Is Indiana about to go from being ranked seventh nationally to sitting in sixth place of the Big Ten standings?
Barring an upset, yes.
Let's do the Weekend Look Ahead
Top game: Indiana spent Thursday losing at home to a Minnesota team that entered with an 0-4 record in the Big Ten and was playing without Trevor Mbakwe. That's not something you ever want to do -- but you especially don't want to do it when a Sunday afternoon affair at Ohio State is next on the schedule. Because now the seventh-ranked Hoosiers have to beat the fifth-ranked Buckeyes on the road just to avoid dropping to 3-3 in the Big Ten, and 3-3 in the Big Ten would drop Indiana to no better than sixth in the league standings.
Another interesting matchup: I thought the Mountain West would be less interesting this season because BYU (and Jimmer) left the league and San Diego State was supposed to slip to irrelevancy. But I thought wrong. UNLV beat North Carolina early, then Illinois, and now the Rebels are ranked 12th. They are, under first-year coach Dave Rice, one of the nation's best stories. Meantime, SDSU is ranked 22nd with a 14-2 record that features losses to only No. 4 Baylor and No. 23 Creighton. SDSU hosts UNLV on Saturday. So, like I said, I was wrong about the MWC being less interesting this season.
|Weekend Look Ahead|
Yet another interesting matchup: There's no real reason to think Iowa State will win Saturday at No. 10 Kansas, but I'm still intrigued by the Cyclones. They have a handful of talented transfers (Royce White, Chris Allen, Chris Babb) and a famous alumnus (Fred Hoiberg) coaching, and they're 12-4 and coming off a game in which they played No. 9 Missouri to the final minute. Again, they'll almost certainly lose at KU. But I still think this team could sneak into the NCAA tournament.
Guaranteed to be a blowout: BYU isn't as good without Jimmer, but the Cougars are still solid at 14-4. They host Santa Clara on Saturday, and Santa Clara is not solid. The Broncos have lost three straight by double digits. A fourth straight is coming.
Guaranteed to be an upset: I still like Connecticut as a possible Final Four team because I'm a sucker for talent and Jim Calhoun has lots of it. But the Huskies are just 1-2 in road games this season with the lone win coming by three points over USF. So let's go with unranked Notre Dame over 17th-ranked UConn on Saturday in South Bend. I'd bet Andre Drummond's tuition on it.
Player trying to keep rolling: Dion Waiters comes off the bench for top-ranked Syracuse, but he's hardly a reserve. The sophomore guard has scored in double figures in six straight games. He got 20 the other night in an easy win over Villanova. He'll likely lead the Orange to another easy win over Providence on Saturday.
Player trying to get rolling: My love of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is well-established, but he's struggled a bit since getting 24 points and 19 rebounds in that New Year's Eve victory over Louisville. The freshman wing is only averaging eight points and six rebounds in UK's past three wins while shooting a combined 8 of 22 from the field. He needs to snap out of it Saturday to ensure the No. 2 Wildcats don't get caught at Tennessee.
Three things you need to know
1. Pittsburgh will drop to 0-5 in the Big East unless the Panthers win Saturday at No. 25 Marquette.
2. Murray State will improve to 18-0 on Saturday if the 15th-ranked Racers handle Tennessee Tech.
3. DePaul will have a better Big East record than 14th-ranked Louisville if the Blue Demons win Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.
Final thought: UCLA plays at Southern California late Sunday. So, naturally, some Los Angeles-based reporters have spent the past couple of days talking to both coaches about the matchup and each other, and Kevin O'Neill made headlines with his thoughts on Josh Smith.
"I like Josh, I think he's a good player," O'Neill told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Pedro Moura."But I would encourage anybody that's in Josh's physical condition that, if you want to play at the next level, he's got to lose weight and get himself in better shape to play."
O'Neill coaches USC and Smith plays for UCLA.
So some have labeled that quote as controversial.
The question is this: Can a coach really call out an opposing player?
In my opinion, yes, provided it's done in a respectable and constructive way, and O'Neill's comments were respectable and constructive. He was only saying what most college basketball writers and fans have said a million times. He was just being honest. And his tone doesn't appear to be mean or demeaning, so I'm OK with it. In fact, I'm for it because I wish more coaches cared less about whether what they said might offend somebody and more about giving candid thoughts on subjects and players when questioned. In this regard, Kevin O'Neill is a treasure. He speaks his mind freely. And I'll never be the guy who criticizes somebody for doing that, especially when -- as is the case with Josh Smith -- what's on KO's mind is the same thing that's been on all of our minds for years.