Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky may be titans of college basketball — they’ve won six of the past 10 NCAA championships — but this season all are struggling. None of these four traditional powerhouses are currently in the AP poll’s Top 10, and Kentucky recently fell out of the Top 25 rankings altogether.
All four were in the top 10 in preseason rankings, And with good reason. By Week 15 last year, two were in the top 10, and the other two were 12th and 13th. This year, at 21-5, Duke is 12th, Kansas is 13th (at 20-6), and UNC is 14th (20-7).
Blue Blood or New Blood?
This year, they’re being usurped in the rankings by traditional football schools such as Texas Tech, Ohio State, and Auburn. The Red Raiders have already beaten Kansas once this season, and was on the road. Next week the Jayhawks will travel to Lubbock to see if they can find the magic that seems to be missing.
The quartet has suffered embarrassing losses that would’ve been inconceivable in the past. Kansas was spanked, 80-64, by an unranked Baylor Bears team that was 6-7 in the Big 12 Conference.
”We were obviously better three weeks ago than we’re playing right now,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
If they don’t play any better, Kansas could see its streak of 13 consecutive seasons with at least a share of the conference title broken. The team is a 25/1 selection to win the national championship.
Duke is currently tied for second place in the ACC at 9-4, disappointing by typical Duke standards. The Blue Devils went on the road and suffered two humbling defeats to unranked teams, Boston College and St. John’s. Coach Mike Krzyzewski told the Raleigh News & Observer blamed the rough season on youth.
“Do they have confidence in themselves? I think they do,” Krzyzewski said. “And they need to have confidence in themselves based on achievement and habits. Not just to have confidence in themselves.”
Doing worse in the ACC than Duke is defending national champion North Carolina. They recently lost, at home, to Wofford College. The Tar Heels were favored by 25.5 points, but in the end had to accept a humiliating defeat to the Terriers that had some college basketball observers calling the upset of the season.
Coach Roy Williams was eager to spread blame around after the loss, telling reporters it was a painful evening.
“Bad movement, bad defense, bad coaching — we got fat and happy,” Williams said. “It was a disgusting thing for me the entire game.”
UNC is a 20/1 pick to repeat as champions. But at 9-5 some are questioning those odds.
But most puzzling of the four struggling blue blood teams is Kentucky. The Wildcats were ranked No. 5 before the first game of the season, but since have tumbled out of the Top 25 twice this season, and are currently 36th.
The team has six high school All Americans and three were considered five-star recruits. It looked like John Calipari’s men were poised for a deep run into the tournament but now will be fortunate to receive a seventh or eighth seed as they watch teams that used to pose little threat, like Virginia, pass them by.