It looks as if the schedule-makers in the Mountain West wanted to spark some serious national conversation about the conference from the beginning of league play because the first full week of play will feature all three expected contenders facing each other. Wednesday's slate features #16 San Diego State (15-2, 1-0), fresh off of their two-point win over UNLV, visiting The Pit to take on a New Mexico (15-2, 1-0) squad that's quietly won thirteen in a row.
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.
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.
ST. JOSEPH’S (10-3) AT NO. 24 HARVARD (10-1)
Time: 4 p.m.
The first meeting between Memphis and Louisville since the 2005 Conference USA title game certainly did not disappoint from a drama standpoint, with both teams landing major blows throughout the contest. But despite a combined 74 first-half points the play was ragged for much of the contest, with the Cardinals taking a 42-32 lead into the break thanks to the Tigers shooting 29% from the field and turning the ball over ten times. But led by Will Barton (28 points, 16 rebounds) Josh Pastner's team refused to fold, fighting back to take a 57-55 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
The end of finals week for many schools means a step up in competition on Saturday, and one contest that will garner attention is the second game of the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Florida. #22 Texas A&M (8-1), which has a strength of schedule that ranks 341st in the country, takes on #13 Florida (7-2) in what should be an interesting matchup. Do the Aggies have the horses on the perimeter to hang with the Gator guards?
In the days leading up to Indiana's game against#1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall there weren't too many people who thought that the Hoosiers could knock off the Wildcats. There were a few outside of the Indiana fan base who picked Tom Crean's team to win, but the majority of the predictions ranged anywhere from a close loss to a Kentucky blowout with IU's schedule to date being the main reason why.
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).