College Basketball Insider

Look Ahead: No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Michigan are at risk this weekend

The nation has just two remaining undefeated teams. I'll see one play Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., then wakeup Sunday, fly to Columbus, Ohio, and watch the other. So this is going to be a good and busy weekend. Let's prepare ourselves with the Look Ahead.

Top game: There are matchups that'll feature two higher-ranked teams than the showdown between No. 1 Duke and No. 20 North Carolina State, but Raleigh is still the place to be Saturday because that's where a game will be played between intense rivals with perfect ACC records. The nation's top-ranked team is on the road, at risk and down its third-leading scorer who is (at least statistically) its best 3-pointer shooter, so it'll be interesting to see whether the Blue Devils can beat the Wolfpack without Ryan Kelly. If so, Duke, in what was projected by some as a "down year," will move to 16-0 with victories over the schools currently ranked third, eighth, 16th, 21st and 23rd in the Top 25 (and one). Not bad, Coach K. Not bad at all.

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Another interesting matchup: Regardless of what happens Saturday between the Blue Devils and Wolfpack, I'll be up early Sunday for a 6:35 a.m flight out of RDU (wish me luck) so that I can make it to Value City Arena in time for an afternoon game beween No. 2 Michigan and No. 15 Ohio State. Is this where the Wolverines take their first loss? Is this where the Buckeyes get their first notable win? And what's better than a point guard matchup between Trey Burke and Aaron Craft -- especially considering Burke is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate who got locked up pretty good last time he faced his hometown Buckeyes in last March's Big Ten tournament?

Yet another interesting matchup: There's only one game between two top-10 teams -- Saturday's showdown between No. 8 Minnesota and No. 5 Indiana at Assembly Hall. In the preseason this projected as a sure-bet win for the Hoosiers, and they'll probably still win. But, man, Minnesota has proven to be legitimate. The Gophers are 15-1 with wins over Illinois, Memphis and Michigan State. Tubby Smith is doing OK.

Probably will be a blowout: This weekend figures to be wild because the ranked team or higher-ranked team is on the road in 13 of the 21 games featuring top-25 schools. One place where that doesn't apply is Saturday's game between USF and third-ranked Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center. So that's our best opportunity for a ranked team to cruise, I guess.

Definitely could be an upset: Trust me when I tell you multiple ranked teams will lose to unranked teams this weekend. I guarantee it. But if you want me to get specific I'll get specific by predicting No. 18 Kansas State to lose at unranked West Virginia, meaning I'm predicting Bob Huggins' old team will lose to Bob Huggins' current team even though Bob Huggins' current team is just 8-6 and a week removed from losing at home to Oklahoma by double-digits.

Player trying to keep rolling: Ben McLemore is turning into one of the nation's baddest college basketball players -- not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good. (Special shoutout to Run DMC.) The 6-foot-5 freshman for the sixth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks is averaging 16.9 points while shooting 51 percent from the field and 45.9 percent from 3-point range after Wednesday's 33-point effort in a victory over Iowa State. Let's see if he can continue dominating Saturday at Texas Tech.

Player trying to get rolling: There are a whole bunch of reasons why No. 19 Georgetown is 0-2 in the Big East, a slow and inefficient offense being just one of them. And though there's no clear way to correct that issue halfway through the season, it would be nice for the Hoyas if D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera could make a shot every once in a while. The heralded freshman is 7 of 32 from the field in Georgetown's past seven games, 1 of 7 in Georgetown's past two losses. If he and his teammates aren't better Saturday at St. John's, they'll drop to 0-3 in the Big East and be well on their way to finishing with a losing league record.

Three things you should know before you go

  1. Junior college transfer Marshall Henderson got 32 points in Ole Miss' win at Tennessee this week. He's now averaging 19.1 points for the Rebels, who are 12-2 and 44th in the RPI heading into Saturday's game with No. 10 Missouri. So Frank Haith's Tigers better be careful or else they might get caught down in Oxford.
  2. Those looking for a good Mountain West game need look no further than Colorado State at No. 16 San Diego State. Both teams are 13-2.
  3. Ben Howland's UCLA Bruins will put their eight-game winning streak on the line Saturday at Colorado. If they win, the Bruins -- who lost earlier this season to Cal Poly -- might just sneak back into the Top 25 (and one).

Final thought: While the game of the weekend is happening in The Triangle, that area's other top-shelf basketball program (North Carolina) will be at Florida State and at risk of falling to 0-3 in the ACC. In fact, the Tar Heels should actually be underdogs at FSU, which leads to an obvious question: What the hell is going on in Chapel Hill?

I guess it shouldn't be that surprising that UNC is down considering it lost four first-round picks -- Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall. But this is still rare stuff. KenPom.com is now projecting Roy Williams to finish with a losing league record for only the second time in the past 23 seasons and third time in his career, which reminds me of a conversation I had with the Hall of Fame coach a few years back. We were sitting at the Dean Smith Center before practice one day, I asked Williams why he still works so hard on the recruiting trail even though he probably doesn't have to considering he's a national championship coach at North Carolina -- point being that recruiting should be relatively simple. Williams thought for a second and then basically told me the reason is because he knew he could take great players and win with them because he'd been doing it for decades, and that he never wanted to be in a position where he had to find out if he could do the same with average talent. I found that answer interesting. And I thought of it after Thursday's home loss to Miami because, let's be honest, Williams is now working with a pretty average roster, at least by UNC standards.

How many current Tar Heels will be first-round picks in future NBA Drafts?

Answer: Probably just one -- James Michael McAdoo.

So, though I realize Williams never wanted to find out if he could win with average talent, the truth is he's doing exactly that this season. Needless to say, it's not going well. And there's no obvious reason to think it'll start going better this weekend or the next.

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