Four Corners: Which men's college basketball teams are surprising, disappointing?

February 17, 2010

Orange, light blue
David Teel

Newport News Daily Press

Leave it to us media wizards to turn a Big East team with a Hall of Fame, national-championship coach into a surprise. That's precisely what we did with Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orange. Starting the season unranked in the Associated Press poll, Syracuse, led by Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson, vaulted into the top 10 with early conquests of California and North Carolina. There the Orange have remained.

Honorable mention to Kansas State, also ignored in preseason and now ranked seventh.

The most disappointing team clearly is reigning national champion North Carolina, which is unlikely to make the NCAA tournament . Following closely are Michigan and Oklahoma - both will be fortunate to finish above .500 .

dteel@tribune.com

Look to the Big 12
Desmond Conner

Hartford Courant

Can there be a more disappointing team than the Texas Longhorns? Every year, it seems, Texas (20-5) begins the season as a team to fear, starts living up to expectations and then begins to disappoint. This season began no different. Will it finish in disappointment?

The Longhorns opened with 17 straight wins but had a devil of a time with No. 17, their first game as the No. 1 team in the nation, an overtime win against Texas A&M on Jan. 16. They're ranked 15th today.

Let's stay in the Big 12 for one of the most surprising teams, the seventh-ranked Wildcats of Kansas State (20-4). Coach Frank Martin had them going in the win over Texas, and the Wildcats looked really, really good in the OT loss to No. 1 Kansas (81-79) on Jan. 30. Could the Cats prance at the Dance longer than the Longhorns?

dconner@tribune.com

Syracuse tops list
Andrew Carter

Orlando Sentinel

Syracuse was unranked in the preseason, but the Orange have surprisingly been among the best teams in the nation. Few would have expected this team to be the best in the Big East, but there Syracuse is - tied with Villanova at the top at 11-2. The Orange's defense has been terrific, and it hasn't allowed a team more than 71 points since a Jan. 2 loss to Pittsburgh.

On the disappointing end, that one is easy. North Carolina was a consensus top-10 team in the preseason - a team many thought would contend for the ACC title. Yes, the Tar Heels lost a ton from last season, but the roster is still stacked with high school All-Americans. Roy Williams has admitted that he has failed this team in some way, and that's clear. The Heels have been awful, and it doesn't help that they've been hurt too.

acarter@tribune.com

Tar Heels fall flat
Shannon Ryan

Chicago Tribune

When North Carolina signed an all-star recruiting class a few years ago, many thought it reasonable that these blue-chippers could bring another banner to Chapel Hill.

When Syracuse lost Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris to the NBA draft, basketball brainiacs thought the Orange was doomed to be blue for a time while coach Jim Boeheim launched a rebuilding phase.

Well, they were wrong. I was among them.

The Tar Heels, who started the season No. 6, are just 3-7 in the ACC. The defending champions have little hope they'll make the NCAA tournament.

Syracuse was the punch line of the preseason with an exhibition loss to Division II LeMoyne. With player of the year candidate Wesley Johnson, a transfer from Iowa State, the No. 5 Orange might be laughing all the way to Big East and national titles.

sryan@tribune.com

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