As nonconference games finish out their final spots on the calendar, it's time for midterm evaluations heading into league play.
The Big Ten as a conference was a big winner during the 2013 portion of the schedule. It could once again produce the most competitive race for a league title, with Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa headlining arguably the nation's deepest conference. What we learned from nonconference play is that some schools were a surprise and now find themselves among the favorites favorites (Villanova); others are surprised they need conference play to make an impression (Virginia); while others have performed as expected (Arizona). Here's a look at what teams are ahead of the curve and what teams are in need of one:
ACC Head of the class:
Syracuse's C.J. Fair
and Tyler Ennis
lead the New York invasion of Tobacco Road. Duke may lack size in the frontcourt, but it's way more than just Jabari Parker
. North Carolina has proved it can beat anybody, with three wins over teams ranked in the top 20. Honor roll potential:
They still play defense in Tallahassee -- Florida State is second in field goal percentage defense (37.3) in the ACC -- making the Seminoles a dreaded date on every team's calendar. Pittsburgh is still somewhat mysterious due to its soft nonconference schedule, but coach Jamie Dixon's track record gets the benefit of the doubt here. Headed for detention:
Virginia and Notre Dame both were ranked in the preseason Top 25 polls and both took quick and precipitous falls. The Cavs still seem allergic to scoring, as demonstrated by their 48-38 loss to Wisconsin. The Irish were underachieving even before leading scorer Jerian Grant was forced to leave school due to academics.
American Head of the class:
Louisville took a big hit with the dismissal of junior forward Chane Behanan from the team, but coach Rick Pitino still has a lot of experience left on the roster. Memphis' win over Oklahoma State provided a much-needed confidence boost against ranked teams. UConn has made a living winning games decided by a basket (Tuesday's loss at Houston notwithstanding) and Shabazz Napier
has established himself as the guy you want to take that last shot. Honor roll potential: Larry Brown
's second season at SMU has the Mustangs primed to make a statement. Headed for detention:
Temple figured to be a bit in rebuilding mode, but losing to Texas Southern at home was unacceptable.