Upsets Abound on Black Saturday -- Who Should Be Worried?
Eleven ranked teams lost in what we could call Black Saturday. No. 16 Minnesota lost to No. 12 Purdue and No. 11 Missouri was beaten by No. 7 Texas. But what about the other nine? Did we see something Saturday that should raise the proverbial red flag? College basketball editors Ray Holloman and Matt Snyder weigh in with an impromptu roundtable, checking in with each team that was upset, in order of which they occurred.
Should They Worry?
No. 8 Villanova -- Lost to No. 22 Georgetown 69-66
RH: No. Losing streaks in the Big East are like rain in Seattle or boredom in soccer. Just comes with the territory. The Wildcats have lost three of four, but Saturday's effort was much better than the groaner at Providence. The Wildcats held Chris Wright, usually the barometer of the Hoyas, to zero points, committed just nine turnovers and got production up and down their lineup. They simply ran into one of the league's hottest teams and its preseason player of the year, Austin Freeman, who single-handedly carried Georgetown to victory. Expect a bounce back Wednesday against Marquette in what should be one of the most entertaining Big East games of the year.
MS: No. Back-to-back losses in the Big East? Oh no! (Please note sarcasm). If anything, this could be a good sign down the stretch for Villanova. You might remember, the Wildcats were given a 2-seed last March and were knocked from the tournament in the second round by Saint Mary's. If Jay Wright's troops ever get too proud of themselves, he has plenty of reminders that they need to buckle down. And don't doubt the Coreys (Stokes and Fisher). They can score and will show everyone this March.
No. 5 Connecticut -- Lost to No. 23 Louisville 79-78 in 2OT
RH: No. Win some at the buzzer, lose some at the buzzer. Granted, there's plenty the Huskies can work on from this, not the least of which was the team's defense at the end of the first overtime, when Peyton Siva drove down the middle of the lane for a game-tying layup in the final seconds. But Jeremy Lamb continued his push to be Connecticut's second scorer -- and actually outscored Kemba Walker 21-20 -- and Shabazz Napier had his best offensive game of the season (23 points, 20 after halftime). The Huskies played a good game, minus a pair of costly defensive lapses on Siva, but two would-be Walker game-winners rattled out. A loss like this will likely only make the Huskies a more aggressive end-of-game team.
MS: No. UConn was a one-player team earlier in the season, but has since made the adjustments necessary and doesn't totally survive on Kemba Walker. Sure, he's the star, but there's nothing wrong with having a star -- so long as he has a supporting cast. Losing in double-OT to a very good Louisville team isn't worthy of panic, especially since the Huskies were a Walker shot away from the win. They'll be just fine.
No. 22 Florida State -- Lost to Clemson 62-44
RH: Yes. And for two reasons. The Seminoles have played most of the year with the zeal for offense that your 5-year-old has for broccoli. If there's a system to what Florida State does, it's not readily apparent. After a euphoric win over Duke, it seemed the Seminoles had turned a corner, but Saturday's loss to Clemson couldn't have been uglier on the offensive end. It was simply inept. Even Florida State's full-nelson defense can't make up for that sort of offensive mess. Secondly, the Seminoles don't have many chances for marquee wins for their NCAA tournament resume because the ACC is in a severe down year. Their only win over a certain NCAA tournament team is the win over Duke and they have losses against Virginia Tech, Clemson and an awful, awful loss to Auburn. FSU doesn't get to play Duke again, so, at best they finish the year with a pair of wins over North Carolina heading into the ACC tournament and finish with three wins over tourney teams. Congratulations, FSU, you just jumped back in the hole.
MS: No. The Seminoles are just what we thought they were. A team with enough talent to knock off a top-tier team that is still fickle enough to lay an egg against inferior competition. After four straight wins -- three of which were quality -- it's not time to declare the sky is falling after a bad road performance. The 'Noles still play defense as tough as anyone and they have Chris Singleton. This isn't anything close to an elite team, but it's an NCAA tournament team. Just as we thought all season.
No. 24 Florida -- Lost to Mississippi State 71-64
RH: Yes. The Bulldogs played their best game with Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost in the lineup, both of whom were out on lengthy suspensions, so it isn't quite as bad as it might seem on its face, but at some point, if Florida is going to be the Final Four contender -- or heck, Sweet 16 contender -- expected at the start of the year, they need to turn the corner. The Gators' best win of the season is over Jekyl-and-Pearl Tennessee and no other certain NCAA tournament teams. And the terrible free throw shooting days have to end. Gators were 9-for-19 from the stripe.
Interestingly, Florida only allowed four Bulldogs to score in the loss.
