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An air of uncertainty regarding Juwan Howard and his job status has come to the fore at Michigan. 

Late Sunday night, after a bit of online rumormongering and speculation increased, The Athletic's Brendan Quinn broke the seal on the silence around the situation and reported Howard and Michigan strength coach Jon Sanderson were involved in a confrontation at a recent Michigan practice. CBS Sports can confirm that report. Soon thereafter, Howard traveled with Michigan for its Sunday game against Iowa; Sanderson did not. The person or people responsible for the decision that led to Sanderson not traveling with the team — something strength coaches almost always do — is not publicly known.

Howard, who is yet to serve in an official capacity as Michigan's coach this season following heart surgery in September, is "hoping to return" and resume his official duties later this week. That according to a Sunday night tweet from Howard's former teammate and longtime close friend, Jalen Rose. 

On Tuesday, Howard broke his silence — but not on this matter. As the public waits for an update from Michigan, Howard shared a photo from a team trip to a local children's hospital.

Amid all this, The Athletic reports that the incident is subject to a "review process" by a Michigan administrative board that operates outside the jurisdiction of U-M's athletic department. The school is yet to comment. The Detroit News reported Monday that the event between Howard and Sanderson "wasn't physical."

As of Wednesday morning, Howard and Sanderson are both members of Michigan's basketball program. Howard has been employed the past year and a half under a zero-tolerance policy for workplace misconduct, per The Athletic. In 2022, he was suspended five games after an infamous physical encounter in the postgame handshake line after Michigan's loss at Wisconsin. In the 2021 Big Ten Tournament, Howard had to be restrained as he traded verbal barbs with then-Maryland coach Mark Turgeon.

From afar, it seems exhausting. Is all of this worth the trouble?

The disquietude has led to a big question in college basketball: Will Juwan Howard be coaching Michigan moving forward? Perhaps he will, but if the answer is no, he would be college hoops' latest "December Surprise." In the past decade, college basketball has developed a semi-regular pattern of producing a power-conference coaching change in December. Here's a refresher on the four we've seen since 2015, and this doesn't include preseason surprises: the 2017 firing of Rick Pitino at Louisville; the October 2020 resignation of Pat Chambers at Penn State; the November 2020 firing of Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. 

Dec. 15, 2015: Less than eight months removed from coaching in the national title game, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan stuns by announcing his immediate retirement moments after a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Badgers were an irregular 7-5 at that point but wound up 22-13 with a Sweet 16 run as a No. 7 seed. Ryan's retirement forced then-athletic director Barry Alvarez to let Greg Gard coach the team (which was Ryan's desire in a behind-the-scenes tussle) and eventually enabled Gard to win a job he's held for eight years. 

Dec. 31, 2018: In before the end-of-December buzzer. After a problematic 7-6 start, Steve Alford is fired on New Year's Eve following a 15-point home loss to Liberty that was rock bottom for a UCLA team riding a four-game losing skid. Murry Bartow was named interim coach; the Bruins went 10-10 thereafter to finish 17-16 and weren't even in consideration for the NIT. After a protracted search, UCLA hired Mick Cronin on April 9, 2019.

Dec. 2, 2021: The morning after Maryland loses by four at home to Virginia Tech, Mark Turgeon walks into Maryland athletic director Damon Evans' office and tells him he's resigning. Turgeon, who was a month into his 11th season there, was fed up with fan treatment, particularly after hearing the latest round of inappropriate language from fans in earshot of his family. Danny Manning was named interim; the Terps went 15-17 that season and eventually hired Kevin Willard away from Seton Hall. 

Dec. 12, 2022: Exactly a year ago Tuesday. Although Chris Beard wasn't technically fired until the first week of 2023, his December arrest and immediate suspension signaled the end of his short time at Texas. The felony assault charge against Beard was later dropped, on Feb. 15, a crucial legal decision that led to Beard getting hired at Ole Miss a month after that. Rodney Terry took over for Beard at Texas when it was 7-1. He won the full-time job after guiding the Longhorns to a 2-seed, an Elite Eight appearance and 29-9 record.

