Crazy only scratches the surface. Want proof? Here is a list of all the teams (by week) that were ranked #1 in the Coaches Poll this season:
Preseason: Kentucky/North Carolina
Week 2: North Carolina (lost to Northern Iowa)
Weeks 3-4: Kentucky (lost to UCLA)
Weeks 5-8: Michigan State (lost to Iowa)
Week 9: Oklahoma (lost to Kansas)
Week 10: Kansas (lost to West Virginia)
Week 11: Oklahoma (lost to Iowa State)
Weeks 12-13: North Carolina (lost to Louisville and Notre Dame)
Weeks 14-16: Villanova (lost to Xavier)
Week 17: Kansas
And that was just the battle for the top spot. It doesn’t even come close to fully encompassing the season-long shuffle throughout the Top 25. Ranked teams losing to lesser opponents became a weekly staple. Any team, regardless of record, went on the road and was suddenly vulnerable. The rankings turned over like the dials of slot machine, but probably even harder to bet on. Once conference play began, the game gave way to wild buzzer beaters and wilder student sections; to rematches and rivalries. Upsets shook up the conference standings, with teams jockeying for postseason seeding. Bubble teams would gather some momentum, but then a tough loss would put them on the wrong side looking in.
This season also gave us perhaps the best senior class in recent memory. Although we have become accustomed to seeing bands of former prep stars gallop through the tournament every March, this year we saw the greatness of senior players who returned to give one last great season for their team. You think these seniors realize that makes for a special season? Just watch a few clips of any school’s senior night; you’ll have your answer.
Call it the preseason, the regular season, the warm-up round, or any other name for the games before the madness we call March. This certainly did not feel like a warm-up. With multiple games per week, fortunes can change with the tide. It isn’t like college football, where the limited number games forces committees and computers to predict theoretical matchups. In basketball, everyone plays everyone. To win your conference, you may not have to beat everyone, but you had better prove you’re the best. Every possession matters, there is no easing into the first ten minutes of a game. Make a mistake on the road, and that student section will let you hear about it for the rest of the game. And if you want that signature win, the second-half momentum and raucous home crowd might just be as important as calling the right play.
And did we mention, it’s actually been fun to watch? As anyone who stayed up past midnight to see the third overtime between Kansas and Oklahoma can attest, these players put their best efforts on the court every time for our enjoyment. And entertained we were. Need more proof?
The last remaining Top 25 undefeated team was SMU. They won’t be competing in the NCAA tournament. The top-rated recruit from last-year’s high school class probably won’t be either.
Duke and UNC split their regular season matchups, but both lost at home.
Indiana was written off in December; then they finished atop the Big Ten.
The first team to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament was Austin Peay, a team with a 7-9 record (8th seed) in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Texas A&M won a share of the SEC regular season title (in basketball, not football).
Yale is going to the NCAA tournament. Yes, that Yale.
On the eve of the glorious spectacle known as Champ Week, NCAA bids and seeds depend on a line of the bracket and bit of momentum. Every team is playing for one prize; every basket matters. Want to make the Big Dance? Just keep winning. This has been one of the wildest, most exciting, and inevitably unpredictable basketball seasons. This is the type of season when the Cinderellas reemerge. Want to see another run reminiscent of Butler or VCU, Wichita State or George Mason? This is your year. Want to see which superstar will etch his legacy on the final stage? This is the time. Want to see just how many unbelievable moments will be compiled into the beloved “One Shining Moment” classic? There’s certainly going to be more than a few choices.
Maybe you just want more craziness? Look no further, because this has just been the prelude. Now it’s March. Bring on the madness. AN
This article was concurrently published at NoCoastBias.com on March 5, 2016.
College basketball schedule, rankings, news, and results were accessed via ESPN-affiliated websites.