The matchup between Ohio State and Illinois was anticipated by many for the individual matchup between the Buckeyes' Jared Sullinger and Illinois' Meyers Leonard. Then there was the ceremony honoring Lou Henson, the all-time winningest coach in Illinois history. But few people expected Brandon Paul to end up being the center of attention, which is exactly what happened in the Fighting Illini's 79-74 win at Assembly Hall.
Outside of Xavier it's difficult to think of many two-game losing streaks this season that have sparked as much concern nationally as the one Pittsburgh is currently going through. A team that looked preoccupied with their Christmas break plans on Friday in a 59-54 home loss to Wagner dropped another game on Tuesday, 72-59 at Notre Dame. The second half was a serious departure from what the Panthers do on both ends of the court, with Notre Dame being able to accomplish just about whatever they wanted to offensively.
Plenty of teams have pre-Christmas letdowns, when they allow their minds to wander a bit against teams they're expected to beat. But in a lot of those cases the favored team is able to bounce back and do enough to eventually win the game. But that wasn't the case for #15 Pittsburgh, who turned the ball over 18 times against a team in Wagner that was talented enough to make them pay for those errors.
Friday marks the final day of games before Christmas Day, and while the schedule is light there are some good games to keep an eye on. Atop the list is a game at the Las Vegas Classic matching West Virginia (8-2) and #7 Baylor (10-0), with the Bears boasting one of the deepest frontcourt rotations in the country. But to be fair this is their most strenuous back-to-back stretch of the season as they beat Saint Mary's on Thursday night.
For a while on Tuesday night it looked as if a Southern Conference team would hand another undefeated team its first defeat of the season. But an important suggestion by Louisville assistant coach Richard Pitino set things in motion for the fourth-ranked Cardinals, sparking a rally that resulted in a 69-62 victory. The idea: instead of relying on the frontcourt tandem of Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan to occupy the foul line area against the Charleston zone, use the versatile Kyle Kuric at the four.