Greetings, BBN! It’s almost the end of January and the bracketologies published every week are starting to solidify into more of a thick ice cream rather than a bucket of hot water if you know what I mean. Teams below the cut line need to get serious about jumping back above it and teams above it need to not slip up, because week by week teams will seize or squander their opportunities under before they know it Selection Sunday is upon them. Usually the Kentucky Wildcats are not one of those bubble teams, but this year they’ve found themselves trying to dig out of a South Carolina-sized hole—so far they’re making good progress. Let’s dive into this week and weekend’s hoops:
Gonzaga loses at home for first time in five years to Loyola Marymount
In one of the most shocking results of the season, if not the past several seasons, the Gonzaga Bulldogs lost in The Kennel on Thursday night. Yes, at The Kennel. Hosting unranked WCC foe Loyola Marymount who hadn’t beaten the Bulldogs since 2010, the Zags fell 68-67 in a game they were favored by 17 going in.
- It snapped a 93-game win streak against unranked teams
- It snapped a 76-game win streak at home
- It snapped a 25-game win streak against LMU
Bonkers result, and an extremely, extremely rare Quad 3 loss for Gonzaga.
Oscar Tshiebwe gets 37 points and 24 rebounds in stat-packed win over Georgia
After trailing by eight at half, UK ended up beating a strong Georgia squad by 14 Tuesday night—a result that suggests something unusual happened. That would be the Oscar Tshiebwe takeover, as his career-high 37 points and season-best 24 rebounds gave him his first 30-20 game and the first for any UK player since Mike Phillips’s 35-20 game against LSU in 1976 and only the fifth 30-20 game in UK history. It was also the third-most points any UK player has ever scored under Calipari. So, y’know, that was nice for the ‘Cats. Maybe he can do it again against Kansas next week?
Kansas loses Sunflower Showdown, Arkansas in trouble
The Jayhawks have been in close games all season, but in all but one had managed, like Houndini or Batman, to wriggle out of the trap in the end. Well now count two times KU’s been KO’d, because purple-clad K-State students stormed the court Tuesday night after an epic Sunflower Showdown overtime victory in Manhattan. They now sit at 16-2 and are tied for first in the Big 12 after unanimously being picked to finish last in the preseason. Things aren’t going quite so well a little further South for Arkansas, however—the Hogs have lost five of their last six and are currently tied for last in the SEC. Saturday’s home game against Ole Miss is now a must-win.
Kentucky looks for 3rd straight win against fellow bubble team Texas A&M
The Wildcats are currently projected as the first team out of Joe Lunardi’s bracket on ESPN—a position quite similar to that of the Aggies. It will be extremely important for UK to keep their momentum and defend home court to get off the bubble in these next few weeks.
#11 Arizona hosts #5 UCLA, TCU has big opportunity in Lawrence
The Bruins are on a roll right now but face a big test today against Tommy Lloyds’s Wildcats, and the Horned Frogs are making their annual trip to Allen Fieldhouse. It seems highly unlikely that the Jayhawks will stumble on their home floor right after the K-State loss, but there are no guarantees in college basketball.
Purdue, Alabama, Houston, and Kansas are currently Joe Lunardi’s top four in his latest bracket, and all will be in action this weekend against teams they should beat. The main competition beneath them is Arizona, UCLA, and Tennessee, who will have many opportunities to take one of the four thrones this month and next.
The current last four in Lunardi’s field are Ohio State, West Virginia, Northwestern, and Oklahoma, while the first four out are Kentucky, Penn State, Nevada, and Texas A&M. While it’s still only January, the double-bubble UK-TA&M game could have big implications later and big blue fans can root for the Buckeyes, Mountaineers, Northwestern, and Oklahoma to stumble this weekend for a bigger boost if the ‘Cats win—need the highest seed possible when the field is announced in less than two months.