Greetings, BBN! One of the most fun hoops events of the year is upon us: the SEC/Big 12 Challenge! It’s also the last SEC/Big 12 Challenge there’ll ever be, but I’m not too disappointed given that starting next year UK will get to square off in a campus-site game with a blueblood ACC team, which will mean potential games with Duke and UNC in Rupp, Cameron Indoor, and the Dean Dome. It’s so cool how these events bring big-time non-con games to home floors, where the fans pack every seat and can look forward to the game all year—like tonight at Rupp Arena! Let’s dive into this week:
UK plays strong against Vandy on the road
For the first time this season, UK took control against an SEC opponent from start to finish and rolled to victory, as they took care of business against the Vanderbilt Commodores Tuesday night in Memorial Gymnasium for their 14th straight win over the giant, rusty anchors. Things can’t be going better for the ‘Cats right now, who have saved their season after almost losing it two Tuesday night ago.
Houston loses to Temple in monster upset, Kansas enters challenge on losing streak
Upsets aren’t super rare in CBB, but the #1 team losing at home to 11-9 Temple? It was completely out of the blue, and just the Cougars’ second loss of the season. On top of that the Owls eked out the victory despite not making a field goal the last 7:20 of the game! A complete headscratcher. In other news, the Kansas Jayhawks are coming into Rupp Arena on a little losing streak—tough losses to Kansas State, TCU, and Baylor in the stacked Big 12 have put KU in a little rut heading into tonight’s game. It should be quite the clash as they try to turn things around in front of BBN and avenge their blowout home loss to the ‘Cats last year.
SEC/Big 12 Challenge pits two of the top conferences against each other in loaded Saturday
The final SEC/Big 12 Challenge shouldn’t disappoint, as the action tips off with #15 Auburn at 12-8 West Virginia, who is second-to-last in the Big 12 standings but still on the NCAA Tournament bubble! That’s how stacked the league is this year. #2 Alabama travels to Oklahoma at 2pm, and finishing the afternoon slate is #12 Iowa State at Missouri (high scoring!), Texas Tech at LSU (yawn), #11 TCU at Mississippi State (interesting), Arkansas at #17 Baylor (Hogs really need a win), #10 Texas at #4 Tennessee (lot of orange), and Florida at #5 Kansas State (well this won’t be close). At 8pm we get the undercard, Ole Miss at Oklahoma State, and the headliner—KENTUCKY VS KANSAS! It’s gonna be a loaded day of hoops all across the country.
Purdue, Alabama, Houston, and Tennessee are currently Joe Lunardi’s top four in his latest bracket, even with Houston’s bizarre loss last Sunday, and all will be in action this weekend against teams they should beat except Tennessee, who needs to hold off Texas at home. Purdue also has a big of a toughie against Michigan State on Sunday. The 2-seed sharks are waiting below to snatch their seeds if they slip up—we’ll see what happens.
The current last four in Lunardi’s field are West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and USC, while the first four out are Nevada, Texas A&M, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State. A couple of these I don’t get: why on earth is Ohio State that close to the bracket with no huge wins and an 11-9 record, and the same with Oklahoma State? They don’t have the resumes to justify being anywhere close it seems. Perhaps they’ll change that this weekend.