We will soon know if Howard stays on, but per my sources, what's clear is that there is dysfunction within Michigan's program — and this is outside of all the melodrama that came with the football team and Connor Stalions over the previous two months. Even if Howard keeps his post, two other coaches — Louisville's Kenny Payne and DePaul's Tony Stubblefield — have also become subject to job speculation amid their teams' 6-11 combined start. Coincidentally, DePaul (2-7) is coming off a home win over Louisville (4-5) on Saturday. Can college basketball avoid carousel movement during Christmastime, or does another December Surprise await?

Dossiers on the seven undefeateds

We're 37 days into the season and seven unbeatens remain. If you think that's low for mid-December, you're half right. I asked Ken Pomeroy — who has access to ancient secrets and knows encrypted passwords for data-fetching apparati — to call up how often we've had so few unbeatens left by the morning of Dec. 13. 

Here's how it's gone since 2005-06, the year the NCAA elongated the season to start earlier in November. I've omitted 2020-21, as that COVID-affected year started three weeks later than normal. 

Unbeatens remaining the morning of Dec. 13 
2005: 19
2006: 9
2007: 14
2008: 16
2009: 15
2010: 14
2011: 9
2012: 14
2013: 14
2014: 10
2015: 10
2016: 7
2017: 7
2018: 9
2019: 5
2020: N/A
2021: 7
2022: 7
2023: 7

Interesting how the number of unbeatens on Dec. 13 has hit a lower threshold recently. I wonder what's caused the shift. 

Nevertheless, here are the seven still standing, their best wins and the chances they'll be the last one with a bagel, per Pomeroy's projections. 

HOUSTON (10-0)
AP: 4 | KenPom: 1 | Next: Sat. vs. Texas A&M

Easily the favorite to take its first loss last: a 40% chance. The Cougars get A&M in a tussle in Houston this week, but then they shouldn't have a viable challenge until playing at Iowa State on Jan. 9. The schedule hasn't been a bear, but there are wins over Utah, Dayton and a roadie against Xavier. No. 1 per-possession defense at the moment, too.

AP: 20 | KenPom: 71 | Next: Sat. @ Hampton

James Madison has just one March Madness appearance in the past 30 seasons, yet the Dukes' 21.5% probability to lose last is No. 2 on Pomeroy's list. JMU opened November in loud fashion by beating then-No. 4 Michigan State. Five of its nine wins are away from home. The Dukes, now in the Sun Belt, have been in the AP Top 25 four weeks running — the only four weeks they've ever been ranked. They can be this season's FAU. 

BAYLOR (9-0)
AP: 6 | KenPom: 7 | Next: Sat. vs. Michigan State

was higher on Baylor than anyone heading into the season, and that's working out well so far. The Bears' neutral-site wins over Auburn and Florida are good, but we still need to see more. People will really start paying attention if BU doesn't slip up against Michigan State, and then if it can beat Duke in New York City next Wednesday. KenPom says: 12.6% possibility to be the last undefeated.

AP: 1 | KenPom: 2 | Next: Sat. vs. No. 3 Purdue

With Purdue lurking, the Wildcats have a mere 11.7% chance to be the last unbeaten team. Hey, whatever: Tommy Lloyd's group has looked as good AND scheduled as ambitiously as anyone. Arizona won at Duke, has a blowout home W over Wisconsin and a six-point victory on a neutral against Michigan State ... which isn't so impressive at the moment, considering MSU's woes.

AP: 11 | KenPom: 19 | Next: Sat. vs. Green Bay

The Sooners are for real, having notched four top-50 victories and currently carrying a 21.9-point win margin. Javian McCollum, Milos Uzan, Otega Oweh are downright dudes. No road games yet, but neutral-site wins over power-conference teams (Iowa, USC, Arkansas). Also mowed Providence by 21. A matchup vs. North Carolina in Charlotte awaits next Wednesday. All told, OU has a 7.9% chance to be the last undefeated. More importantly, it's well on its way to an NCAA bid.

