NCAAB
February 15, 2021
BY Bryan Zarpentine

The 10 Most Disappointing Teams in College Basketball, Ranked

It’s not a stretch to say that this college basketball season has been a challenge for every team.

Between COVID-related protocols, occasional shutdowns, and players not being able to practice as usual or go through their normal routines, it’s easy to see how so many teams have lacked consistency, even more than most seasons. However, we can’t help but be surprised at the number of teams that had big expectations before the season, only to fall flat on their face.

This has been particularly true of a few blue-blood programs that rarely have a down season. While we don’t enjoy piling on to the problems that these programs have had, we couldn’t help resist pointing out and raking the 10 most disappointing teams in college basketball this season.

10. Washington Huskies

In fairness, we expected Washington to struggle this season. The Huskies lost their top three scorers from last season, including Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, who were both first-round NBA draft picks. But we didn’t think Washington would struggle this much.

It’s not like the cupboard is completely empty with former five-star prospect and Kentucky transfer Quade Green leading the way. It’s one thing for the Huskies to be at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings; that wasn’t unexpected in what’s clearly a rebuilding year. But non-conference losses to UC Riverside and Montana were beyond embarrassing.

At the moment, Washington has just three wins on the season, and eclipsing five wins seems like a pipe dream at this point.

9. Providence Friars

For the record, Ed Cooley looks great after all of the weight he lost during the quarantine. But the same can’t be said for the way his team has played this season.

The Friars were picked to finish third in the Big East, which should have translated to Providence being a single-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament. Two separate three-game losing streaks during conference play have dropped Providence to the bottom half of the Big East standings, making them the biggest disappointment in one of the country’s most unforgiving conferences.

8. Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes were picked to finish seventh in the preseason ACC poll. In that conference, seventh place means you should make the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Miami will be lucky to finish ahead of any team in the ACC not named Boston College.

For what it’s worth, the Hurricanes have some good excuses for such a poor season. Senior point guard Chris Lykes has played just two games due to an injury while injuries and illness have sidelined several other Miami players at various points of the season.

The Hurricanes also have wins over Louisville and Duke this season. But that’s not enough to cancel out the disappointment of likely finishing in the basement of the ACC in a season that should have ended in the NCAA Tournament.

7. Kansas Jayhawks

This season began as normal for the Jayhawks, who rattled off eight straight wins after losing to Gonzaga in the season-opener. But the season took a dramatic downward turn after that.

Kansas has endured a rare three-game losing streak and fallen into the middle of the pack in the Big 12. The Jayhawks still have a chance to turn things around and will still make the NCAA Tournament barring a complete collapse down the stretch. But based on the program’s high expectations year after year, this season has to be labeled a disappointment for Bill Self’s team unless the Jayhawks can suddenly rally and make a deep run. But there’s little evidence to suggest that Kansas is capable of doing that.

6. Northern Iowa Panthers

The Panthers were overwhelming favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference this season. But things fell apart after last year’s leading scorer A.J. Green suffered a season-ending injury three games into the season. Green’s injury provides some excuse for why the Panthers have struggled this season. However, it doesn't explain why Northern Iowa has gone 4-9 in conference play with less than a month left in the season.

While the Missouri Valley is a deep league that will likely put multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers should at least be middle of the pack and positioning themselves for a potential run in the conference tournament. Instead, they’re just trying to avoid finishing last in the regular-season standings.

5. Michigan State Spartans

Life hasn’t been easy for any team in the Big Ten this season, but Tom Izzo’s team has struggled more than most.

Keep in mind that Michigan State was picked to finish fourth in the Big Ten and then started the season 6-0, including wins over Notre Dame and Duke. But the wheels have fallen off since then, with the Spartans going 4-7 in conference play, including both a three-game losing streak and a four-game losing streak. In fairness, there’s still time for the Spartans to collect some quality wins and put themselves in the NCAA Tournament conversation. However, the Big Ten is likely to get nine or 10 teams in the Big Dance, and it’ll be a huge disappointment if Michigan State isn’t one of them.

4. Cincinnati Bearcats

After the old Big East disbanded, we assumed that Cincinnati would be a perennial powerhouse in the AAC, no questions asked. However, we have a lot of questions about what’s happened to the Bearcats this season. They won the regular-season conference title in 2020 and returned enough key players to be picked fourth in the AAC preseason. But this team started the season 3-7 before a string of postponements interrupted their season.

There’s still some hope for Cincy behind a great backcourt led by Keith Williams. But the 5-7 Bearcats aren’t even on the bubble, so they need to run the table late in the season. Unless that happens, Cincinnati will have the most disappointing season the program has experienced in decades.

3. Arizona State Sun Devils

Admittedly, the Sun Devils haven’t always been at full strength during the season for COVID-related reasons. But Arizona State is one of the most talented teams in the Pac-12 and was picked to finish a close second behind UCLA in the preseason polls. Even if they’ve missed a few players here and there, that’s not an excuse for losing to UTEP by 13 points, barely beating Grand Canyon, or losing five straight conference games.

Unless they can win the Pac-12 Tournament, the Sun Devils aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament despite having NBA-caliber talent on the roster. While that’s not that far-fetched, Arizona State’s season has been a huge disappointment up to this point.

2. Duke Blue Devils

Duke having a losing record in mid-February might actually be a sign of the apocalypse.

Despite the usual roster turnover, most expected the Blue Devils to have enough talent to compete for the ACC title the way they do every other year. But Coach K hasn’t been able to figure things out, which is perhaps why he was campaigning for the season to be shut down.

At the moment, the Blue Devils aren’t even on the bubble, which is shocking to hear but 100% true. In theory, Duke has enough talent with Jalen Johnson and Matthew Hurt to rally and make some noise in March. But the Blue Devils don’t play defense and have just one win that’s anything close to being a quality win, so they have their work cut out for them in what could go down as the most disappointing season in program history.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

In their wildest fantasies, fans who despise John Calipari and Kentucky never could have imagined the Wildcats having such a terrible season. If it matters, the SEC is better than we expected it to be. But that doesn’t absolve Kentucky of a six-game losing streak during the non-conference season or seven losses in their last eight games.

While many of their losses have been close, Kentucky has already clinched a losing season unless they can win the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats don’t have strong point guard play, they can’t shoot, and even their defense has been an issue at times. Calipari’s team is a non-factor in the NCAA Tournament discussion, making Kentucky undoubtedly the biggest disappointment in college basketball this season.

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