By Arnie Leshin
Where have all the mighty gone? To be honest, no where, they’re just missing from the current national college Division I rankings compiled by the Associated Press.
Yup, check the men’s top 25 and no where will you find the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana and Kansas State. On the other hand, only two have sub par .500 records, Kentucky 7-13 and Kansas State 5-18. Duke is just above it at 9-8, Louisville is up and over at 11-4, North Carolina at 13-7, and Indiana at 12-9. And usual power Kansas is there, but hanging low at No. 23 with a 16-7 record. And Duke has a chance to sneak in if it gets past No. 7 Virginia (15-4) in Atlantic Coast Conference play on the road tonight.
And why aren’t at least the Cardinals, Tar Heels and Hoosiers on the list? Well, according to the voters, there’s no actual open spots after the usual 25, and it wouldn’t be fair to suddenly add 26 and so on.
The biggest fall belongs to John Calipari’s Kentucky bunch, the usually mixture of freshmen who hang around for one year and then head for the National Basketball Association college draft. That’s been Calipari’s main recruiting push, big bucks over the classrooms, and in fact, his program is one of those that allows yearlings to sweep up the gymnasiums, the stadiums, report for practice, hang around the lunch room and the recreation rooms.
And if it’s A-OK with the NCAA, that’s fine with those schools.
As for women’s hoops, only Oregon State (6-6) is not in its usual spot on the top 25. State and Pacific 12 Conference rival Oregon (12-5) is usually higher then its present No. 13 position, with the only other surprise finding the Big Ten Indiana women at 13-4and ranked 14th while its men are in disbelief to find its women with these present bragging rights.
Seven schools are on both charts, among the women, No. 7 Baylor (16-2), No. 11 Michigan (12-1), No. 15 Ohio State (12-3), No. 16 Gonzaga (18-2), No. 18 Arkansas (15-7), No. 19 West Virginia (16-3), and No. 20 Tennessee (12-5).
On the men’s side, it’s No. 1 Gonzaga (21-0), No. 2 Baylor (17-0), No. 3 Michigan (14-1), No. 4 Ohio State (17-4), No. 13 West Virginia (14-6), No. 19 Tennessee (15-5), and No. 24 Arkansas (17-5).
To add them up via wins and losses, Gonzaga is on top of the heap at 38-2, Baylor stands at 33-2, Michigan at 26-2, West Virginia at 30-9, Ohio State at 29-7, Tennessee at 27-10, and Arkansas at 32-12.,
On today’s schedule, joining Duke at Virginia are No. 9 Oklahoma (13-5) at No. 12 Texas (13-5) in the Big 12, and No. 21 Wisconsin (15-7) at No. 11 Iowa (15-5) in the Big 10. Saturday, the ACC has No. 18 Virginia Tech (14-4) at No. 16 Florida State (12-3), and West Virginia at Texas in the Big 12. Also on Thursday, national football champion No. 8 Alabama (17-5) looks for basketball glory as it plays at unranked Texas A & M in the Southeastern Conference.
The ladies have key Thursday games when 2nd-ranked South Carolina (17-2) heads for Tennessee in SEC action, and Michigan hits the road for Indiana in a Big Ten match-up. Friday, No. 8 UCLA (12-3) travels to No. 13 Oregon (12-5) in a Pac-12 tussle.
Speaking of the Pac-12, each time you hear UCLA Hall of Famer Bill Walton brag about that being the “Conference of Champions,” it sounds entertaining, but currently there’s not a Pac-12 school among the seven men and women teams in the top 25 among the men, and only No. 17 Southern California (18-3) is on the list.
Among the women, No. 6 Stanford (19-2), No. 8 UCLA (12-3), No. 10 Arizona (14-2), and No. 13 Oregon (12-5) are among the top 25. Walton might be confused, for when you are telecasting hoops, why mix in the other sports?
The Southeastern Conference totals seven teams among the women, the four for the Pac-12, three for the Big Ten, two each from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East and the Big 12. The, men presently have seven from the Big 12, five from the Big 10, three from the SEC, two from the Big East, and one from the Pac-12.
The only women’s teams on the charts not from a Power 5 conference are No. 16 Gonzaga (18-2), No. 23 South Dakota (17-2), and No. 25 Missouri State (13-2). Among the men it’s Gonzaga, No. 6 Houston (17-2), No. 22 Loyola of Chicago (19-4), and No. 25 San Diego State (15-4).
In its familiar place on top of the women’s heap is Connecticut at 17-1, and it figures to go into the NCAA tournament as the top seed and in quest of its 12th national title under head coach Geno (the genus) Auriemma. The only two unbeaten Division I teams in the land are the No. 1 and No. 2 men, Gonzaga (20-0) and Baylor (17-0).