1. UCLA 6-3 (AP Pre-season rank No.13)
Head Coach, Ben Howland, expected his highly rated recruiting class to take the college basketball world by storm. Three McDonald's All-Americans, Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Parker, and Kyle Anderson, highlighted the recruiting class. Surprisingly, none of them are the leading freshmen scorer. Freshmen guard, Jordan Adams, is actually leading the team in scoring with 17.8 points per game. But that isn't the main topic coming out of Westwood.
The Bruins have struggled with their pre-season expectations, developing chemistry, and keeping their players from transferring. In a one week span, UCLA had Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb transfer. Above all else, the Bruins suffered an embarrassing loss to Cal-Poly and were put away easily by San Diego State.
UCLA's season isn't over but they're obviously a product of the hype machine. Fans shouldn't expect anything more than a second round exit in the NCAA Tournament and Ben Howland should start checking Craigslist for a new position.
2. Kentucky 6-3 (AP Pre-Season rank No. 3)
The Wildcats lost their top six players from last year's National Championship team. Normally no one would expect the same program to be a top contender the following season but coach John Calipari has reloaded every season he's been in Lexington. However, this group of young-ins are not quite at the same level as an Anthony Davis or a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Kentucky was outclassed by a veteran Duke squad in November. That type of loss wouldn't be cause for concern but their others losses are a different story. Notre Dame absolutely dominated the Cats from start to finish. Kentucky even had their 55 game win streak at home snapped by Baylor, which caused them to drop out of the rankings. Its simply going to take time for this group to click.
The potential is there for a late run. But Kentucky has no reliable point guard this season. Ryan Harrow was supposed to fill that role and thus far, he has not. Kentucky fans should just chalk this up as a 'transition year' and expect nothing more than a Sweet 16.
3. Florida State 5-4 (AP Pre-Season rank No. 25)
The defending ACC Tournament champions entered the season with high expectations. Well, reality has punched them right in the kisser. The Seminoles suffered embarrassing losses by South Alabama and Mercer. Raise your hand if you had to research where Mercer is located. One unexpected loss can be a wake-up call for a team. But two? That is a nightmare! If those two losses didn't kill the confidence of this veteran squad, then in-state rival, Florida sure did. The Gators demolished the Noles by 25 points last week.
Florida State basketball has always had a Jekyll-and-Hyde type reputation. Typically, they can beat any team and they can lose to any team. Short of a conference tournament championship run, they're likely headed to the NIT.
4. Wisconsin 6-4 (AP Pre-Season rank No. 23)
Six wins and four losses is not a bad record...if you're in the NFC East. The Badgers have lost to every quality opponent they have played this season. Granted, Wisconsin's four losses were to some pretty solid competition (Florida, Marquette, Creighton, and Virginia). However, they haven't beaten any noteworthy teams. Their best win is against a mediocre Arkansas squad. Head coach, Bo Ryan, should be in panic mode. The Big Ten consists of some stiff competition this season so no win will come easy. Ryan should expect to be nervous on 'Selection Sunday' and hope Wisconsin's bubble doesn't burst.
5. St. Louis 5-3 (AP Pre-Season rank-Unranked)
St. Louis was a popular pick to do some damage this season due to their upperclassmen and reputation as a lock down defensive unit. That seems to be a distant memory as of now. The Billikens' best player, Kwamain Mitchell, has yet to play a game this season due to foot surgery, which obviously has hurt their current progress. Setbacks against Santa Clara and a bad Washington team certainly didn't help build their resume for the NCAA Tournament either. However, the Billikens record is probably the furthest thing from the players' minds after their head coach, Rick Majerus, died this month.
The St. Louis program shouldn't lose hope. They are still a legitimate contender to win the loaded Atlantic 10 Conference, but they will need at least one marquee out of conference victory. A win over Kansas last month could have filled that quota but it ended up being a missed opportunity. Their last chance for that signature win is against New Mexico on New Year's Eve. A solid conference showing and a win over New Mexico could turn the season around for The Gateway City.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter@JoshuaCaudill85 or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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