Many Top Hoops Programs On 'Bubble'

One of the great frustrations in Gator Nation these days surrounds the decline of the basketball program from consecutive NCAA Championships to consecutive NIT berths. Florida once again looks like it's going to be either one of the last eight teams invited to the Big Dance or one of the last eight eliminated from the field of 65.

Florida fans are not happy about this, and I can assure you there's no Gator coach or player or administrator who thinks the NIT is an acceptable destination for the Gators year in and year out.

The purpose of this column is not to explain why the Gators are where they are or make excuses. It's not to paint a pretty picture of the future or anything like that. It is however, instructive to note that Florida's situation is not unique. In fact there are 10 programs that I would consider among the top 25 in the nation over the last decade or so that are in a similar situation.

These programs are used to planning for deep NCAA Tournament runs. Yet each has a worse overall record than the Gators at this time, and all but two of them have worse average RPI rating as of Wednesday. Only one school of these 10 "powers" has a better conference record than Florida's 4-3 mark; and that team (Arizona) is in what is by consensus the worst major conference in the country.

None of these teams can be considered an NCAA lock at this stage and odds are most of them will end up in the NIT. Here's a rundown of the programs with their record, conference record and averaging RPI. I used and InsideRPI for this analysis. Right now Florida is 15-6 (4-3), No. 50.

Louisville ---- 14-8 (5-4), No. 35 --- A Monday night win over UConn moved Rick Pitino's team to the top of this list, but it's still hard to believe they lost consecutive games to Charlotte and Western Carolina.

Connecticut --- 13-9 (3-6), No. 46 --- The departure of Jim Calhoun has hurt the Huskies who have lost three straight and six of eight.

Arizona --- 12-9 (6-3), No. 61 --- The Wildcats seemed to have a lost season before a recent four game winning streak. Still they do not have a particularly noteworthy win and in the miserable Pac-10 they don't have a chance to get one. Amazingly this could be a one-bid league.

North Carolina --- 13-8 (2-4), No. 67 --- It seems unthinkable to have the Tar Heels in this category but it's precisely where Roy Williams' team belongs. Other than College of Charleston they have no terrible losses, but they have no impressive wins either.

Oklahoma --- 12-9 (3-4), No. 91 --- Oklahoma has lost to VCU, San Diego, Houston, UTEP and Nebraska. It's over for them.

Michigan --- 11-11 (4-6), No. 94 --- The one saving grace for the Wolverines is a ridiculously tough schedule, but that's not enough to make up for a .500 record. Losing to Northwestern twice and Indiana really hurts.

UCLA --- 10-11 (5-4), No. 119 --- This is the situation perhaps most like Florida's in terms of losing so many players to pro ball early. Early losses to Cal-State Fullerton, Portland and Long Beach State made it clear Ben Howland doesn't have the horses.

Stanford --- 10-11 (4-5), No. 121 --- Oh how the mighty tree has fallen. Pre-conference losses to Oral Roberts and San Diego lowered the bar significantly, but the Cardinal isn't going anywhere.

Indiana --- 9-11 (3-5), No. 177 --- OK, Indiana has been in a down cycle for a few years, but that doesn't change the fact that this is one of the historically great programs in college basketball history. Boston University, George Mason and Loyola of Maryland are but three of their embarrassing losses.

LSU --- 9-12 (0-7), No. 193 --- The defending SEC Champion is having a miserable season despite the return of all-everything forward Tasmin Mitchell. There are no humiliating non-conference losses for the Tigers, but an oh-fer in league play is hard to explain.


There are two good things about all of this. First it opens the door for other programs to perhaps make a move. Second, it could create the most star-studded NIT field since olden days when the NIT was bigger than the NCAA.

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