Christmas break approaches in college basketball. While we will get a few good matchups between now and the middle of next week (I count roughly ten that could pass as NCAA Tournament matchups), we are largely at the end of the non-conference schedules for most teams. Here’s a look at the teams that have disappointed relative to expectations in November and so far in December.
#10 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Current Ranking: NR (43rd in Ken Pom, 46th in RPI)
Minnesota was expected to be a top 20 team when the season started, coming off last year’s #5 seed. They got off to a good start with a road win at Providence (more on that below), but since Thanksgiving it’s been largely disappointing from the Gophers. Even in a victory over Alabama, they took a beating because they could not put away a team playing with three players on the court.
The Gophers can dominate in the paint physically with Jordan Murphy, Reggie Lynch, and Amir Coffey, but that effort against Alabama showed that they struggle to shoot outside even when teams dare them to do so. They are near the bottom of Division I in 3-point shots taken and made, and over the last month have lost at home to Miami, at Nebraska, and got dominated by Arkansas.
#9 Providence Friars
Preseason: NR (30th in votes)
Current Ranking: NR (61st in Ken Pom, 57th in RPI)
Providence came in with expectations of again being a tournament team, and were close to being ranked, coming off last year. They are off to an 8-4 start where the best win is at home against Boston College, and includes losses to UMass, against rival Rhode Island, against Houston, and at home to Minnesota. They have no signature wins entering conference play, and look like several teams have passed them by. They need to have a winning record in the Big East to get back in tournament contention, and that’s no given.
#8 UCLA Bruins
Current Ranking: NR (55th in Ken Pom, 92nd in RPI)
UCLA’s season got off to a rough start in China with the suspension of three players for shoplifting (perhaps you’ve heard of it?). Yes, they beat Georgia Tech in that opener but the depth has been an issue. There was always going to be a fall back in 2017-2018 after losing Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, but the brand name had them ranked preseason, UCLA is 8-3 and hasn’t played that tough a schedule, losing to all three likely tournament teams they have played. They get one more non-conference chance on Saturday against Kentucky.
#7 Vanderbilt Commodores
Current Ranking: NR (76th in Ken Pom, 160th in RPI)
Vanderbilt wasn’t ranked preseason, but their start has been so dreadful that they still make the list. They are 4-7 and the “best win” is by 3 points over UNC-Asheville at home. They are 0-5 against major conference opponents and also lost to in-state mid-majors Belmont and Middle Tennessee.
You know it is killing Bryce Drew that his team is shooting a dreadful 29.8% from 3 for the year.
Current Ranking: #18 (14th in Ken Pom, 25th in RPI)
Arizona had one bad week in the Bahamas, going 0-3 against top competition. They’ve righted things since then and defeated both Texas A&M and Alabama, and should be fine. But they were talked about in many circles as the best team in the country in November.