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College basketball's five biggest disappointments

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Texas and Connecticut headline a group of teams that started the season with high expectations, but which now seem to have little chance of accomplishing anything of note in 2016-17.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016-17 college basketball season has reached its unofficial midway point, which means it's time to celebrate the accomplishments of those who have had a successful first two months, and publicly call out those who made our preseason predictions look bad.

In that spirit, here are the five biggest disappointments of college basketball's first half of the season.

Texas Longhorns (7-9, 1-3 Big 12)

Worst Losses: vs. UT-Arlington (72-61), vs. Arkansas (77-74), vs. Kent State (63-58)

After beating four top-10 teams, including eventual Final Four participants North Carolina and Oklahoma, and earning a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, the common thought was that Shaka Smart's Texas Longhorns had arrived one year ahead of schedule, but that the best was yet to come. It was that faith which earned UT a No. 21 preseason ranking from the Associated Press, despite the fact that the Longhorns were replacing all five starters from their 2015-16 team.

That faith, which was largely based on a top-five recruiting class, has not been rewarded. Shooting struggles, the lack of a capable point guard, and no one to help freshman big man Jarrett Allen in the post have resulted in Texas shockingly sitting two games below .500 halfway through the season.

The Longhorns didn't beat any team of substance during the non-conference portion of their schedule, and were dealt embarrassing home losses by UT-Arlington and Kent State. Wednesday night's home loss to TCU dropped Smart's team to 1-3 in the Big 12, a record which seems more likely than not to balloon to 1-6 after a brutal three-game stretch that includes No. 1 Baylor, No. 10 West Virginia, and No. 2 Kansas.

One clunker of a season certainly isn't enough reason for Texas fans to be pushing the panic button on the Smart era in Austin or on Smart's overall ability as a coach. That doesn't change the fact that the Longhorns have been one of the college basketball's most befuddling disappointments through the season's first two months.

Connecticut Huskies (7-9, 2-3 AAC)

Worst Losses: vs. Wagner (67-58), vs. Northeastern (64-61), vs. Auburn (70-67)

When confronted with their team's dismal performance to date, UConn fans are quick to point to the unfortunate injuries suffered by Terry Larrier and Alterique Gilbert as the justification for their struggles. The problem with that is that two of the only games that both players were healthy for were the Huskies' humiliating season-opening losses to Wagner and Northeastern.

With or without the injuries, 2016-17 has been a massively disappointing latest chapter in the increasingly muddled saga that is the Kevin Ollie era in Storrs. Outside of his team's stunning run to the national title as a No. 7 seed in 2014, Ollie has led the Huskies to just one win in the Big Dance. It's a number that doesn't seem likely to be changed unless UConn can recapture some of last year's AAC Tournament magic and make another run in Hartford.

In order for that to happen, Ollie is going to have to discover some answer to the offensive problems that have plagued his team since opening night. UConn, which began the season ranked No. 18, is 320th in the nation in points per game (65.6 ppg), 257th in field goal percentage (42.7 percent), and 223rd in assists (13.0 apg).

Syracuse Orange (10-7, 2-2 ACC)

Worst Losses: vs. Connecticut (52-50), vs. Georgetown (78-71), vs. St. John's (93-60), at Boston College (96-81)

We spent the preseason referring to Syracuse as a "2016 Final Four team," when maybe the more accurate description would have been "team which should have missed the 2016 NCAA tournament." The latter title would certainly be a better explanation for how the Orange managed to lose to three former conference mates -- UConn, Georgetown and St. John's -- that already have racked up a combined 27 losses, and how they managed to hand Boston College its first ACC win of any sort in 664 days.

Before the season, the typically cautious Jim Boeheim boasted openly about the talent on his current roster. He even went so far as to say, "this is the best team we've had in a long time." Now that same team is going to need a monumental midseason turnaround to have any shot whatsoever to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

After the embarrassing loss to BC, Syracuse offered up some hope that such a turnaround might be possible. They throttled a likely tournament team in Miami by 15, and then rolled to another double-digit win over Pittsburgh three days later. Reality returned earlier this week in the form of an 83-73 road loss to Virginia Tech, in a game where it never felt like the Orange had a serious shot to win.

The good news is for Syracuse is that if they do get some things straightened out, the strength of the ACC will provide them with ample opportunity to showcase it. The bad news is that if they don't, their weaknesses will continue to be exploited in embarrassing fashion.

Oklahoma Sooners (6-9, 0-4 Big 12)

Worst Losses: vs. Northern Iowa (73-67), vs. Memphis (99-94), vs. Auburn (74-70)

It was predictable for post-Buddy Hield life to be less enjoyable for Sooner fans than life with the Wooden Award winner was, but this is a little extreme.

After a promising start to the season that included a win over a potential NCAA tournament team in Clemson, Oklahoma has suddenly fallen into a funk that has seen it drop seven consecutive games. That losing streak represents the longest that a Sooner team has endured since Lon Kruger took over in 2011.

If there's hope for Oklahoma, it comes in the form of a healthy Jordan Woodard. The senior captain who was supposed to shoulder the bulk of the scoring load left behind by Hield was sidelined by a leg injury for four of the games during Oklahoma's current losing streak. He returned to the court in Tuesday night's loss to Kansas, coming off the bench and scoring seven points in 28 minutes of action.

Woodard was averaging 17.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists before his injury, and without him the Oklahoma offense looked completely lost. His return to form might not be enough to get the Sooners back to the Big Dance, but it could make them a capable spoiler for other Big 12 teams down the stretch of the conference season.

Washington Huskies (8-7, 1-2 Pac-12)

Worst Losses: vs. Yale (98-90), at Gonzaga (98-71), vs. Washington State (79-74)

The comparisons to last year's LSU team are easy. Like Ben Simmons' club, Washington is struggling despite having the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The difference is that the criticism of LSU at this point last season was that they didn't appear to be a national title contender. It wasn't until weeks later that it became apparent the Tigers might not make the NCAA tournament, and that no one on the team really appeared to care.

Washington has had that look since day one. Sure, the Huskies like to score a lot of points and Markelle Fultz does a few things every game that make you understand why he's about to be a millionaire, but as far as actual team success is concerned? Giving up 98 points to Yale on opening night sort of set the tone there.

The Huskies won't make the tournament this year, but they'll probably try hard enough in one or two games to beat someone they're not supposed to beat in one of the Pac-12's more aesthetically pleasing games. That seems like it'll satisfy the powers that be within the athletic program for now, even though it shouldn't.

The Next Five:

Rhode Island Rams (10-5, 2-1)

Michigan State Spartans (12-6, 4-1)

Michigan Wolverines (11-6, 1-3)

NC State Wolfpack (12-5, 1-3)

Georgetown Hoyas (9-8, 1-4)