Ranking college basketball's five most disappointing teams this season: Blue bloods UNC, UCLA struggling
Some of college basketball's most respected programs have stumbled out of the gate this season
North Carolina coach Roy Williams has seen and done a lot as a college coach. He's won three NCAA championships, been to nine (!) Final Fours (and won as many ACC regular season titles), coached one-and-dones, four-year players. You name it, he's probably done it or seen it done firsthand. But what he's not done often in his career is miss the NCAA Tournament -- which his Tar Heels appear destined to do this season after losing at home to Georgia Tech over the weekend, their fifth loss in seven games.
"Most disappointed, most upset I've ever been in my life at coaching a basketball game. Not even close," Williams said after UNC fell to 8-6 and further from the tournament picture. "It's the most negative I've ever felt about myself, and most negative I've ever felt about any team."
Williams has missed the Big Dance once in his entire coaching career, and unless star guard Cole Anthony returns soon, 2020 is tracking to be No. 2. For a UNC team that was expected to compete as a top-three team in the ACC, it's a stunning nosedive into mediocrity, easily the biggest surprise disappointment in the sport this season. The Heels top the list of five teams that fit that category thus far 10 weeks into the season. As for the others ...
There's no way to sugar coat this, so here goes: UNC stinks right now. And with a loss over the weekend that sent its record to a lowly 8-6, Williams, a Hall of Fame coach who is as brilliant as any in the game, has his back against the wall with no answers. He was down about his coaching, his team and what lies ahead. Rightfully so. Unless Cole Anthony returns -- which is no guarantee at this point given where he'll likely be drafted -- this team's talent level just isn't good enough to be an NCAA Tournament team. Getting to the NIT might be considered an accomplishment with this roster. This team is just not clicking.
Two of Florida's four losses are to Florida State and Butler -- teams that have been pleasantly surprising as success stories this season -- but it remains a mystery why this team hasn't been better than it currently is. The Gators are 9-4 and I think they'll be a tourney team, but landing Kerry Blackshear this offseason was the piece I thought would put this team into SEC contention. It just hasn't panned out this season with five-star freshman Scottie Lewis struggling and sophomores Noah Locke and Andrew Nembhard not making the leap many projected they would.
Tennessee's arrow has been pointing down for several weeks now with four losses in its last five games, and it doesn't appear things will be brightening anytime soon with three of its next four games on the road. The arrival of Santiago Vescovi as a mid-year enrollee has injected some optimism into the program, but losing Lamonte Turner to a season-ending shoulder injury is likely going to keep this team on the slide after a 5-0 start. The Vols are 8-5 entering Tuesday's game against Mizzou.
Mark me down as a Mick Cronin believer. What he did at Cincinnati, consistently doing more with less, is a testament to his coaching acumen. I think he'll get things turned around in L.A. All that said, this season has been nothing short of atrocious for the Bruins. They're 8-7 with losses to Hofstra, Cal State Fullerton, Washington State, and yes, even lowly North Carolina. It's been bad. It will continue to be bad. We all knew Cronin needed some time to turn things around, but it may take more than a good recruiting class and some tough coaching to get this ship turned around.
The preseason No. 1 team in college basketball, Michigan State opened its season 5-3. But in a rare midseason twist, the Spartans, like Sam Ehlinger after winning the 2019 Sugar Bowl, have announced to the world that they're baaaaaaack. They've won seven straight to get to 12-3 (4-0 Big Ten) and are only on this list based on early-season underperformance. After a few months, the kinks have worked out, Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman look as dynamic as ever, and Sparty has the best team in the B1G. Surprise, surprise.
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