This past week college basketball took a backseat with the Super Bowl capturing the world’s attention. But in a year and a couple of months, that stadium that held the Super Bowl will play host to the best event in sports, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, we still have a season in front of us to finish, and to get the football fans caught up before March, here’s another edition of my weekly winners and losers.
Northwestern: Coming into the season the Wildcats were picked 13th in the Big Ten and Chris Collins was firmly on the hot seat. Fast forward to today and Collins is in contention for Big Ten coach of the year as his team sits in second place in the conference and are almost a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. Their biggest win of the season came on Sunday when they took down the then-number one ranked Purdue Boilermakers. It marked the first win over a number one team in program history and gives them a win that will make a difference come Selection Sunday. No Pete Nance (transferred to UNC), no Ryan Young (transferred to Duke), no problem for Chicago’s Big Ten team.
Baylor: It hasn’t been the easiest road to get to this point for the Bears, but they are here and that’s all that matters. This past week they picked up wins over Oklahoma and TCU which catapulted them up to number nine in the latest AP Poll. The biggest win for this team though is the return of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who played in his second and third games of the season, logging over 20 minutes in both. The 6’8 senior is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and brings a whole new element to Scott Drew’s team. We know this team can score (1st in AdjOE per KenPom) and they have outstanding guard play. The missing piece has been on the defensive end, a spot where “Everyday John” can help them out immensely. A date in Lawrence, Kansas awaits the Bears on Saturday.
Kansas: Speaking of Lawrence, another big winner of the week was the Jayhawks. They welcomed the leaders of the Big 12, Texas, to town on Monday and came away with an 88-80 victory. Then they capped off the week by going on the road to Oklahoma and beating the brakes off the Sooners, winning 78-55. The formula for Kansas as of late: balance on offense. On Monday they had 5 guys in double figures…and none of them were Jalen Wilson, who had just 2 points. If Wilson can get that kind of help every night, the Jayhawks could be cutting down the nets in back-to-back years.
Arizona: It was supposed to be an easy weekend for the Wildcats as they hit the road to take on two teams below .500 in Stanford and Cal. But winning on the road is tough, no matter who you are playing and Arizona learned that the tough way in their loss to the Cardinal on Saturday. The Wildcats can still accomplish everything they set out to do this season despite the loss, but it will now be an uphill battle. UCLA now leads the Pac by 2 games and also holds the upper hand for a 1 seed over Arizona. The two heavyweights square off on the last Saturday of the season in Los Angeles.
Iowa State: Reality might finally be setting in for a Cyclones team that was picked to finish 8th in the Big 12. They lost at West Virginia on Wednesday 71-76 and then at home to Oklahoma State on Saturday 56-64 which marked their 4th loss in their last 5 contests. This team just doesn’t have consistent scoring on a nightly basis and it’s starting to hurt them. Obviously there’s plenty of time to pick up momentum in the gauntlet that is the Big 12, but they need to get things figured out quickly with games against TCU, Kansas State, and Texas on the horizon.
Duke: If you know me then you know I’m a Carolina fan. But I will try and approach this with the least amount of bias possible. It was a tough week for the Blue Devils to put it lightly. On paper it was set up to be tough and that proved to be true as they went on the road to take on the two highest ranked teams in the ACC in Miami and Virginia. On Monday they were embarrassed in Coral Gables as the Hurricanes rolled to a 81-59 win. Then on Saturday they went to Vriginia and lost in heartbreaking fashion. Some questionable officiating down the stretch sent the game to overtime where the Hoos pulled away for a 69-62 victory. There’s been some growing pains with a bunch of freshmen and a first year head coach, but they have all of the tools to make a run in March.