Tuesday May 19th, 2015

On Monday, we listed our 10 most surprisingly good teams of 2014-15 season and now we offer five teams at the opposite end of the spectrum. These teams had championship-caliber talent or championship-caliber expectations or both but ended up missing out on the postseason entirely or making quick exits from it. Here are five of the most disappointing teams from this past season:

Connecticut Huskies

Record: 20-15 (10-8 AAC)
Postseason: Reached NIT, lost in first round to Arizona State

After UConn won the national championship behind star guard Kemba Walker in 2011, the Huskies began their 2012 campaign with head coach Jim Calhoun suspended for three games for recruiting violations. They went on to finish 20-14 (8-10 Big East) and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Iowa State. But at least they got a ticket to the Big Dance. After winning it all in 2014 behind star guard Shabazz Napier, UConn returned with sober but realistic expectations to compete for an AAC crown and possibly make a run in the NCAA tournament. No one was expecting a repeat championship, but no one was expecting the Huskies to lose in the first round of the NIT either. UConn went from 39th in offensive efficiency and 10th in defensive efficiency in 2013-14 to 107th and 65th, respectively, in 2014-15. Senior guard Ryan Boatright struggled with his health throughout the season, and players like freshman wing Daniel Hamilton and sophomore guard Rodney Purvis didn’t develop into the efficient contributors they were expected to be.

Florida Gators

Record: 16-17 (8-10 SEC)
Postseason: None

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Although none of its players were selected in the NBA draft, it’s arguable that no team lost more from 2013-14 than the Gators. Gone were the four senior starters who had helped Florida reach four Elite Eights and, in 2013-14, the Final Four. The cupboard was supposed to be stocked, though: Donovan had two sophomores who were former top-10 recruits in guard Kasey Hill forward Chris Walker. Our preseason projections from SI.com’s Luke Winn and economist Dan Hanner pegged Walker as the breakout player of the year, and Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter as No. 2. Walker averaged 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 14.6 minutes a game. (Walker’s contributions were comparable to Jacob Kurtz, a walk-on and former team manager, who averaged 4.0 points and 3.5 boards in 18.5 minutes per game.) Hill only averaged 7.3 points per game and shot 37.5% from the floor. And Carter, hampered for much of the season by a lingering ankle injury, only averaged 8.8 points a contest. Billy Donovan’s final season in Gainesville would be his first losing season since 1997-98, his second year as the Gators coach.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Record: 13-18 (5-13 Big Ten)
Postseason: None

At the end of the 2013-14, Nebrasketball was the talk of college hoops. The Cornhuskers had finished the regular season on an 8-1 run, and became a cause celebre en route to getting off the bubble and earning their first NCAA tournament bid since 1998. Nebraska's stay was short-lived, as it fell to Baylor in the Round of 64. Still, the Huskers returned a group of starters in 2014-15 that included electric guards Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, and the expectations were as high in Lincoln as they have been in decades. The Cornhuskers were picked No. 21 in the preseason AP and Coaches polls, but when they lost at home to Incarnate Word on Dec. 10 to fall to 5-3, it was clear they had been oversold. Nebraska’s offense dropped from 112th in efficiency to 285th, and Petteway’s efficiency dropped from 102.4 to 94.8. As a signal of how far they’d fallen from year to year, the Cornhuskers finished 1-8 down the stretch of 2014-15.

Michigan Wolverines

Record: 16-16 (8-10 Big Ten)
Postseason: None

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Even before Caris LeVert was lost for the season on Jan. 17 with a stress fracture in his left foot, Michigan was having a rough season: The Wolverines were 11-7 and had lost at home to NJIT and Eastern Michigan in back-to-back games in early December. As expected, losing Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson and Mitch McGary (he only played eight games in 2013-14 due to a back injury) to the NBA had left Michigan with an offensive void to fill. LeVert managed the increased possessions well, but once he was gone, the Wolverines lacked a go-to scorer. After boasting the No. 1 offense in adjusted efficiency in 2013-14, Michigan fell to 66th last year. But with LeVert back for his senior season and a strong incoming recruiting class, Michigan looks poised to rebound in 2015-16.

Texas Longhorns

Record: 20-14 (8-10 Big 12)
Postseason: Reached NCAA tournament, lost in Round of 64 to Butler

Every year, there’s a darkhorse team that media, fans and even coaches think can stop Kansas’s stranglehold over the Big 12. This off-season, Texas was the favorite, and for good reason—it returned all five starters and welcomed in consensus top-10 recruit Myles Turner. The Longhorns improved in defensive efficiency and were essentially even in offensive efficiency from 2013-14 to 2014-15, but they were never able to come close to matching their preseason hype. They benefited from finishing tied for sixth in the brutal Big 12—which the Jayhawks won for the 11th consecutive year—and got an invitation to the NCAA tournament because of it, but they did not end up being a significant challenge to many teams in their conference, going 2-10 against the other six teams in the league that reached the NCAAs. The season was enough of a disappointment that the Longhorns decided to part ways with longtime coach Rick Barnes, who is now the coach at Tennessee. The best news for Texas in 2015 may be that it was the power conference school that finally enticed Shaka Smart, long considered a rising start in coaching, to leave VCU for greener pastures.

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