AP: 13 | KenPom: 25 | Next: Sat. @ Memphis

Lest you think this is a new thing, I'll remind you that just last season Clemson got to 15-3, including a program-record 7-0 start in the ACC. The Tigers returned most of their key players and added Syracuse transfer Joe Girard III, who is pacing toward his best season. 

The Tigers beat Alabama and Pitt on the road. They ended TCU's unbeaten start. They took out a decent Boise State team, too. I think Clemson's a top-three ACC outfit. Pomeroy's algorithm isn't high on it going much longer without a loss, though — just a 3.9% shot. Beat Memphis on the road this weekend and that number will spike. 

Ole Miss (9-0)
AP: N/A | KenPom: 90 | Next: Sat. vs. California

Statistically the most surprising team here, as the Rebels are still toiling in the sub-80 range in most metrics. The computers not being sold yet had an impression on AP voters, who somewhat surprisingly still opted not to vote Chris Beard's team into the rankings this week. The Rebels' highest-quality win is against Memphis, but they also won on the road against Temple and UCF. Five of their wins are by three points or fewer. Chances at being the last unbeaten: 2.5%, the lowest of the bunch.

Week 6 AP Top 25 forecasts who will win NCAA title

Years ago, ESPN's John Gasaway uncovered a fascinating statistical trend buried in the early part of the season: the sixth week of the AP rankings accurately foreshadowed the eventual winner of that season's national championship. Yes, of all the weeks, Week 6 is the one that lands in the sweet spot of reliably placing a team in the top 12 that will prove to cut down the nets four months into the future. 

Every season since 2004 — and for many years before 2003; '03 Syracuse is the outlier — a team ranked in the top 12 of the Week 6 AP Top 25 has gone on to win the title

"It tends to be the case that AP pollsters have learned a good deal by week six but aren't yet too caught up in regular-season noise," Gasaway wrote. "Their rankings of eventual champions therefore tend to be a bit more accurate by this point than they are in the preseason."

So, make note of it now. One of these 12 is fated to be the 2024 NCAA champ: Arizona, Kansas, Purdue, Houston, UConn, Baylor, Marquette, Creighton, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Tennessee. Who's your pick?

On Wednesday's Eye on College Basketball show, Gary Parrish and I power-ranked the 12 in terms of likelihood to win it all come April. Here's my top five: 1. Purdue 2. Arizona 3. UConn 4. Marquette 5. Baylor.

@ me

The Court Report's weekly mailbag! Find me on X/Twitter or Bluesky and drop a Q anytime.

Too many Qs in one tweet, sir! I will go with your second one, on Thad Matta. The "Brad Stevens level" means making the NCAA title game, so no, I don't think it's fair to call Butler's ceiling that, even if Matta made one himself with Ohio State back in 2007. BU's ceiling this season is fifth in the Big East, which probably equates to a No. 10 seed at best in the NCAAs. At 8-2 and with one non-Division I game remaining, the Bulldogs are done in the non-con. Best wins: Boise State on a neutral and Texas Tech at home. Good but not great. As for the long-term outlook under Matta, opinions vary. He's a very good coach, but the expectation level at that program should be an NCAA tourney appearance in 50% of a given coach's tenure. Anything beyond that is gravy in a really good league with a lot of other schools far outpacing Butler's NIL capabilities.

I wasn't a buyer on the Ducks heading into the season, ranking them 54th. They're 6-2 with the best wins being an OT escape at home vs. middling Michigan and a season-opening victory over Georgia in Las Vegas. They'll play Syracuse in South Dakota this weekend. The non-con isn't going to have a lot to it come March, it seems. I don't think Oregon makes the NCAAs in 2024, but obviously their chances aren't zero. if you're looking for a percentage, I'll go with 30%. 

