AP Top 25: NCAA Tournament Preview Preview

The rankings, and the snarky comments that accompany them, are all well and good, but exactly does it all mean? Who really gives a fuck if Vandy is ranked 19 in January if they’re playing a home game in the NIT in March? In college basketball, the non-conference and conference schedules are all prelude to the NCAA Tournament, so all our legion (legion = more than five) of readers really want to know is what is each team’s prospects are for the Tournament, should they get that far. That being said, let us further qualify our shiny new rankings key…

tilleyjpg.gif  Though some of The Elite may have been knocked down a peg since last we spoke, these teams are still the cream of the country’s crop. The odds are very short for these teams to have One Shining Moment, but we’ll make an argument in the coming weeks for why a couple of them won’t.

earnie_shavers23.jpg The Contenders at least have a good shot at the Final Four. They could also make the Championship game, though we doubt they could knock off one of the big boys in the end. Think the Andre Miller Utah Utes.

pretenders1.jpg The Pretenders are teams, some highly ranked, who feel a hell of a lot better about themselves than we do.

bateman1.jpg A Darkhorse either is a team most of the country doesn’t know about, or most of the country vastly underrates. Like Greek food.

lithium-2.jpg The Bipolars are generally major conference schools (though a team like Gonzaga also qualifies) that we wouldn’t stake our life’s savings on, one way or the other. They could just as easily go to the Final Four as get knocked out the first weekend.

1. Kansas tilleyjpg.gif

2. Memphis tilleyjpg.gif

The favorite for at least half of our editorial crew, but why are we suddenly very, very nervous that they’ll go into the Tourney undefeated? The best thing that happened to the 1995 UCLA team was to lose in the Pac-10 Tourney. That and they told George Zidek lose and it’s back to the circus with you.

3. Duke earnie_shavers23.jpg

An oddly likable Blue Devils team, even with Greg Paulus. There are three reasons for this: 1. DeMarcus Nelson, 2. They play an entertaining up-tempo style, and 3. Ultimately they’re no threat to win it all. In other news, for those members of the hoopserati still thinking they miss his inside presence, Josh McRoberts is now 43 on David Thorpe’s rookie rankings, behind George Karl’s kid and just two spots ahead of Kosta Perovic.

4. North Carolina tilleyjpg.gif

5. UCLA tilleyjpg.gif

6. Georgetown earnie_shavers23.jpg

7. Tennessee pretenders1.jpg

College basketball does not exist in a vacuum. The laws of displacement in the physical world also apply to the balance of conference power, so where the Pac-10 is absolutely loaded this year and the Big East is having a typically top-heavy year, other conferences must accordingly suffer. The SEC and the Big 10 suck. So the Vols could go ahead and lay waste to the mediocre-yet-oddly-ranked Mississippi teams and every school in the Southeastern pocket of the country, but unless they show us a little more than we’ve seen right now we’re going to peg them for an early upset in the Tourney. ESPN currently has them pegged for a 2 seed, playing the winner of the UConn/Rhode Island game in the second round. That will likely change greatly by March, but Tennessee fans better pray it doesn’t shake out that way.

8. Michigan Statepretenders1.jpg

See above: sucky, conferences.

9. Washington State earnie_shavers23.jpg

10. Texas lithium-2.jpg

Nice team and about as deep as the cast of “The Hills”.

11. Indiana earnie_shavers23.jpg

So we spent all that time knocking down teams at the top of bad conferences, yet we still like the Hoosiers. If God had wanted opinionated rants to be consistent, he wouldn’t have created blogs.

12. Butler earnie_shavers23.jpg

13. Wisconsin pretenders1.jpg

14. Stanford pretenders1.jpg

15. Xavier earnie_shavers23.jpg

16. Drake bateman1.jpg

Korver sounds like neither a Mormon nor an Irish Catholic name, so all we can think is that Momma and Daddy Korver had a lot of cold Midwestern winters with no TV, holed up with nothing but Southern Comfort and the Marvin Gaye box set.

17. Marquette earnie_shavers23.jpg

18. Pittsburgh pretenders1.jpg

19. Vanderbilt pretenders1.jpg

We didn’t suspect that Vandy was as good as their earlier rankings, but this is ridiculous. The Commodores still have a nice little inside/outside combination, but unless they start making some hay, and soon, they’re not even going to make the NIT.

20. Florida pretenders1.jpg

21. St. Mary’s bateman1.jpg

I’m sure there are still non-believers out there, particularly after the loss to San Diego. But how good does the Gaels non-conference schedule look now that Oregon is back, Drake is ranked, and even Seton Hall is making some noise? They still have a Bracket Buster game coming up as well, which should be a great opportunity for white suburban kids from Midwestern mid-majors to see how white suburban kids in California live.

22. Kansas State lithium-2.jpg

23. Texas A&M lithium-2.jpg

24. Mississippi pretenders1.jpg

25. Baylor bateman1.jpg

I Ain’t Dead Yet (Not in the Top 25 but could make some noise in March):

  • UConn/Louisville/Arizona – There aren’t 10 teams above that we would take in the Tourney over these guys. Yes they could easily crap the bed early, but would it suprise you to see any of them in the Final Four? How about Stanford, Vandy, Mississippi, or any team in the Big 10 outside Indiana? We didn’t think so.
  • Notre Dame 
  • Rhode Island
  • Gonzaga
  • Oregon – Will make the Tournament. You will smile and think you are very cunning by picking them in the Sweet Sixteen. Then you will watch them and within two minutes be horrified to learn that they don’t have a point guard.
  • New Mexico
  • USC – We’ve written about them more than any other team this year and still couldn’t tell you what the hell they’ll do.
  • Syracuse – Left for dead, but this is a team with a tough schedule and a boatload of first round picks. Let’s call them USC East.
  • Kentucky

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