We’ve reached the midway point in this year’s installment of the college basketball season, and so far, more than anything it has just been good to watch some college hoops again after the NCAA Tournament was taken away last March. 2021 has brought new hope, plenty of good basketball, and most importantly, an excellent list of winners and losers from the first half of the season.
WINNER – The Big Ten
The Big Ten came into the year labeled as one of the deepest conferences in the country and has certainly lived up to the hype. The Big Ten dominated the always competitive B1G/ACC Challenge, as Illinois and Iowa notably took down blue bloods Duke and North Carolina.
Iowa is currently the highest ranked team in the conference at No.4 in the AP Poll, with Michigan and Wisconsin each also holding Top 10 spots. With the potential of two teams on the 1-line come March, this conference is certainly living up to all the expectations so far in the 2020-21 college basketball season.
LOSER – The “Blue Bloods”
I don’t remember what exactly the post said, but this is the first time in a long time that Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky all find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the Top 25. All three have been underwhelming through the first part of the year, with Kentucky pulling up the rear at 4-9. John Calipari’s group has looked like an extremely distant national title program, and all three big dogs have a lot of work to do to be playing come March.
WINNER – Mid-Major Unbeatens
Gonzaga, Drake, Winthrop, and Siena all find themselves unbeaten to start the 2020-21 college basketball season, with Gonzaga clearly leading the pace with the No.1 ranking in the country. Among experts, Drake seems to be the biggest surprise after losing Liam Robbins to the Golden Gophers in the offseason before immediately knocking off Kansas State in their first game of the college basketball season.
Gonzaga is a clear favorite to win it all, but don’t forget about the Eagles of Winthrop come March as well. These mid-major teams are clearly hot to start and could ride that to a Cinderella run.
LOSER – Host Sites
With the NCAA announcing all tournament games will be held in the state of Indiana, I had the sad realization that we will miss the late-night games over in Anaheim, as well as the chance to see the boys play in person this year. COVID is still haunting ticket sales and even games themselves, but it is safe to say the whole tournament happening in Indiana won’t feel the same as the year’s past. Won’t matter though, Hawks by a million.
WINNER – The Texas Longhorns
Though they don’t find themselves atop the Big 12 standings, Texas has certainly looked like a national title contender through the first half of the season. Jericho Sims provides some serious length down low, while the guards at the top have cemented Shaka Smart and his new hair as one of the better stories so far in the 2020-21 college basketball season. The win in Lawrence was special, and the Longhorns should make some serious noise come NCAA Tournament time.
LOSER – The Pac-12
I’ll be honest, I had to look up who was leading the Pac-12 standings. UCLA is 11-2, sitting at 7-2 in the conference and ranked No.24 in the country. I guess that is good, but the message here is that the Pac-12 is an absolute non-factor. They play late, I don’t stay up long enough to even sniff tip-off, so we are just going to assume for the rest of the year that UCLA is running the show.
LOSER – Mississippi Valley State
Oh man, sometimes it’s just not your year. The Delta Devils are 0-12 to start the season, giving up almost 95 points per game. Arkansas dropped a 140-spot on them in contest No.1, but the good news is that this group has some games left. Let’s go get one boys.
WINNER – Luka Garza
Luka Garza came into the 2021 college basketball season as the clear-cut favorite to win the NPOY award. Garza is averaging just a tick under 27 PPG while hauling in 8.7 rebounds per contest. Garza has been a walking bucket through the first 14 games, and if those numbers continue, he will finish his Hawkeye career as the program’s all-time leading scorer.
After deciding to come back, one had to wonder if Garza could do more to improve his draft stock. I believe he has, and big No.55 is leading a title contender in Iowa City.
Nate’s Midseason Awards
Player of the Year – Luka Garza (Iowa)
Freshman of the Year – Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga)
Team of the Year – Gonzaga Bulldogs
Midseason No.1 Seeds
Gonzaga – West
Villanova – East
Baylor – South
Iowa – Midwest
Midseason No.2 Seeds
Michigan – South
Texas – Midwest
Houston – East
Alabama – West