Even after starting 0-2 to start the season, the UConn men’s basketball team is still projected to be in the NCAA tournament according to ESPN bracketology guru Joe Lunardi. In a year where there is not a dominant team in the American or in Division I as a whole, the king of the hill in March might be a team that just needs to get hot in February.
In his first bracket release on Nov. 3, the Huskies were projected a four seed in the East region, facing a first round matchup with Monmouth. With losses to Wagner, which still stings, and Northeastern, which was a fresh dump of salt in an open wound, they are now a 10 seed in the Midwest, according to Thursday’s second bracket. I was expecting to see UConn on the bubble but Lunardi seems to have faith, as a No.10 seed really is not that bad.
With a game versus Loyola Marymount Thursday night and the Maui Tournament around the corner, the Huskies have a great chance to turn the corner and pick up a slew of quality wins with UNC, Oregon and Wisconsin waiting in the wings. The Huskies also have history on their side, as they won the Maui tournament in 2010-11 and then went on to win the NCAA in March, the defining stretch of their season.
To step away from UConn and look at the NCAA as a whole, there is not a dominant team this season. There is no Al Horford and Joakim Noah-led Florida, or an Anthony Davis led Kentucky. This season there are a bunch of really good teams, but no great teams, as this season in my eyes mirrors the 2014 and 2016 seasons, where UConn and Villanova grabbed the title, respectively.
The top five in order as of the week two AP rankings are Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, Oregon and UNC, with Indiana, Kansas, Virginia and Wisconsin peering in from the outside. Out of these nine teams, four already have losses, with three of those coming to other ranked teams. Virginia, Oregon and Wisconsin all struggle with scoring this season, so if there defense does not travel, they will lose. This was the story in the NCAA tournament for all three teams last March, as all three failed to score late down the stretch and exited from the tournament.
The best six teams this season are Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, UNC, Indiana and Kansas, which is shocking to no one. According to Lunardi, Indiana and Kansas are both two seeds, as the other ones are all No. 1 seeds. Currently the No. 1 ranked team in the AP, the Duke Blue Devils just lost to Kansas, as Grayson Allen had a poor shooting performance, and the team looked out of sorts. Duke will be a contender in the end but if a team is able to shut down Allen and keep them off of the boards they can be beaten, as Duke is a poor offensive rebounding team.
Mirroring the Blue Devils, Kansas and Indiana both rely on their No. 1 scorers, Frank Mason III and James Blackmon Jr., to carry the offensive burden as both teams do not have another scorer over 15 points per game. The three remaining teams, UNC, Kentucky and Villanova all have versatile offenses with multiple playmakers who can shoot, pass and defend. These three teams, two of which played in the national championship last season, will be No. 1 seeds headed into March, and they will be tough outs.
March has shown anything can happen. Guards win championships; Tyler Olander has more rings than Jim Boeheim and at least one No. 12 seed will beat a No. 5. The season is only a few games underway and there is not a dominant team. The Huskies even with a slow start have a long season up ahead, but the time to start winning is now
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.