Coming into this season, there seemed to be an echelon of teams that were clearly ahead of the pack. Some are still clinging to that tier, like Kansas and Villanova. Others have faltered a bit, like Kentucky and Oregon. Some have had a much deeper fall from grace, like Duke and Indiana. (Grins smugly).
Turns out, the “parity” from last season may have never left.
Take yesterday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge, for example. The overall record ended in a 5-5 tie between the conferences, the first time the Challenge hasn’t ended in an outright victory for the Big 12. Some of the individual outcomes seemed more like they came out of a random number generator.
Florida absolutely THUMPED Oklahoma, 84-52. Remember Oklahoma? The team that ran to the Final Four last season with Wooden Award winner Buddy Hield at the helm?
Ole Miss, a team with 5 losses in the SEC, nearly knocked off 1-loss, former no. 1 ranked Baylor, coming up just short, 78-75.
Kansas, after last night, seems to be the safest 1-seed prediction out there. Don’t be surprised, though, to see the seeding landscape change even more from here until March. ESPN’s resident bracket brain Joe Lunardi started off this season’s hypothetical tournament with the following one seeds:
Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Oregon.
Since then, UK, has obviously, had some growing pains, but still has the makings of a great team. Oregon just took their 3rd loss of the season to a pretty bad Colorado squad. And Duke… well, let’s just say “mega team” the Blue Devils aren’t. Now, joining Kansas as the presumptive no. 1 seeds, according to Joe, are:
Villanova, Baylor, and Gonzaga. Yes, Gonzaga.
Villanova is, at least, understandable. But Baylor wasn’t even in the AP Preseason top 25. And, sure Gonzaga is undefeated, but I doubt many of us who will be filling out our brackets in a matter of weeks will be taking the Bulldogs all the way to a title in Phoenix.
Don’t lull yourself into thinking that just because there were no “elite” teams last season means someone has to emerge as an overwhelming favorite this year. Maybe “parity” is the new normal.