Kentucky is a near-unanimous No. 1 this week. Who is your No. 2 team in the country?
Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell): Syracuse, without a doubt. The Notre Dame fiasco is the Orange’s only blemish, and it came without Fab Melo. It’s a small caveat, but a caveat nonetheless. The Orange’s body of work to this point keeps them narrowly ahead of Ohio State, Missouri and Baylor.
Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid): I’d reward Missouri for its huge road win over Baylor with a No. 2 spot in the polls. But Frank Haith’s Tigers still trail teams like Syracuse (assuming Fab Melo returns at some point this season) and Ohio State as legitimate title contenders.
Fred Katz (@FredKatz): Missouri. The Tigers still only have one loss (at Kansas State) and are rolling after a one-point win at Baylor, one that might be the most impressive win by any team in the country, thus far.
Dave Ryan (@DRyanBball): Syracuse. This isn’t college football. A team that starts 20-0 doesn’t instantly become the fourth or fifth best team in the country after one loss. Missouri is right there too, but I’d vote ‘Cuse No. 2 this week.
Jacob Jaffe (@Jacob_Jaffe): Missouri. The Tigers earned the spot with one of the most impressive road wins of the season so far when they beat Baylor in Waco, and their overall resume is as strong as any team in the country.
On a scale of 1-100, with 100 being extremely significant, how impactful is Fab Melo’s suspension to Syracuse?
AA: 95. Melo is by far Syracuse’s best interior defender, and the anchor of Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. Among players with at least 50% of their team’s minutes, none has blocked a higher percentage of shots than Melo’s 15.4. He’s also the Orange’s best offensive rebounder.
FK: 75. This is a similar situation to what Syracuse had two years ago when it lost Arinze Onuaku. Syracuse struggled down the stretch, lost its first game of the Big East Tournament and lost in the Sweet 16. That zone needs a rim protector.
DR: 85. Potentially devastating loss here. Melo is a 1st Team All-Big East type-defender who is really starting to blossom. Without him in the rotation going forward, Syracuse’s title hopes should, sadly, diminish significantly.
JJ: If the suspension sticks at two games, I’ll give it a 15. The ‘Cuse should still be at or near the top of the Big East at season’s end and looking at a top-two seed. If he’s out longer, it’s a lot more troubling.
JP: 90. Without Melo, Syracuse might still be the best team in the Big East, but certainly not the country. Notre Dame dominated the glass by a 38-25 margin on Saturday. The Orange is thinnest inside, and Melo’s resurgent season is the biggest reason for the 20-0 start.
True or False: Missouri will last longer in the NCAA Tournament than any other Big 12 team.
FK: False. I like Baylor to do more damage come tournament time. If a team can shut down the pick-and-roll, it can beat Missouri. That completely takes away the impact of Ricardo Ratliffe. Meanwhile, if Perry Jones ever actually starts playing like he should, look out.
DR: True. They shoot free throws exceptionally well, have a bunch of guys who can get their own shot, and can get out and run with anybody in the nation. The lack of size might prevent them from winning a title, but I think this is a Final Four team.
JJ: False. Despite how well they’ve done so far, the Tigers don’t have the depth inside and could be vulnerable to an early upset if Ricardo Ratliffe gets in foul trouble. I’ll still take Kansas or Baylor.
JP: False. Frank Haith will find a way to screw it up. That was a hell of a win Saturday, though.
AA: False. Match-ups always play a huge role in March. With the right draw, Missouri could definitely shoot itself all the way to New Orleans. But the odds are that one of the more well-rounded Big 12 teams—Kansas or Baylor—will make the deepest run.
The Dayton Flyers are leading the A-10 at 5-1. Is this team for real?
DR: I’m not sold yet. They still gives up way too many points on the back end, and rely too heavily on the long-range accuracy of a bunch of sub-40% shooters from the perimeter. They also have played just FOUR true road games all year, and are 1-3. Not sold.
JJ: When you have more losses to bad MAC teams (two) than true road wins (one), you can’t be deemed “for real.” Sure, the Flyers have had some nice wins, but get back to me after their five A-10 road games in the next month.
JP: Yes, absolutely. The adjustment phase is over under new coach Archie Miller, and the Flyers have faced one of the tougher schedules in the country, which will have them ready for a strong run in March. They are deep, too, with eight guys playing at least 17 minutes per game.
AA: I think Archie Miller’s Flyers are for real. Dayton’s toughest conference stretch is already completed (they’ve already played four Pomeroy top-50 teams in the Atlantic 10; only two more remain), and they are now a legitimate threat to win the regular season crown.
FK: Absolutely. The Flyers are capable of beating any team in the Atlantic-10 and have showed that so far. Dayton already has home wins over St. Louis and Xavier and a road win over Temple.
Same question as earlier in the year: What percent chance do you give Murray State of finishing the regular season undefeated?
JJ: 40%. I know, I know. The OVC sucks. But don’t forget, the Racers still have a BracketBusters game coming up, and rumors are it could be against Long Beach State. Even at home, Murray would be in trouble against a veteran, tested 49ers squad.
JP: 70 percent. The Racers will face scrutiny over the final eight games that is simply impossible to truly prepare for. There will be adversity…but their remaining schedule is just laughable. Even a sluggish performance will probably be enough to beat every team they have left to play.
AA: Pomeroy gives the Racers a 45% of running the table in the OVC. Including the (still unannounced) Bracket Buster match-up, and assuming Murray State hosts a marquee name like St. Mary’s, Wichita State, or Long Beach, let’s call it a 22% chance to finish undefeated.
FK: 70 percent. Kenpom.com currently gives the Racers a 45.5 percent chance of winning out, but it also doesn’t have a team that Murray State plays ranked better than No. 179 in the country. Could you see a Top 25 team losing any of those games?
DR: 50 percent. Nobody in the OVC is going to mess with Steve Prohm’s team at this point. This undefeated season basically boils down to the Bracket Buster game. A draw like St. Mary’s would be both devastating and eerily predictable. I’ll go 50/50.