It seems some NCAA Basketball programs are constantly in the Sweet Sixteen, or, at least fans assume they will be. This season, four such programs are being questioned, even by the most presumptive fans.
The 2020-21 NCAA Basketball Division I season will go down in infamy as the most unpredictable season for years to come. The great unknown of what the season has in store, however, has not been all negative. Due to the uncertainty of teams having to potentially cancel or postpone games due to COVID protocols, coaches picked up as many high profile non-conference games as possible in the early goings.
These high-profile games in combination with limited pre-season practices and no exhibition games was a recipe for teams, with high-recruiting classes and transfers in essential roles, to struggle early on. These struggles have either highlighted their shortcomings or set off alarms needlessly. While success is simply how you define it, these four teams require more than just two wins over a weekend in mid-March to consider anything a success.
A team that was projected by media members to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference was Duke Basketball. Their rough start to non-conference play included a loss to Michigan State and Illinois ( the only ranked teams they faced).
After those losses, Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski faced further criticism by opting to pull the Blue Devils from any further non-conference competition, citing COVID related concerns for the decision. Their loss to Virginia Teac, another ranked opponent on Jan. 12, 2021, dropped their record to 3-1 in ACC play.
Within a month of the start of the season, Kentucky had finished the bulk of their non-conference schedule with a 1-6 record. Despite three losses by less than a possession, prospects were looking bleak for the Wildcats. The possibility of not making the tournament became a reality when they put together a 1-3 record versus Quad 2 teams and went 0-1 versus Quad 3 teams.
This season Coach Roy Williams avoided the 0-5 start in conference play which North Carolina endured last season that was followed up by two victories, then by seven additional losses. The Tar Heels started this season off with a three-point loss to North Carolina State as they were unable to stop the Wolfpack’s small forward Devon Daniels.
That loss was followed up by their inexperienced backcourt allowing the upper-class guards of Georgia Tech to score twenty points apiece. After defeating Syracuse on Jan. 12, 2021, the Tar Heels currently have a 3-2 ACC record.
Unlike the other teams on this list, Michigan State had a great start to their non-conference schedule. A start that was just as good as the end, as they went 6-0 which included two wins over ACC opponents.
The concern for the Spartans began to form as they entered their competitive Big Ten schedule. While losses in the Big Ten are expected, losses to Northwestern, Minnesota, and Purdue were not. The Spartans currently sit with a 2-4 Big Ten record with Iowa on tap Jan14,2020.