RTC Rewind: Sunday Bloody Sunday

Posted by Henry Bushnell on January 12th, 2015

Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, there is nothing to be said. After a weekend like the one that just transpired, this is probably one of those times. You saw the games. Or at least you saw the results. I didn’t even see much of it because life gets in the way, and because, let’s be honest, who would mark their calendars to make a point to catch a late Sunday night Arizona vs. Oregon State game? Or Wisconsin against Rutgers at the same time that Peyton Manning is perhaps playing his last football game… ever? I hate to be repetitive, but man, crazy stuff happens in college basketball. And the craziest part is that that crazy stuff often happens at crazy times when you least expect it.

Upsets, Upsets, and More Upsets!

It Was That Kind of a January Sunday in College Basketball (USA Today Images)

It Was That Kind of a January Sunday in College Basketball (USA Today Images)

The strangest aspect of Saturday and Sunday was that all of this happened on a weekend without many marquee match-ups. Sure, we had two headliner games in the ACC, but many of the results that ended up leading SportsCenter weren’t the focus of the weekend previews. Wisconsin was matching up against arguably the worst team in the Big Ten; Arizona was playing a bottom-four team in the Pac-12; and Duke was playing a middle-of-the-pack ACC squad. All three left with losses, and it didn’t stop there. Kentucky, everybody’s #1 team in America, was pushed to the brink by a Texas A&M outfit that nobody thinks all that much of; and Oklahoma, which might have succumbed to the RTC Podcast jinx (if such a thing exists), looked bad in a home loss to Kansas State. Huh? Overall, six of the USA Today top 10 went down last week – five over the weekend – and two others came very close to dropping their first games of the season. For some – Louisville (at UNC), Texas (at Oklahoma State) maybe even Duke (at NC State) – the losses were reasonable enough for conference play. But for others – we’re looking at you, Wisconsin and Arizona – the upsets were completely confounding. A little less than two weeks ago, Rutgers lost to Northwestern at home, scoring only 47 points; not long after that, Wisconsin beat that same Northwestern team in Evanston by 23. How do you explain that? Some will try by point to the absence of Frank Kaminsky. But you just don’t… you just can’t.

The ACC Bloodbath Has Commenced

It began last Monday night when Notre Dame went to Chapel Hill and knocked off North Carolina and it spilled over into the weekend. There are five ACC teams among the top 20 of the polls, and there really could be five in the top 15, maybe even top 10, but of that group, four already have a conference loss. How do the five stack up? After Virginia’s impressive win at Notre Dame, the Cavaliers have established themselves atop the pack for now (for analysis from South Bend, check out Walker Carey’s postgame takeaways). Duke is probably still a close second despite giving NC State students another insane court rush. But realistically, any of the trio of Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame could be third. It seems harsh to punish the Cardinals for a one-point road loss, but Rick Pitino’s team only has one top-40 win at this point (over a puzzling Ohio State team). Then there are the Tar Heels, which just knocked off Louisville but are exhaustingly erratic. Notre Dame of course won at UNC but struggled with Georgia Tech and only has one other quality win on the entire season (Michigan State). For now, I’ll rank this group as such: 3. Louisville, 4. Notre Dame, 5. North Carolina. But I’d be willing to bet they’re in a different order this time next week.

Early Season Pretenders

With Four Straight Losses, Lorenzo Romar's Team Has Come Back to Earth (USA Today Images)

With Four Straight Losses, Lorenzo Romar’s Team Has Come Back to Earth (USA Today Images)

It wasn’t only the teams at the top that fell victim to upsets over the weekend. For some of them, their latest losses aren’t isolated incidents. Several teams are exposing themselves as early season pretenders:

  • Washington – It’s now four straight losses for the Huskies after an 11-0 start. The latest defeat came at home to lowly Washington State, statistically the worst team in the Pac-12. I think we can now say with confidence that Washington’s hot start was something of a fluke. The Huskies aren’t as bad as their 0-3 conference record either, but they’re merely an average group with an average coach.
  • Pittsburgh – It seems like every year the Panthers have a few proponents who buy into their “toughness” and “grit.” But can we please stop pretending this team is any good? No wins of any substance, and most recently, a home loss to Clemson. Ugh.
  • Minnesota – The numbers loved the Gophers heading into Big Ten play, but nobody can love an 0-4 Big Ten start. It doesn’t help that three of those four losses were road games, and the one at home was against Ohio State. But Minnesota just isn’t that much different than it was last season.
  • South Carolina – I’ll cop to this one. I thought the Gamecocks’ were legitimate – and I still think they’re a lot better than many thought they’d be – but an 0-2 SEC start is less than ideal. The losses came against Florida and at Ole Miss, but the latter loss was a blowout. South Carolina probably can’t score enough yet to make an NCAA Tournament push in Frank Martin’s third season there.

Plays of the Weekend

Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs to beat Creighton…

And North Carolina’s Marcus Paige to beat Louisville, on a play that was remarkably similar to his game-winner last year against NC State…

Players of the Weekend

  • Bobby Portis, whose Arkansas team has won seven straight games, deflated Vanderbilt with 11 rebounds and 32 points on 13-of-18 shooting.
  • J.J. Avila, Colorado State’s below-the-rim catalyst notched 28 points and 14 boards in a much-needed win over Air Force.
  • Trevor Lacey shot NC State to its upset win over Duke, hitting 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in the Wolfpack’s win.
Henry Bushnell (39 Posts)

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