"Hey, Gonzaga is a fine team," you may be thinking, "but Top 5?"
But I've gotten off track a bit. Let's look at Top 3 teams from various points in the season, and let's state something really obvious that basketball writers can't stop saying: There is no Kentucky of last year. You'll remember Kentucky last year? They had like 6 guys go in the NBA draft, and if you didn't have them in your Final Four last year, you were an idiot.
There is not a single team, right now, that anyone can mock you for excluding from the Final Four, or the Elite 8, and possibly even the Sweet 16. There may not be a single team that you can write down, in ink, as a 2 game winner in the Big Dance. Which is exciting, but undeniably a little odd.
I'm going to focus on the top 3, in general, but let's take a quick look at a team a bit further down in the pre-season poll. UNLV was ranked #18 in the nation as the season began. UNLV is now #5 in the Mountain West at 4-4. I believe, in general, that the Mountain West is good enough to send 3 or 4, or maybe, just maybe 5 teams to the Dance - but certainly UNLV with back-to-back losses to Boise State and Fresno State is not that team. Meanwhile, New Mexico, who received 9 votes in the same preseason poll that gave UNLV 488 votes, is now #15. So, there's the season in a microcosm. But let's look, like I said, at the Top 3.
Preseason Poll: #1 - Indiana #2 Louisville #3 Kentucky
Week 2: same.
Week 3: Kentucky drops out, #3 Ohio State
Week 4: Louisville drops out after losing, Ohio St drops without losing. #2 Duke, #3 Michigan
Week 5: same: Indiana, Duke, Michigan
Week 6: same (12/10/12)
Week 7: Duke, Michigan, Syracuse (first appearance for the Orange)
Week 8: Duke, Michigan, Arizona (PAC-10? WHAT?)
Week 9: same (simple: undefeated teams in the ACC, Big 10, and PAC 10. It won't last)
Week 10: Duke, Michigan, Louisville (Louisville supplants Arizona without Arizona losing)
Week 11: In the pre-season poll, 3 teams received votes for #1. For the majority of the weeks between then and this moment, 2 teams received votes for #1. This week? 5 teams. Things aren't getting clarified. They are getting messier. #1 Louisville, #2 Indiana, #3 Duke
Week 12: Duke, Michigan, Kansas
Week 13: Michigan, Kansas, Indiana (this was about the time people starting saying, "Rather than retread the same teams over and over again, how about this super tough Florida team, at #4 that's destroying the SEC and is 16-2, with one of the losses to #8 Arizona?)
Week 14: Indiana, Florida, Michigan -that's where we are now in the ranking system, and spoiler alert: both Indiana and Florida have lost since this poll came out.
If I'm counting right, that's almost a dozen teams that have enjoyed the Top 3 spots. And that's rare. And the Top 25 is even more chaotic, obviously.
My point is this: come March Madness, this is a great year to give your bracket over to your mentally ill grandfather, or your weird 3 year old niece. They've got as great a chance as the professional bracket makers and gamblers and sports reporters. It's a mess, and it's going to be great fun.