It’s getting to the point of the year in college hoops when conference play starts wearing on even the best teams. Case in point: Missouri looked like a shoo-in Final Four contender after vanquishing Baylor on the road.
But the Tigers followed that up by getting dumped by Oklahoma State, a team that had shown little life in the Big 12 prior to that point. And Texas Tech — another unremarkable team — gave the No. 2 ranked team in the country everything it could handle on the road before falling on Saturday.
Those ups and downs are reflected in the weekly review.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: KANSAS
The Jayhawks seemed like they would have to take a backseat this season behind Big 12 upstarts Baylor and Missouri, especially after they coughed up a preseason loss to Davidson. But Kansas has pulled itself together in conference play, starting 7-0 in the Big 12 before Saturday's loss at Iowa State.
Thomas Robinson is on everyone’s short list for national player of the year honors, while Tyshawn Taylor, although sometimes careless with the ball, is an explosive point guard. Once again, the Big 12 title goes right through Allen Fieldhouse.
STREAKING: FLORIDA STATE
Many people wondered what team would be the third best behind Duke and North Carolina in the ACC this season, a common question in that conference for many, many years. Florida State has played the past few weeks like it doesn't plan on settling for bronze.
The ‘Noles are finally getting some scoring punch to go with their fierce defense, which means they could legitimately challenge for the ACC title.
The Seminoles have reeled off five straight conference wins after an ugly loss to Clemson. Included in that streak is a throttling of Carolina and a last-second win at Cameron Indoor, breaking the Dukies long home winning streak. The ‘Noles are finally getting some scoring punch to go with their fierce defense, which means they could legitimately challenge for the conference crown.
The Tide were on most preseason Top 25 lists thanks to a veteran squad with all-star talent in Tony Mitchell, JaMychal Green and Trevor Releford. They started with two wins in the SEC, but they’ve since dropped four out of five to put their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy.
While losses to No. 20 Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and No. 2 Kentucky in that span were forgivable, it’s hard to figure Wednesday’s loss to South Carolina. The offense has been the culprit, as Alabama has averaged only 59 points per game in the streak.
UNDER THE RADAR: SAN DIEGO STATE
Even though the Aztecs have been camped in the Top 25 for the past month or so, they don’t get a lot of attention. Maybe that’s because they were supposed to be rebuilding this year after having to replace their entire front line, including All-American Kawhi Leonard.
Falling 77-60 at Colorado Saturday isn't going to help San Diego State gather believers either.
Coach Steve Fisher continues to find a way though, building through sharpshooting guards Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin, the latter being one of the nation’s most improved players. The Aztecs only other losses (besides Colorado) were to Top 20 mainstays Baylor and Creighton, and they’ve already toppled conference rival UNLV on their way to a 4-0 Mountain West start.
GAME OF THE WEEK: MICHIGAN at OHIO STATE, Sunday at Noon on CBS
The Big 10 has been rough-and-tumble so far this season, with each team suffering at least two losses before conference play is halfway through. First place will be on the line in this one.
The Wolverines have nipped Michigan State and Purdue in their last two conference games, as they’ve been energized by the move to a small lineup and the savvy play of seniors Zach Novak and Stu Douglass. Ohio State wants to reassert itself as the conference’s bell cow, and it hasn’t lost at home this year. Look for Jared Sullinger to put extreme pressure on Jordan Morgan, Michigan’s lone big man.
That’s it for this week, folks. Happy Hoops!