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College Basketball Roundup: Conference Play Edition

League play is underway as January rolls on

LSU v Kentucky Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Greetings, BBN! Like I said last week, these first couple weeks of conference play will be where the rubber meets the road for a lot of teams and where NCAA Tournament resumes are forged or shattered. Nobody though much of Kansas State heading into Big 12 play, as they were picked to finish last in almost every preseason poll. Well after home win against West Virginia and a stunning 116-103 road victory over #6 Texas their season’s outlook has completely changed, as has the Pittsburgh Panthers, who are now 4-0 in ACC play after back-to-back wins over North Carolina and Virginia. On the flipside, Texas Tech is 0-2 in Big 12 play early and once-ranked Maryland has now lost to Michigan and Rutgers in back-to-back blowouts. It’ll be a full month as we march toward the Madness.

This Week

#1 goes down & no more undefeated teams

Last season Purdue was 8-0 and dominating college basketball until they traveled to New Jersey to face Rutgers and lost on a buzzer beater. Fast forward a year later—the Scarlet Knights have done it again! Now against a #1 ranked Purdue in Mackey Arena, Rutgers has spoiled the Boilers’ unbeaten record once more with a 65-64 shocker Monday night in West Lafayette: one of the hardest places to win in college hoops. That left us with just one unbeaten left, New Mexico, and they slipped on a banana peel Tuesday against 5-8 Fresno State. Rarely do all the unbeatens go down this early, but here we are.

Kansas State, Pitt, NC State, and Providence score resume-boosting top-16 wins

These four fanbases are hyped after what they saw from their teams this week, because the Wildcats put up more points on Texas at Texas than any team I can ever remember, the Panthers are now 4-0 in the ACC as mentioned above, the Wolfpack are coming off of a thrashing of Duke in Raleigh, and the Friars became the latest team to stun UConn with a 12-point Big East win to improve to 13-3. Sometimes these wins aren’t just upsets: they are wins that make new “good teams”. We’ll see if these four keep it up.

Purdue, UCLA, Gonzaga, and Arizona all survive upset bids Thursday night

There were some Houdini acts Thursday night as the Boilermakers, Bruins, Bulldogs, and Wildcats all escaped hostile road environments with two or three-point wins (and Arizona’s near miss with Washington was actually at home). The Indiana Hoosiers were not so lucky, as they fell in Iowa City to the Hawkeyes by two, who also knocked them out of the Big Ten Tournament last March. No more easy games for anybody anymore, even if your ranking is a single digit number.

This Weekend

War down South for SEC supremacy

Only one team can rule the roost in the SEC and after Saturday we’ll have a clearer picture of who the eventual winner will be. #13 Arkansas travels to #22 Auburn at 8:30 and #7 Alabama hosts none other than the preseason favorite Kentucky Wildcats, who are coming off a narrow home win over then 12-1 LSU and are ready to bounce back into the race after an early road defeat to Missouri.

Missouri, UConn, Virginia, Baylor, and others try to defend home turf

These four ranked teams are playing at home today against unranked competition, but I’d be shocked if one of them doesn’t take an ‘L’ by the end of Saturday, even if they’re playing a non-NCAA Tournament team. This is when the teams with nothing to lose play with everything to win.

Fast Breaks

Georgetown and Louisville continue epic losing

You can make history in two ways: ways you want to and ways you don’t want to. The Hoyas have now lost 25 straight Big East games: the most in a row by any Big East team ever per Their last conference win was in March of 2021 as they made their improbably run through the Big East Tournament bracket to crash the 2021 NCAA Tournament by virtue of the auto-bid and then get smacked by Colorado in the Round of 64. Ever since then they have cratered, and so have the Cardinals pretty much, as they are now 2-14 this year after a 1-point loss to Syracuse and thanks to a Cal Golden Bears win over Stanford have the worst record of any power conference team and have fallen to 265th in Kenpom. Things are looking pretty bleak for the two star players returning to coach their alma maters.

UK tries to win in 2nd most difficult SEC Arena for them

Last year I published an article examining the most difficult SEC arenas for them where they’ve suffered the most L’s and scored the fewest wins, and both were surprisingly the Alabama schools. I thought that Thompson-Boiling would for sure top the list, but it came in 3rd with Coleman Coliseum coming in 2nd and Neville Arena (formerly Auburn Arena) taking the cake. UK is 20-21 in Coleman and has the opportunity to even the record today against one of the best Tide teams they’ve ever faced there.