Two on the board. A long and narrow path to get there, but I see a chance for a multi-bid Valley this season if Drake (9-1) and Indiana State (9-1) can make it to league play without any more losses. That will mean Drake has to win at UAB and ISU has to win at Michigan State before we get to Christmas. If those happen, it will turn into a real conversation.

📬 The Iron Giant asks, "Can you please address the Nae'Qwan Tomlin situation ... I don't understand what happened to get to outright dismissal." 📬

Well, it's all changed in a hurry now, hasn't it? Whatever issue Nae'Qwan Tomlin had — beyond his physical altercation in a bar in October; the school president said late last week that was not the sole reason he decided not to clear Tomlin for a return to the team — is no longer relevant at K-State. Tomlin went into the portal and within days committed to Memphis. My read is that Jerome Tang isn't happy over how Tomlin's situation was handled by K-State's president. Meantime, Memphis gets Tomlin and he'll be eligible to play in January. The 7-2 Tigers have another veteran in the fold. Grown-man team and one that I think will rank in the AP Top 25 more weeks than not moving forward. The rare in-season free agent move in college hoops, and it probably will have tangible national impact.

Norlander's news + nuggets

• The AP poll has rightfully been dragged this week after its voters collectively tabulated FAU ranked above Illinois (after Illinois beat FAU on a neutral last week) and 7-3 Miami remained ranked following a 90-63 drubbing to Colorado ... while 8-2 Colorado couldn't crack the poll. It's a bad look, aided in part by the reality that a significant number of AP voters double as college football reporters and don't necessarily key in on college hoops until a month or more into the season. I've long dismissed the inherent value of the AP Top 25, but it does carry relevance and value for the programs and markets the sport. It's an important weekly publicity machine, but the process needs a makeover.
• The Big 12 is tracking to be the strongest conference again, but here's a note from the SEC office: "The SEC leads the nation with 26 Quad 1 & 2 wins through games of Dec. 10." If the SEC avoids non-con Quad 3/4 losses in the next two weeks, it could be the difference in March in nabbing an extra at-large berth. 
• The SEC isn't the only power league riding high at the moment. The Pac-12 is coming off a weekend wherein four teams won against ranked competition. That had not happened for the Pac-12 since the 1997 NCAA Tournament. Amazing AND indicting!
• A stat to know in advance of Arizona-Purdue: The Boilermakers have won 32 straight regular season non-con games, which is college hoops' longest streak in at least 13 seasons. The second-longest active streak belongs to Arizona, which has won its last 19. Can't wait for Saturday, but here's my warning/reminder to you that you need a Peacock login in order to watch that one.
• Speaking of Arizona, it's the only team to cover in every game so far this season. The only team YET to cover: Georgia Southern. The only team to hit the over every time: Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
• Most underrated stud in the country is Memphis' David Jones, who averaged 26.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in Memphis' two road wins last week against VCU and Texas A&M. Playing like an All-American after transferring from St. John's.
• Great move by the SoCon: The league announced Wednesday it has formed a partnership with HD Intelligence (profiled here at CBS in 2021) to enhance its statistical analysis. SoCon is in first, but I bet a dozen leagues are in business with HDI by 2026.
UNLV @ Dayton, which was called off last week amid a deadly shooting on UNLV's campus, will not be played this season, the schools announced Monday. UNLV has agreed to make a return trip to Dayton in the future. 
• How down is Louisville right now? Card Chronicle's Mike Rutherford is a voice of authority in that city and he wrote a really good piece about the state of the program and its fan base. 
• Another fan base in a rut: Michigan State. The team's 4-5 start is tied for the worst opening from a preseason top-five team in the last four decades, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And yet, I still want to put some shine on something I enjoy every year. I can't help but admire Tom Izzo for continuing to keep up with his tradition and playing his accordion for a live audience every December. He's done this for two decades now. The fact we even have a college coach who can competently play the accordion still amuses me. I genuinely adore this.