Just yesterday (Saturday, December 22, for those reading this article at a later date), multiple ranked college basketball teams went down to defeat. Syracuse lost at Madison Square Garden to Temple, Ohio State fell at home to a very good Kansas team, Florida was not up to the challenge against K-State, Illinois lost on a neutral court to another ranked team in Missouri, and New Mexico lost at The Pit to South Dakota State. Monday’s rankings will shake up quite a bit, but here’s a pressing question: with all the teams showing some flaws, is there a favorite heading into 2013?
At this point, the obvious answer would seem to be #1 Duke, though some have questioned the Blue Devils’ depth. It would certainly appear right now that they’re more than good enough to contend for the whole thing. Three wins over top-five teams (out of three games) would not only attest to the fact that they’ve played a difficult non-conference schedule, but that they’re excelling.
Right behind them in the polls these days is Michigan, but the Wolverines have not faced off yet against the sorts of teams Duke has played. Oh sure, Duke hasn’t played much of anyone since the Ohio State game (although the Temple game looks like a nice win now, too), but Michigan hasn’t played a legit team in quite a while. They’re just as undefeated as the Blue Devils, and undefeated Arizona looks good as well, but Duke’s standing looks the most impressive.
Aside from that, especially given how few undefeated teams are left, there seems to be some parity in college basketball. When Temple can beat Syracuse and Ohio State has two losses to ranked teams already, you can see it with your own two eyes. Some teams stand out a lot more than others, but this is setting up to be a year with a very competitive, upset-laden NCAA Tournament where the obvious favorites might not be so obvious.
Currently, Duke is the frontrunner until they prove they shouldn’t be. After them, there are a whole lot of question marks. That might not be great if you’re a nervous, hand-wringing fan of one of the other top teams, but it’s good for the casual viewer.