No. 1 lost, another pair of ranked showdowns went down and a Cleveland State player did something no college player’s done the last 15 years besides Blake Griffin.
Yeah, I’d call that a pretty good little Saturday.
So take a stroll through the top stories of the day in our 10 Takeaways.
Who’s the 1? Despite Ohio State suffering just its first loss of the season –at No. 13 Wisconsin, a place where the Badgers win 93 percent of the time – conventional wisdom holds that there’ll be a new No. 1 team when Monday’s rankings are released. So who will it be?
If you ask players for No. 2 Kansas, they’re the ones.
“I want to be No. 1,” junior forward Marcus Morris said after throttling Iowa State, 89-66. “I want to have that chip on our shoulder every time we go out. I want to be the one that gets everybody’s best shot because I believe we can take it.”
The Jayhawks were atop the polls for 14 weeks last season and say their desire to be No. 1 comes from taking it for granted. They have something to prove. Odd thing is, the team that handed Kansas (24-1, 9-1 in Big 12 play) its only loss – and at Allen Fieldhouse, no less – says it doesn’t want those honors.
“I don’t want to be No. 1,” freshman Tristan Thompson said after holding off Baylor at home, 69-60. “Enjoy No. 3 and keep climbing that mountain.”
Teammates Jordan Hamilton echoed that statement, which is probably a good thing for the ‘Horns (22-3, 10-0 in big 12 play). They started off last season 17-0 and hit the top spot, only to fall into an epic freefall and nearly miss the NCAA tournament.
So who’s that leave? No. 4 Pitt managed a win at No. 9 Villanova without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who’s out a few weeks due to a knee injury. At 23-2 and 11-1 in the Big East, the Panthers’ résumé is fairly impressive. Same with No. 5 Duke (22-2, 9-1), which plays Sunday at Miami. But you know who’s record is the most impressive?
Ohio State’s. A road loss at the nation’s No. 13 team? Pssh. Kansas and Pitt may have beefs, but nobody’s been better thus far than the Buckeyes (I’m not alone in this view, either). Keep them atop the polls.
(It’s all just posturing until the NCAA tournament anyway, right?)
About those Buckeyes: Ohio State football was also No. 1 when Wisconsin’s stunned it earlier this academic year. It’s the second time the Buckeyes’ basketball and football teams have lost to the same school in the same timeframe (Florida did in 2006-07). That trivia nugget aside, Ohio State isn’t sweating this right now.
Yes, it lost to a team that overcame a 15-0 second-half deficit, but coach Thad Matta says there wasn’t much his team could’ve done. Sometimes, the other team just has your number.
“They had to play, for that stretch, darned near perfect to get us and they did,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I don’t know what exactly we could have done differently.”
Mostly, it’ll reinforce the notion that there are no dominant teams this season, which is fine. Should make for a lively NCAA tournament.
Nation, meet Jordan Taylor: Allow me one more on the day’s big game. Can’t ignore Jordan Taylor. The Naismith and Cousy Awards might, but those are simply examples of how they ignored one of the nation’s top players. As Rob Dauster wrote earlier, Taylor could do no wrong in Wisconsin’s win, scoring 27 points (he missed just six of 13 shots) and dishing seven assists in 39 minutes of action. How’d he get this good? Read this fantastic piece by Luke Winn.
Kentucky’s road woes: The Wildcats’ 81-77 loss at Vanderbilt brought about one of the day’s big questions: If Kentucky can’t win an SEC road game (it’s now 1-5), what happens during the NCAA tournament? A win at Louisville on Dec. 31 seems ages ago. Big Blue Nation can console itself with the fact that the ‘Cats only have two road games remaining on the schedule, and one’s at Arkansas. But coach John Calipari wonders if his team is “mentally” tough enough to win a dogfight.
Jimmer gets angry! The nation’s leading scorer had 23 in a win vs. Utah, but needed 19 shots to do it and even had some harsh words for referee Mike Reed after a late foul. Reed told the BYU bench to get Fredette out of the game because “he’s losing control,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. No word if it’s because he saw Michelle Peralta at the game.
How good is that Valley? Good enough to get two teams into the NCAA tournament. Wichita State and Missouri State both logged solid road wins on Saturday, keeping them knotted atop the conference standings. The Shockers (21-5, 12-3) held on at Northern Iowa, while the Bears (20-6, 12-3) kept pace by beating Illinois State.
Streaking: Coastal Carolina now has the nation’s longest win streak (22) after beating Winthrop 61-56. George Mason won its 11th straight, 82-68 over rival James Madison. Murray State got its eighth W in a row and 10th in its last 11 by beating Jacksonville State. Meanwhile, Centenary remained the only winless team on the season, dropping to 0-27 with a 91-58 loss at UMKC.
Slumping: Maryland dropped to 16-9 overall and 5-4 in the ACC with a loss at BC. It gets worse when you consider the Terps’ lone wins since Jan. 1 are Wake Forest (twice), Georgia Tech, Virginia, Clemson and Longwood. Of those, only Clemson has a winning record. K-State (16-9, 4-6) lost at Colorado. Its lone impressive Big 12 win (Jan. 24 vs. Baylor) is looking more and more like an anomaly. Both the ‘Cats and Terps will be hard pressed to reach the Big Dance.
Where’d they come from? UCLA got 19 from Malcolm Lee in a 69-61 win vs. Oregon State for its fifth straight win and ninth in last 10 games. The Bruins are now 18-7 overall and 9-3 in the Pac-10. Memphis (19-6, 7-3) rallied past Southern Miss and is within half a game of the C-USA lead. The Tigers play UAB on Wednesday. Both had rough starts to the season, but could be darkhorses to watch in March.
Blake Griffin? Really? Yes, really. Cleveland State guard Norris Cole throws up stellar numbers – 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game – but Saturday he hit a different level. He put up 41 points, 20 rebounds, nine asissts and three steals in a win over Youngstown State. Nobody’s posted a 40-20 game in college the last three years except Griffin, the 2009 Player of the Year at Oklahoma. Take a bow, Norris.
Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.