NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Baylor

Performance in nonconference play for college basketball teams can be predictive of future success or entirely non-prescriptive depending upon how tough the schedule was, the momentum and direction of a team and plenty of other factors. Some start hot then stumble into league play, while some go full Kentucky and stumble through both. (You do not want to go full Kentucky right now.)

So which teams meet that criteria this season? 

Earlier this week, I tackled seven teams set to storm into the heart of league play after sluggish starts; today I'm back with seven more set to go in the opposite direction by hitting some struggles after finding early success. These teams range from top-three teams to unranked teams. The list is not formulated as a wishcast on any team's downfall, but rather a clear-eyed look at where teams are at while acknowledging that what lies ahead may not be as sunshine-and-rainbows riddled as things have been.

Hot teams most likely to cool off

Current record: 15-1 | Projected regular-season record: 25-6

Let's get bold, shall we? Purdue sat at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll for several weeks and still is a top-three team in the rankings with a 15-1 record behind Zach Edey, who should be the clear frontrunner in every player of the year ballot right now. But as a longtime Purdue and Painter believer, I think the pendulum has swung too far into hyperbolic territory about this team's prospects, so I'm here to gently inject some caution. This is a really good, smart team with tons of balance, but in totality it is closer to being the No. 15 or so best team in the sport than the No. 1. The next few games look like they may be cake walks, but landmines abound in the vaunted Big Ten and a couple losses seem likely.


Current record: 15-1 | Projected regular-season record: 21-10

One could argue that Kansas State is one of the best and most impressive turnaround stories in college basketball this season. Heck, I would even argue as much. It's true! Jerome Tang has done a bang-up job of taking K-State from irrelevance to highly relevant in a short time. But the Big 12 is a gauntlet, and the 15-1 start -- with three wins in OT and several other close contests that fell the Wildcats' way -- is something of a mirage. I think this is a tourney team but not the Big 12 contender many may think it is. Some regression back closer to the mean in close games seems imminent.


Current record: 13-3 | Projected regular-season record: 20-11

I hesitate in giving Bruce Pearl bulletin board material in the event he uses this to, I don't know, make T-shirts out of it to motivate his team into making a Final Four run. So, if that happens, I will take full credit and a hearty welcome from all Auburn fans. But ... it seems unlikely. At 13-3, three of its wins were by five or fewer points, and the sustainability of this strong start seems shaky at best. There's a pretty slim margin for error in the SEC, and so far it has not shown itself to be quite as good as the record indicates. Please don't print this onto a shirt, Bruce. 


Current record: 13-2 | Projected regular-season record: 19-12

TCU is an easy target for two reasons here: 1) It just lost to Iowa State at home and 2) It has Texas, Kansas State and Kansas all on deck the next few weeks. But the underlying metrics seem to back up some healthy skepticism about this team, too. It ranks 32nd at KenPom and 41st at Bart Torvik, well below its No. 17 AP ranking. It played a relatively soft nonconference schedule that may be propping it up a bit higher than it deserves at the moment.


Current record: 12-3 | Projected regular-season record: 19-12

Mississippi State was one of the last undefeated teams in college hoops, and now it has stumbled in three of its last four outings. Two of those were against top-10 teams in Tennessee and Alabama, so maybe it's not totally predictive, but the Bulldogs aren't nearly as good as their early-season successes would indicate. Just-OK guard play and well-below-average 3-point shooting is going to hurt them in SEC play and bring them back crashing to earth soon.


Current record: 13-2 | Projected regular-season record: 21-10

What Dennis Gates has done in a short span at Missouri should be celebrated, especially for a program that was starving to find any semblance of success. So, I don't want to rain on any Mizzou parades. That said, this is a team that's susceptible given its lack of frontcourt size to playing from a deficit on a near-nightly basis on the boards. The offense is stellar and may keep them in a ton of games, but in the SEC, I think teams are going to target Mizzou in the paint.


Current record: 13-3 | Projected regular-season record: 20-11

No. 7 on the list but arguably the easiest call to make for inclusion. Clemson played a terrible nonconference schedule and still stumbled to an 8-3 record before turning around and playing four very winnable ACC games to open league play, all of which they won. (The last two of which came by a combined four points.) With Louisville on deck, that could be 5-0 to open ACC soon. But the meat of ACC play, similar to last year, is unlikely to be kind to the Tigers.