While many college basketball teams have exceeded preseason expectations, an equal amount have failed to meet them. Although the season is still young, and teams often drastically change for the better or the worse as the year progresses, a good start is often the catalyst for a good season, and a bad start forbodes a subpar year. So, which teams have failed to meet their preseason hype thus far this year?
After a successful 2015-16 campaign that saw the Ducks beat Duke and reach the Elite Eight, expectations were high in Eugene, Oregon. Ranked #4 to begin the year, Oregon was among the early favorites to reach the Final Four. However, the team was demolished by 17 points in the season-opener to Baylor, and then dropped a game against an unimpressive Georgetown squad in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Oregon hasn’t lost since, but for a team projected to be among the best in college basketball this season, their play hasn’t met the expectations.
2. Michigan State
Ranked #12 to begin the year, Michigan State wasn’t expected to be a contender for the national title to start the year. Out of respect for both super freshman Miles Bridges and the program that coach Tom Izzo has built, the Spartans were still given a high national ranking. While Bridges has met expectations and then some, his team has not. With four losses, the traditional Big Ten powerhouse has plummeted out of the national rankings to earn a spot among the most underachieving teams in the country. Close losses against Arizona and Duke are excusable, but blowouts against Kentucky and Baylor are not. The Spartans still have time to right their sinking ship, but the team has underwhelmed so far.
3. Saint Mary’s
One loss is usually not an indication of a team underperforming, but for Saint Mary’s, exceptions must be made. As the #17 team in the country to begin the year, the Gaels were expected to contend for a West Coast title along with Gonzaga. The Dawgs have looked the part, but Saint Mary’s has not. The team lost by 14 at home to UT-Arlington on Dec. 8 to knock them from their #12 ranking. Even historically great teams lose in the regular season, but a loss like the Gaels suffered is not a good sign.
These three teams have not met their preseason billings, but sometimes, underwhelming teams make up for it in the postseason. As it stands, all three of these squads are projected to be in the NCAA tournament, where seedings are just a number. Teams like Connecticut and Kentucky that had subpar regular seasons can go on to make runs to the national championship. Only time will tell, but there’s still hope for even the most underachieving squads.