In NCAA basketball, the madness usually starts in March. But this season, madness began in November, and it has not stopped since then.
College basketball is known to be crazy, especially during the NCAA tournament, where 68 teams are carefully selected to compete for a National Title. It has never been as intriguing as it has this year, though.
No, there is not a Zion Williamson this year—but there is Dayton’s Obi Toppin. UNC is not near the top of the rankings—but San Diego State is, out of nowhere. There have been seven AP number one ranked teams—Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Duke, Kentucky and Michigan St.— and college basketball has strayed from the classic Kentucky one-and-done team sticking at the top. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of this season’s storylines.
The mid-major teams have made a splash this season. Both the Dayton Fliers (from the Atlantic 10) and San Diego State Aztecs (representing the Mountain West Conference) are inside the top-five, with 25-2 and 26-1 records as of Tuesday, Feb. 25, respectively. Dayton has beaten the likes of Georgia, Virginia Tech and St. Mary’s. The team has cruised through conference play, going 14-0 with an average margin of victory of 14 points per game. The Fliers are led by Toppin, who is a candidate for National Player of the year. Toppin averages about 20 points and 8 rebounds a game, and throws down some insane dunks. He’s very fun to watch.
The San Diego State Aztecs have been led by junior guard Malachi Flynn and head coach Brian Dutcher, who is in his third year. This has been another team who has come out of nowhere, but they have continued to prove themselves all year. Some may say the Aztecs have not faced tough enough top-tier competition, but they have been at the top of the NCAA’s new Net rankings and beat Creighton and Iowa in non-conference play. It will be interesting to see how they perform under the pressure of March.
Another big storyline this season is the utter chaos in the Big Ten. Right now, 12 out of the 14 teams in the conference have a record of .500 or better and they all constantly beat up on one another. Of the 12 teams above .500, those teams are a combined 150-28 (.843 winning percentage). That is an unbelievable statistic, and shows how important home court advantage is in college basketball. Iowa, with star center Luke Garza averaging 24 points per game, and Maryland, with Jalen Smith averaging a double-double, are my two favorites in the Big Ten.
The ACC is another league that has been surprising this year. North Carolina is dead last in the league. They had potential player of the year guard Cole Anthony, but Anthony was injured for a good portion of the season. The last time they were below .500 was in 2001, and that’s where they are headed this year. They will most likely miss the tournament this season as well, which is a surprising turn for a team that is always one of the best in college basketball.
Duke has been good, but not the most dominant. They suffered a loss to non-conference opponent Stephen F. Austin and lost to ACC foes Clemson, Louisville and NC State. Louisville and Florida State are leading the conference, each having impressive seasons.
Lastly, it is exciting to report that the Colgate Raiders have been putting together another fantastic year in the Patriot League. They just wrapped up a regular season title for the second straight year and set a new school record for regular season wins.
Each of their five starters average more than 10 points per game, and point guard Jordan Burns and center Rapolas Ivanauskas have impressed again this season.
Head coach Matt Langel looks to lead his squad to another NCAA Tournament berth, and shock the nation like they almost did last year, if they can advance through the Patriot League playoffs unscathed.