- Jan 6, 2015
Louisville and Villanova have stumbled out of the gate, but most teams in the Big 12 and Big Ten are off to good starts
Lousy Louisville is the worst team in the ACCIt's been so bad for Louisville this season that I think, so long as we're doing early-season overreactions, one could reasonably just cut off "in the ACC" from that prediction and roll with Louisville is the worst team. Kenny Payne's tenure with the Cardinals is off to a miserable start. Missing out on five-star recruit DJ Wagner was just a taste of how things have been on the court. With a 80-54 blowout loss to No. 9 Arkansas in the Maui Invitational on Monday the Cardinals fell to 0-4 on the season, their worst start in more than eight decades (!!).
There are myriad reasons why they are not a good basketball team right now, but No. 1 on the list right now is its inability to take care of the ball. Louisville ranks dead last among all major conference programs in assist-to-turnover ratio now with 72 turnovers and 31 assists on the season – including a stunning 22 turnovers and four assists against Arkansas.
Villanova not the same without Jay WrightPut this in the category of well, yeah, duh, but Villanova, as it turns out, doesn't quite have the same hum it did under Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright that it does so far under his replacement, Kyle Neptune. The Wildcats are 2-2 on the season with losses to Temple and No. 12 Michigan State. Their style remains the same – slow as ever with a plodding pace to grind teams down – but their results are so far mixed.
Not having five-star freshman Cam Whitmore and veteran star Justin Moore, both of whom are coming off injuries, is significant and part of the context to why it has started slow. But Nova looks like a tier below No. 10 Creighton and No. 20 UConn in the early going. We'll see if things change as conference play nears but it might just be a down year as the Wildcats scrap in a new era but this year might bring with it some growing pains the program hasn't had to deal with in recent years.
The Big 12 is big dog (again)There was reason to be bullish in the preseason about the SEC and Big Ten potentially taking down the mighty Big 12 as the best conference in college hoops. But thus far that optimism has been blunted with a big stick with the Big 12's best looking already like it might also double as college basketball's best. Texas is 4-0 and ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25 and No. 1 in the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 on the heels of blowing out then-No. 2 Gonzaga. No. 3 Kansas is 4-0 after taking down No. 8 Duke. And both No. 7 Baylor and No. 21 Texas Tech, despite one stumble each, have looked as good or maybe better than advertised.
Meanwhile in the SEC, big dog No. 15 Kentucky has looked rough and No. 22 Tennessee fell flat against hot-and-cold Colorado, and in the Big Ten, No. 11 Indiana, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 16 Illinois, No. 23 Maryland and No. 25 Iowa, have all been impressive so far but no team or teams have quite been as good as the collection the Big 12 has at the top.
Virginia is the class of the ACCPreseason No. 1 North Carolina has done nothing to technically lose its ranking – it has won each of its four games on the season – but it certainly has done nothing to really validate that ranking, either. Against three teams ranked outside the top 80 at KenPom.com, UNC has a scoring margin that's 54th nationally with closer-than-it-should've-been wins against both UNC Wilmington and Gardner-Webb.
Meanwhile, No. 5 Virginia's preseason buzz has spilled over into early-season success with one of the most impressive opening two weeks highlighted by wins in Vegas last week over both Baylor and Illinois. With Duke not at full strength yet and UNC wobbling early, the Cavaliers look like contenders once again under Tony Bennett and appear to be the class of the ACC until further notice.