At least for one weekend, perhaps it was a good thing for the men’s basketball team to not be ranked in the Top 25.
More than half of the teams in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 lost this weekend (Friday – Sunday), including Florida State’s colossal upset of top-ranked Duke on Sunday. The Bulls managed to escape the weekend unscathed, defeating TCU 117-108 at the Sun Dome Saturday, but others were not so lucky.
Three of the Top 5 teams lost. Six of the Top 10 teams stumbled. Thirteen of the Top 25 teams were defeated. After the fallout from the weekend settled, there was not a single undefeated team in Division I basketball.
Was it a coincidence all these Top 25 teams lost in the same weekend, or is the gap closing between the upper echelon in college hoops and the second-tier teams? According to coach Seth Greenberg, who has coached at the D-I level for 11 years, he has never seen this much parity.
“And I think that’s because of a mixture of things,” he said. “You’ve got kids leaving (college) early. There has been a legitimate drop off in the number of power post players. Guys (with NBA potential) aren’t staying long, so you can’t stockpile players.”
The rash of Top 25 teams that lost this weekend, according to Greenberg, could also be a sign the second tier, or mid-major teams, are getting tougher, forcing college basketball’s upper crust to bring their A game every night.
“I think it’s a reflection of college basketball today,” Greenberg said. “There is a lot of emotion and so many games, it’s sometimes easy to overlook teams. And I don’t want to take anything away from their victories in any way, but some of these (top-ranked) teams know which games are significant. There are just a lot of good teams out there.”
A few of the upsets from the weekend also could end up working in the Bulls’ favor when NCAA Tournament selection time comes around in March. Two teams USF defeated – Pittsburgh and California – beat No. 12 Boston College and No. 13 Stanford, respectively.
And despite the Bulls suffering a 78-74 setback to Florida State Jan. 2, the Seminoles’ win against Duke could prove pivotal. All three will make the Bulls’ strength of schedule look more impressive, bolstering their RPI rating.
“I’m not really sure how (the games this weekend) will end up affecting us,” Greenberg said. “I was never good at that (RPI) stuff.”And although other teams play a role in the Bulls’ RPI rating, the most solid way to ensure that number rises is to win basketball games. The Bulls (10-3, 0-1 in Conference USA) get their next chance to do just that tonight when they host C-USA foe Southern Miss (5-6, 0-1) at 7:30 in the Sun Dome.
According to Greenberg, Bulls fans can expect to see a much different pace than the one witnessed Saturday when USF and TCU combined for 225 points.
“We’ll be lucky to score 60 points between us,” Greenberg said sarcastically.
The Bulls don’t figure to approach the 89 shots they hoisted up against TCU, but they can expect to play quite a bit more defense.”We didn’t have to defend for more than 15 seconds (against TCU),” Greenberg said. “But we’ll have to defend probably 30 seconds against Southern Miss.”
Greenberg said the Southern Miss game will be a physical contest that will be a far cry from the playground atmosphere of the TCU game.
“It will be a game of toughness,” he said. “We’re going to have to work to get open, and our defense will have to be stingier.”