MS: Yes. Not necessarily because of this loss, but because now the Gators have to deal with Vanderbilt and Kentucky in consecutive games. They haven't displayed any kind of consistency this season on either end of the floor, if you consider this was supposed to be an upper-echelon team, and now let an even less disciplined team handle them. There's probably a trip to the NCAA tournament in store, but it's not near what was expected in the preseason and a win would surprise me.
No. 13 Texas A&M -- Lost to Nebraska 57-48
RH: No. It's easy to snicker at a loss to Nebraska like they just lost to a lingerie football league team, but the Huskers are quietly having a nice season at 15-5. They've made trouble for good teams all month, nearly snapping Kansas' home winning streak and giving Missouri more than the Tigers probably expected. Star Khris Middleton had an off day and the whole team just didn't seem prepared for the fist fight this game will be. This is another loss that will likely make the Aggies a better team down the road.
MS: No. Nebraska is actually one of the more underrated teams in the country. This isn't to say the Cornhuskers are great, because they aren't, but they haven't lost at home all season. They beat a red-hot Colorado team in Lincoln and hung with Kansas in Lawrence. Don't discount the quick turnaround to facing Texas A&M, either. The Aggies are slated to take on the red-hot Texas Longhorns Monday. It doesn't excuse the loss, but it's easy to see why a group of kids might be looking ahead. That won't happen in March.
No. 9 Syracuse -- Lost to Marquette, 76-70
RH: Yes. However, Syracuse's issues are correctable. The Orange just need to get back to that sort of grab-you-by-the-collar defense that makes the Syracuse 2-3 zone famous. The Orange's offense has been up and down in its four straight losses, but the defense has been abysmal in every one. Syracuse gave up an offensive efficiency rating over 100 in just three of its first 18 games. Opposing teams have topped 100 in each of the last four, generally by leaps and bounds. The most troublesome statistic? Opponents are shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range during the Orange's four-game slide, some from a mix of nifty passing to the weak side of the zone like Villanova, others from poor closeouts like Saturday's loss.
MS: Absolutely. The back-to-back losses could have been forgiven, especially considering the competition (Pitt and Villanova). But a 22-point home loss to Seton Hall would have been a wake up call to any team with a pulse. Going to UConn Wednesday won't be any easier, and it's not much of a stretch to believe a five-game losing streak could bury the confidence of any team -- especially since we're getting into February. It's actually not even a stretch to believe the Orange finish .500 or below in conference (look at the schedule). Things better change real fast, or this is the 2011 version of 2010 Texas.
No. 9 BYU -- Lost to New Mexico 86-77
RH: Nope. Road loss in one of the toughest gyms in the United States one game after winning the most hyped game in league history? Next.
MS: No. Though I was surprised they lost, it's not a stretch to have expected a tough game here. The Pit is a really tough place to play, New Mexico is no pushover, and BYU just gave everything it had Wednesday night to take down San Diego State. This actually might be a blessing in disguise because, as much as I love Jimmer (like everyone else), he was starting to get so much hype he was in danger of becoming overrated. This brings back the reins a bit and helps the Cougars stay even-keeled.
No. 17 Wisconsin -- Lost to Penn State 56-52
RH: No. Wisconsin has always been a mortal team away from the Kohl Center, but few defenders are going to have much luck against the sort of big night Talor Battle had. Meanwhile, the Badgers, who entered the game averaging 17 free throws a game, shot just three. That won't happen again, even for a team that's shooting more than 40 percent of its field goals from long range. Bo Ryan just needs to keep his team on the attack.
MS: Yes, because neither the Big Ten tournament nor the NCAA tournament are held in Madison. Look, I greatly respect Bo Ryan and the program he's built at Wisconsin, but it's beginning to seem like the Badgers are a one-trick pony. They can beat anyone at home and lose to anyone away from home. Ryan's 147-11 at home, but has never been to a Final Four. You see that lack of free throws Saturday? That's a road game. At home they get a lot more whistles. Watch the way Ryan works the officials at home and tell me I'm wrong. This is a one-and-done team in the Big Dance. Just like last season when the Badgers lost to Cornell.
No. 19 Vanderbilt -- Lost to Arkansas 89-78
RH: No. Rontei Clarke scored 36 points and hit 6-of-8 three-pointers, while a reserve scored 20. The Commodores hardly seemed into the game early, perhaps as a result of attending the funeral of a teammate's mother. For whatever reason, Vanderbilt was playing in granite sneakers and Clarke was putting on a direct-from-NBA jam performance. It's disappointing, but exactly what happens a handful of times a year.
MS: No. There are some variables to consider here. Vandy just won a tough road game Thursday night against Mississippi State -- which beat Florida Saturday. The Commodores also had the aforementioned funeral and had to deal with a career game from an opponent. Let's not draw too much into one game.