are a number of great wins so far.
The best wins so far through Tuesday night, as reported by Michigan State assistant athletic director of administration Kevin Pauga, who operates a well-respected power ranking called KPI are the following:
(The number next to each win evaluates the quality of each win/loss on a rough -1 to +1 scale with -1 being about the worst loss, +1 being about the best win, 0 being a virtual tie).
Top 25 Wins by KPI through Dec. 10:
The best resume so far belongs to Ohio State with a road win at North Carolina, and home wins over Cincinnati, Villanova and Penn State.
The KPI rankings highlight these 15 resumes overall through Dec. 10:
Baylor picked up a quality home win over Butler Tuesday night. Louisville dropped with the loss to Texas Tech. Maryland slipped with the road loss at Penn State. Penn State got into the top 15 with the home win.
Neutral and road wins matter most. And Michigan’s three wins in Atlantis and Maryland’s three in Orlando help tremendously. So, too, do Kansas’ in Maui, Florida State’s two in a Florida tournament, Baylor’s in South Carolina, Butler’s in Kansas City and Auburn’s in Brooklyn. Gonzaga’s win over Oregon in Atlantis, wins at Washington and Texas A&M are also significant.
DePaul and San Diego State have impressive 3-0 records in true road games — something the selection committee will look longingly at throughout the selection process.
Here are the top five remaining non-conference dates in December:
Saturday, Dec. 14
Oregon at Michigan
Syracuse at Georgetown
Gonzaga at Arizona
Utah State at BYU
Wednesday, Dec. 18
North Carolina at Gonzaga
Tennessee at Cincinnati
Saint Mary’s vs. Arizona State, Phoenix
Thursday, Dec. 19
Maryland at Seton Hall
Saturday, Dec. 21
Kansas at Villanova
Indiana vs. Notre Dame, Indianapolis
Purdue vs. Butler, Indianapolis
Utah State vs. Florida, Sunrise, Fla.
Ohio State vs. Kentucky, Las Vegas
Dayton vs. Colorado, Chicago
Cincinnati vs. Iowa, Chicago
LSU vs. USC, Los Angeles
Saturday, Dec. 28
Wisconsin at Tennessee
Louisville at Kentucky
“You don’t know how good or bad these losses are until you get a full body of work,’’ said Gavitt. “Opportunities for teams in the next three weeks to get quality wins. Critically for conferences to get wins out of the league to help verify what happens in their league.”
The most significant rule change was the moving of the 3-point line back to the FIBA distance of 22.15 feet.
Through Monday’s games, Saint Mary’s was the No. 1 3-point shooting team at 44.4 percent. A year ago, Lehigh was the best at 42.3 percent. Idaho State was top at 18.6 percent in defending the 3-pointer. Houston was the best last season at 36.8 percent.
Essentially, 20 teams so far this season are shooting 40 percent or above on 3s while last season only five reached that mark.
A year ago, only four teams held teams to 28 percent or less on 3s. This season, 50 teams are holding teams to 28 percent or less on 3s.
So, it’s still a wash and too early to tell how this is working out for shooters.
“It’s exactly what we thought it would be after two years of experimentation in the NIT,’’ said Gavitt. “The 3-point percentage is down a point and the number of attempts is as well.’’
Gavitt said the reset of the shot clock to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound is also contributing to offensive efficiency as teams are still figuring out how to run their offense.
“Players are adjusting to the game and it opens up the court more and provides more driving opportunities,’’ said Gavitt. “Really good shooters aren’t affected by (the new line).’’
All of these numbers will continue to add to even more of an unpredictable season.