No I'm not going to recite some fancy words from a Webster's. I promise. Instead, let's talk college basketball and what the basketball definition of elite is. As we stand today on January 18th, I would say there are only 3 "elite" teams in all of Division 1A college basketball. The teams I would put in that category would be the UCLA Bruins, the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Florida Gators. Yes, I am fully aware that Wisconsin is currently ranked #2 and has lost once all season (in the South Padre Invitational against Missouri State) and has beaten Pittsburgh and Ohio State. Still, the Badgers just don't seem like an elite team, just a very, very good team that has piled up a ton of victories (17 and counting). In fact, I will even gurantee right now that Wisconsin will receive a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The three aforementioned elite teams and Wisconsin will likely get those 4 coveted #1's, but the only team I am guranteeing will get it is the Badgers from Madison.
What makes a team elite? Let's take a look at what makes a team elite and what the Jayhawks need to do to get to that next step.
The most important thing in college basketball is consistency. To win a championship in college basketball you have to play very good --> great for 6 games in a row. That is very hard to do with a young team, the main reason being that young players are too up and down. Our Jayhawks just aren't quite consistent enough to be considered elite, even in our wins we have struggled. Monday night's game is a perfect example, we didn't play nearly as good as we are capable of....not even close. The one thing that has kept us very much in the national title hunt is our ability to pick up W's when we weren't playing our best, something we haven't been able to do these past couple years.
Aaron Afflalo, Tyler Hansborough and Joakim Noah are all stars. Yes, all of the teams are very deep (especially Florida) and all have great members in their repsective supporting casts. Still, each team needs one player to turn to if they are losing late in the game, perfect example being Afflalo's last second shot against USC on Saturday. We haven't got a surefire star, at least yet. Mario Chalmers could very well be that guy to turn to and is probably the favorite to emerge but he isn't there yet. Brush always will have the capability to become our go-to-guy, but it seems we have given him plenty of chances to emerge and he never has. This team might be better off going to whoever is hot that night (i.e. Sherron Collins on Monday night) without surefire scorer, but in my opinion you have to have a guy that you can depend on EVERY SINGLE GAME.
Maybe part of the reason I'm Badger-hating is because they weren't that good last season, decent sure but not great. Kind of like we were, a pretty good team with a 1st round exit (If I'm not mistaken I think they lost to George Mason in the 1st round) and that just could be the reason I don't view them as elite. Sure, last season's finishes shouldn't have much impact on this season, but it does. For example, UCLA has played much better so far this season and has one fewer loss. However, due to timing of losses and the fact that Florida was ranked #1 preseason they are now the #1 team while UCLA is #3. You never hear anyone cry foul because frankly, the rankings mean absolutely nothing in college basketball. This sport is decided by a tournament at the end of the year and if you are in the Top 25 you are going to make the Tournament. Plus, RPI is the main ranking looked at by the Tournament committee so AP rankings mean zero.
I will try and progress in this series tomorrow and I will also try to sometime put up a game preview for Saturday afternoon's tussle with the Red Raiders from Texas Tech. By the way, go ahead and visit Double T Nation for everything Red Raiders leading up to the game, it should be a good one.