As the college basketball season wheels around its final corners, the nation's top teams are hoping to gun their motors at just the right time and ascend to the NCAA championship. Every year, of course, one team winds up driving the Cadillac. But what happens the next season? Will the gears still mesh smoothly? Or will the wheels come off? The dictionary defines the idiom "wheels come off" as the point when "things start to fail or go wrong, especially after a period of success."
Like the success of a national championship? That no doubt would qualify. And while many of the same cast of characters seem able to shift into overdrive at tournament time each year, very few are built as high-mileage models. In fact, it's not that uncommon to win the national championship one year and then crash out of the tournament picture the next.
You might recall Duke nearly surviving Arkansas' "40 Minutes of Hell" defense but falling 76-72 in the 1994 title game. But do you remember the Blue Devils driving into a ditch and finishing five games below .500 the next year? P.J. Carlesimo's Seton Hall team fought into overtime before succumbing against Glen Rice and Michigan in the 1989 championship game. But the Hall's 12-16 record the next season indicates they could have used a tuneup. Perhaps most famously of all, Magic Johnson and Michigan State defeated Larry Bird and Indiana State for the 1979 crown. The next year, the Spartans were roadkill at 12-15.
With Selection Sunday looming March 11, last year's champion Connecticut looks asleep at the wheel. The Huskies are mired in the midsection of the Big East and stand in danger of missing out on the tournament the year after winning it all. Will the Huskies find the wheel of fortune? Or, like others before them, will their wheels come off? With an eye on UConn's plight this year, we sum up the Top 10 Worst Seasons After Reaching the Championship Game.