Missed the first half of the season? Boardroom catches you up on the players, teams, and storylines to know in men’s and women’s college basketball.
In the time it took you to click on this story, TCU punted again and Georgia scored another touchdown.
If you’ve been sidetracked by Saturday afternoon tailgates and midweek MACtion to this point, don’t worry. You’ve missed a lot since the Champions Classic in November but never fear. From the Big East to the Big 12, and Zach Edey to Zia Cooke, Boardroom is here to catch you up.
The Men’s Top 25 Looks Nothing Like It’s Supposed To
If you only saw the preseason AP Poll and then tuned out until right this minute, you’d be forgiven for being positively baffled. Houston and Kansas (preseason Nos. 3 and 5) being in the top two spots is nothing outlandish, but after that, it gets crazy. Purdue started the season unranked but was actually No. 1 until this week thanks to a dominant run at the PK85 tournament and a 13-0 start. Alabama, which started at No. 20, is now ranked fourth, with UConn (unranked to start the season) at No. 6.
And those teams we thought would be awesome? Well, preseason No. 1 North Carolina lost four straight at the end of November and is now unranked. Things have gotten so bad for preseason No. 4 Kentucky that people are starting to wonder if John Calipari‘s time with the Wildcats is nearing an end. Creighton, thanks partly to an illness from star Ryan Kalkbrenner, went from top 10 to losers of six in a row before getting their big guy back and starting to right the ship. Duke and Baylor were also top 10 teams in November. Today, Duke is No. 24 and Baylor is unranked and 0-3 in the Big 12.
New Blood in Women’s Basketball
As expected, South Carolina and Stanford appear to be the two best teams. They’re a combined 32-1, and that one loss came for the Cardinal at the hands of…the Gamecocks. But take a look at the top 25 and you’ll see some unfamiliar names — or some kind of familiar names in unfamiliar spots.
Ohio State, which has not been to the Elite Eight since 1993, is 17-0 and in the driver’s seat for a 1 seed. Made even more impressive is how flat-out awesome the Big Ten has been. The Buckeyes are one of three Big Ten schools in the AP Poll top 10 (Indiana and Maryland are the other two), with Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois all in the rankings as well.
Yes, Illinois. The Illini went 7-20 last year, 1-13 in the Big Ten, and are somehow 14-3 this year, complete with a win over Iowa and a down-to-the-wire loss against the Buckeyes.
It’s not just the Big Ten that’s brought surprises. Out west, Utah is 14-1 and suddenly ranked in the top 10. And on the outskirts of the Top 25, you have two traditional men’s powerhouses proving the women can compete as well, with Kansas and Villanova.
Tournament Expansion: Possible, Not Likely
NCAA Tournament expansion is going to be a topic of discussion every year until it actually happens. Then, two or three years later, it’ll come right back. It’s the nature of the March Madness beast.
Last week, the NCAA Division I Transformation Committee released its recommendations to the Board of Governors, and it included expanding NCAA championships for sports with 200 or more teams to 25% of eligible schools. In basketball, that would mean a 90-team NCAA Tournament.
Before you throw your computer/phone/tablet in frustration, don’t. There seems to be little interest from the men’s or women’s basketball committees to expand to 90, and you shouldn’t expect any expansion at all until the men’s contract with Turner is up in 2032. After that, could you see an expansion to 72 or 76 teams? Maybe. And if you don’t like it, just remember you’re complaining about more March Madness. Not a bad problem to have.
The Wildest Men’s Coaching Carousel Ever?
Let’s get this part out of the way: One of the most prominent jobs in the game opened under one of the worst circumstances you could imagine when Texas fired head coach Chris Beard following a domestic violence arrest. That will forever be the most important and serious part of the story. But the reality is that Texas is going to need to hire someone and the list of names is intriguing, led by the Hall of Famer Calipari. If the Longhorns don’t go that route, they could take a swing at Kelvin Sampson (Houston), Jerome Tang (Kansas State), Eric Musselman (Arkansas), or Chris Holtmann (Ohio State).
The chain reaction that would set off is only the beginning. Plenty of other questions abound, including: Will Georgetown finally say it’s had enough of Patrick Ewing? Will Jim Boeheim call it a career at Syracuse? Will Kenny Payne even get a second year at Louisville? Those are all elite jobs and they all have a non-zero chance of opening (along with Kentucky, maybe the best in the nation). Buckle up.
Player of the Year Watch
Men’s Basketball Favorite: Zach Edey, Purdue
The best player on one of the best teams, Edey is running away with the player of the year race in men’s basketball. Through 15 games, the 7-foot-4 behemoth is averaging 21.9 points and 13.2 rebounds per game while shooting 63% from the field. The Purdue conversation begins and ends with the big man, who has compiled an ORtg over 100 in every game he’s played this year and is far outpacing everyone else in the country on the KenPom Player of the Year list.
Other candidates: Jalen Wilson (Kansas), Marcus Sasser (Houston), Drew Timme (Gonzaga)
Women’s Basketball Favorite: Aliyah Boston (South Carolina)
You can make a great case for a handful of players, but for now, it’s still Boston. Her per-game numbers are down this year, but it’s because she is commanding so much attention from opposing defenses that it’s making everyone on her team better. Combined with Zia Cooke, South Carolina undoubtedly has the best 1-2 punch in the game. The best player on the best team will always be in the running for player of the year and Boston checks all the boxes.
Other candidates: Cameron Brink (Stanford), Caitlin Clark (Iowa), Angel Reese (LSU)
Considering how turbulent the first couple of months have been, it’s no surprise that the betting market has changed substantially. Here are the favorites to win the men’s and women’s national championships, with their odds today compared to their odds in the preseason, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
Men’s Basketball Odds
Houston: +600 (was +850)
Kansas: +750 (was +1500)
Purdue: +1200 (was +4500)
Arizona: +1300 (was +2000)
UConn: +1400 (was +8000)
Tennessee: +1400 (was +2500)
UCLA: +1400 (was +2000)
Women’s Basketball Odds
South Carolina: +125 (was +135)
Stanford: +270 (was +450)
UConn: +700 (was +1000)
LSU: +1200 (was +5000)
Ohio State: +1800 (was +5000)
Indiana: +2000 (was +4000)
Notre Dame: +2000 (was +2500)
Iowa State: +2500 (was +3000)
Utah: +3500 (was +20000)
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