There weren't many opportunities to watch ranked teams play each other (there was just one, which is discussed below), but Saturday's slate provided many teams the chance to improve their resumes. Florida State and Northwestern took full advantage of their opportunities as they both knocked off Top 10 opponents at home, albeit in different ways.
It may not be the "best" game on the schedule as Baylor visits Kansas State in what should be a very good Big 12 battle. But in terms of games that will definitely be remembered on Selection Sunday, there may not be a better game on Tuesday's slate than Florida State (9-6, 0-1) visiting Virginia Tech (11-4, 0-1). Both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing road losses on Saturday, as Florida State was blown out by Clemson and the Hokies fell at Wake Forest.
The first Saturday of the new year proved to be far more exciting than anticipated, much to the detriment of ranked teams who took their show on the road. Removing #7 Missouri and #20 Marquette, who both lost on the road to ranked opponents (more on both of those games below), five ranked teams lost to unranked opponents with four of the losses coming on the road. The Big East provided the most intrigue, with #8 Connecticut and #9 Georgetown falling on the road while #10 Louisville lost in double overtime at home. So which of the three defeats is most concerning?
The game between Top 5 teams and in-state rivals Louisville and Kentucky was expected to be a high-intensity affair played at a good pace. Well thanks to the "third team" we got the intensity but not the pace, but by the end of the afternoon at Rupp Arena it was clear that Kentucky's 69-62 victory would be long remembered for the play of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist, who has emerged as the leader of John Calipari's talented squad, stole the show with 24 point and 19 rebounds in leading Kentucky to their 44th straight home victory.
The final day of 2011 features one of the most anticipated games of the college basketball season, a rivalry game that captivates an entire state and is one of the best games in college basketball. #4 Louisville (12-1), fresh off of a lost to Georgetown in their Big East opener, visits #3 Kentucky (12-1) in what should be a spirited battle at Rupp Arena. The Cardinals have played just one road game this season but it was also one of their best efforts as they won at Butler without the then-injured Peyton Siva.
Frank Martin's Kansas State (4-0) may be undefeated on the young season, but it can definitely be argued that this group hasn't been tested. That all changes this evening as the Wildcats play their first true road game of the season, visiting Virginia Tech (5-2) in a game that could have long-term effects on both teams when looking ahead to Selection Sunday.
There was one big question for North Carolina going into their game with Wisconsin in the final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge: would they be able to play effectively in a tempo nowhere near what they look to establish on a nightly basis? Thanks to a second half run from Harrison Barnes and the excellent defense of Dexter Strickland, the Tar Heels passed said test with a 60-57 win over the Badgers in Chapel Hill.
Two of the blue bloods in college basketball get together in Maui with the Maui Invitational title on the line as #6 Duke (6-0) takes on #14 Kansas (3-1), and there are a number of interesting players to keep an eye on. The player under the microscope nationally for the Blue Devils has been freshman guard Austin Rivers, with some failing to remember the lesson taught last season regarding the mistake of knee-jerk reactions to games in November (see: Barnes, Harrison).
After wins over Belmont and Presbyterian moved Mike Krzyzewski into a tie with Bob Knight for the most wins in college basketball history, many at Madison Square Garden were hoping that the Duke head coach would become the record-holder with a win over Michigan State on Tuesday night. But while some went as far as to almost assume the game to be a coronation of sorts, Tom Izzo's Spartans refused to back down.