We are just a few weeks into college basketball season, but there has already been plenty of chaos amid the marquee nonconference matchups and early-season tournaments. A Duke team that began the season ranked No. 9 rose to No. 1 for a brief stay before Purdue, ranked No. 7 in the preseason earned its first No. 1 ranking in school history this week and an Arizona team that started out unranked is now No. 11. The biggest surprise, though, may be that an Iowa State team that went 2-22 (0-18 Big 12) last season is off to a 8-0 start and ranked No. 17 with wins over Oregon State, Xavier and Memphis.
On the flip side, there are also plenty of disappointments, as nine teams that began the season in the AP Top 25 have dropped out. Even some teams hanging on in the polls have struggled as of late, raising questions about the true national pecking order outside of the obvious top teams.
But not all early-season losses are created equal. Some defeats, such as those suffered by Villanova in close fashion against UCLA and Purdue, can reveal positive qualities. Others, such as Oregon’s blowout losses to then-No. 12 BYU and No. 15 Houston, can be cause for concern.
For this week’s edition of the dribble handoff, our writers are picking their most disappointing teams of the 2021-22 season to date.
There’s still time to figure things out, obviously, but Oregon is off to a surprisingly awful start. And it’s not just that the Ducks are 5-4 overall and 0-3 against top-75 KenPom opponents after starting the season ranked in the top 15 of The Associated Press Top 25 poll. It’s that three of those losses were by double-digits and two of them were complete blowouts. BYU beat Oregon 81-49. Then Houston beat Oregon 78-49. Before this season, the Ducks hadn’t lost a game by at least 20 points since February 2019. Last month, they lost two by 29. So Dana Altman has some real work to do. A few weeks ago, Oregon competing for a third straight Pac-12 title seemed like a likely scenario. Now, not so much. — Gary Parrish
Guys, I gotta say I’m in no space to prepare for the possibility that Rutgers will return to Rutgers as we’ve known Rutgers for most of our lives. This should still be a quality team, and I’d like to see at least one more year of feel-good vibes coming out of Piscataway. After a two-year run that saw Steve Pikiell lead the Scarlet Knights to a 36-23 record, have an NCAA Tournament team both seasons (with RU making the 2021 NCAAs and ending a 30-year program drought) and bring more optimism to that part of New Jersey than it’s seen in decades, now we’ve got the potential for Rutgers to be not all that good again. A team that was seen as preseason top-50-good in the eyes of many is 4-4, having recently dropped three straight to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass. Fortunately it beat Clemson last week, but after Friday’s loss at Illinois RU’s at-large case is nearly in desperation mode less than a month in. — Matt Norlander
Given that leading scorers Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge and Josh Christopher moved on after last season’s 11-14 finish, it wasn’t reasonable to expect Arizona State to be firing on all cylinders in November. But at 3-6, the Sun Devils have reinforced just how far they have fallen since notching three consecutive 20-win seasons in 2018-20. Last season was a disappointment, and it’s almost like a 66-65 loss to UC-Riverside on Nov. 11 via a ridiculous buzzer-beating heave set off a “here we go again” mentality. Since then, ASU has lost five of its last seven games, including a 51-29 loss to Washington State. Yes, you read that correctly. There’s still time for a rally, but it’ll need to be a miraculous one for Arizona State if the Sun Devils are going to reclaim the momentum they appeared at one point to be generating under Hurley, who is now in his seventh season. Having a healthy Marcus Bagley healthy would help, but ASU is also going to need marked improvement in defense and toughness to turn this season around. — David Cobb