|Top-ranked Michigan gets a great test in a great game Saturday night in Bloomington, Ind. (US Presswire)|
Not all perceived upsets are really upsets.
I'll explain later.
Let's do the Look Ahead.
Top game: Michigan is No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time in two decades. That's the good news for the Wolverines. The bad is that they're likely to lose that ranking after just one week considering they'll be underdogs Saturday when they play No. 3 Indiana at Assembly Hall, and things really don't get much simpler going forward considering Michigan's subsequent three games are against No. 11 Ohio State at home, against Wisconsin on the road and against No. 13 Michigan State on the road. Even a team ranked first might be lucky to escape this stretch with a 2-2 record. Most coaches would kill for 3-1, take 2-2 and not feel awful about 1-3, crazy as that sounds.
Another interesting matchup: I'm not sure there's a more remarkable achievement in college basketball this season than Jim Larranaga having Miami ranked 14th and undefeated in the ACC with a two-game lead in the league standings heading into Saturday's game at No. 19 North Carolina State. What a story, huh? In a year when the three schools from The Triangle were supposed to finish first, second and third in some order, it's the Hurricanes who are pulling away in the ACC. A win in Raleigh might just about secure at least a share of the regular-season title because Miami would then be 8-0 in the league with six of its final 10 league games at home -- and six of its final 10 league games against schools currently in the bottom half of the ACC standings.
Yet another interesting matchup: Yes, Sunday is about football. But there's also a nice basketball game scheduled for that afternoon -- specifically, No. 25 Marquette at No. 12 Louisville. If the Golden Eagles somehow win at the KFC Yum! Center, they'll find themselves all alone atop the Big East standings provided No. 6 Syracuse loses Saturday at Pittsburgh, which, for what it's worth, KenPom.com predicts will happen.
Probably will be a blowout: Florida has won its seven SEC games by an average of 28 points. Nobody has stayed closer than 17, and the fourth-ranked Gators are coming off a 39-point win over South Carolina. So is there any reason to expect them to do anything other than destroy No. 16 Ole Miss on Saturday? (And I like Ole Miss!)
Definitely could be an upset: Oregon is 7-1 in the Pac-12 and ranked 10th. But the Ducks are coming off a loss at Stanford, and they'd better be careful Saturday or they could get caught at California, too. Why? Because road games against quality opponents are hard. (More on this later.)
Player trying to keep rolling: Ben McLemore is a candidate to be the top pick of June's NBA Draft, and for good reason. He's special. But Jeff Withey isn't bad, either. The 7-foot center has made 12 of 19 field goal attempts in Kansas' past two games while averaging 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Another effort like that Saturday against Oklahoma State, and the second-ranked Jayhawks could become the top-ranked Jayhawks in both polls -- depending on what happens at Assembly Hall, of course.
Player trying to get rolling: Jabari Brown is averaging 15.5 points for Missouri, and that sounds nice. But he's shooting just 39.4 percent from the field, and when he's bad he's really bad. And the 17th-ranked Tigers don't usually win when he's really bad. Missouri has lost four games since Brown became eligible in December. The 6-foot-5 guard is 19 of 57 (33.3 percent) from the field in those four losses with one assist and nine turnovers, all of which are numbers that need to improve to ensure the Tigers get back on track -- starting Saturday with a home game against Auburn.
Three things you should know before you go
- Only two schools enter the weekend already with 20 wins -- No. 1 Michigan and No. 7 Gonzaga. The Zags are more likely to get to 21 first considering Michigan plays Saturday at No. 3 Indiana while Gonzaga is at unranked San Diego.
- Duke will play its sixth game minus Ryan Kelly when the fifth-ranked Blue Devils visit Florida State on Saturday. They're 3-2 without him with three wins over unranked teams and two losses to ranked teams. Kelly's return date remains uncertain.
- Illinois changed coaches between last season and this season but that hasn't prevented the Illini from taking a similar January dive. They went from 10-0 on Dec. 11 to 16-6 on Feb. 1 last season by losing six of 12 after the 10-0 start. This season, heading into Saturday's game with Wisconsin, they've gone from 12-0 on Dec. 16 to 15-7 by losing seven of 10.
The Associated Press reported it this way: "[Jordair Jett] matched his career best with 19 points in 23 minutes, but the reserve realized the school's biggest upset in nine years was decided on the other end of the court."
To which I responded: Biggest upset in nine years?
Saint Louis was actually a 3-point favorite in that game, meaning it was hardly an upset. But SLU isn't a national brand like UCLA, Notre Dame, Illinois and Memphis. So a top-10 team losing at Chaifetz Arena creates shockwaves while losses at UCLA, Notre Dame, Illinois and Memphis would generally be received with less surprise, and I didn't just pick those schools randomly. I picked them because they are, like Saint Louis, ranked in the 50s at KenPom.com. So there's really no difference between being tested or beaten at SLU and being tested or beaten at UCLA, Notre Dame, Illinois or Memphis. And I hope folks remember that going forward -- that beating quality teams on the road is difficult, that quality can come in different forms, and that losing such games doesn't necessarily make anybody fraudulent, and it sure as hell doesn't make them upset victims.