The College Basketball Season has been anything but normal. On top of Covid, many traditional powerhouses such as Duke, Kansas, and North Carolina are performing below their standards. However, a few teams have flourished despite not having high expectations.
Missouri brought back just about everyone from last year’s team, but the problem was the Tigers didn’t stand out in any particular way in 2019-20 and finished 7-11 in the SEC. This 2020-21 season, they were unranked in preseason polls and picked 10th in the preseason SEC basketball poll. With an experienced squad of players, Coach Cuonzo Martin’s team has been able to pull off some major surprises, with key defeats against Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee and Alabama. The Tigers are now 13-6 and are predicted to be a sixth seed in March Madness according to ESPN’s bracketology, higher than Duke in the same region.
At the start of the NCAA basketball season, the Trojans were ranked 48th by KenPom and sixth in the conference by Pac-12 media voters. They were predicted to be a No. 6 or 7 seed in March Madness, with an okay chance for a first-round win. Now, the Trojans are ranked No. 19 in the recent AP polls and first in conference play. They’ve had several dominating performances and a blowout win over a ranked UCLA. Much of USC’s success comes from their defensive-efficiency, which now ranks 10th nationally and is 12 spots higher than anybody else’s in the Pac-12. With star center Evan Mobley, a 7-foot forward who is averaging 16.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, the Trojans will be looking to take the crown of their first Pac-12 title since 1985.
The Sooners are 14-5 and second in a loaded Big 12. The team was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 race at the start of the season. Now, they boast great wins over West Virginia, Texas, Kansas and Alabama. They’re tied with Ohio State with five wins over Associated Press top-15 teams. The team is led by veteran guard Austin Reaves, who is averaging 17 points, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds per game. He has a supportive group of teammates who know how to handle the ball and have a solid range. Oklahoma is listed as a 3-seed by the NCAA Tournament committee if the tournament started today. With their recent impressive win over West Virginia, it’s a step closer to rise up higher on their board.
All three of these teams were doubted in the preseason, now they all are bound to make the NCAA Tournament and get a high seed.
Photo: L.G. Patterson