We got a taste of what to expect from conference play and though no huge upsets occurred, the games only reinforced that there is no one Goliath in this year’s college basketball field, instead, there is just a large amount of David’s.
1. Big Ten
While Michigan and Michigan State couldn’t beat the top ACC teams in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the rest of the conference stepped up and got the Big Ten their first challenge win since 2015. Purdue pulled off a huge upset over the defending national champs but no team had a better week than the Ohio State Buckeyes who went into Chapel Hill and absolutely destroyed the North Carolina Tar Heels. They climbed up to third in the latest Associated Press (AP) Poll, and are followed by Maryland (fourth) and the Wolverines (fifth) in the rankings. The Spartans have been a huge letdown to start the year — and they nearly lost a home game to Rutgers this weekend — but the rest of the conference has punched above their weight class for the majority of the season. It remains to be seen just how much carnage ensues during conference play this year.
In what ended up being a pretty tame week around the college basketball landscape by this season’s standards, the American conference is getting rewarded for holding serve in their matchups. Though they didn’t have a big conference challenge to compete in like others, they won the games that mattered. Cincinnati took down a tough Vermont team, Memphis continues to pile up wins as they wai for James Wiseman to return from suspension. Keeping this momentum will be important going forward as they’ll need all the resume-building wins that they can gather if they want a fair shot at getting multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament by March.
3. Big 12
The Baylor Bears had the most surprising victory of the week as they were able to take down the red-hot Arizona Wildcats, 63-58. We also got a top 20 non-conference game as Colorado went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas and the Jayhawks were eventually able to handle their business. Even though they have one loss, Bill Self’s team remains right behind the Lousiville Cardinals in the AP Top 25 Poll for another week. Iowa State also got some revenge against Seton Hall as the Pirates suffered a defeat due to some Ames Magic. Meetings between Louisville and Texas Tech as well as Baylor taking on Butler could help this conference continue their rise up these rankings in future weeks.
4. Big East
Xavier was able to take down Cincinnati in the battle for Ohio, Villanova got a couple of Big 5 win over Saint Joseph’s and Penn, and Butler took down an underperforming Florida team. DePaul had been off to an unbelievable start but they suffered their first loss this season at home against Buffalo. Georgetown picked up a road win over Oklahoma State despite two of its top players leaving the team for different reasons. They have proven as a whole that they are not to be taken lightly anymore and that they are ready and waiting to pull off some upsets when March Madness rolls around.
Yes, Lousiville had a big win over Michigan and they retain the number one spot for another week and the Duke Blue Devils made a statement with their blowout road win against Michigan State but it wasn’t the best week for the assumed top conference in the nation. As mentioned above Virginia lost but then they completely smothered North Carolina over the weekend. After a fast start, the Tar Heels have sputtered as of late and could really use someone not named Cole Anthony to provide some scoring punch. Losing the Big Ten/ACC Challenge for the first time in four years also doesn’t paint a stellar picture of this conference.
What in the world is wrong with Mike White’s Florida Gators? They might have the most talented roster in the entire conference but they keep finding new ways to get into their own way game after game. They are 6-3 through their first nine games and have gone from an NCAA title contender to unranked in the blink of an eye. Kentucky has seemingly corrected course after their flop against Evansville earlier in the season. Yet, not too much else is going right for the conference to start this season. Maybe a few teams will separate from the pack once conference play begins but as of now, they all seem to be clumped together in mediocrity.
Three ranked teams from the Pac-12 (Arizona, Colorado, and Washington) all suffered losses this week and that is the reason they find themselves coming in this low on this week’s rankings. After years of ineptitude, it is hard to give the so-called “Conference of Champions” the benefit of the doubt whenever they hit a rough patch of play. It seemed like stellar freshmen play was going to be enough to get this bunch the respect they’ve been looking for, however, when the opportunities have presented themselves for the taking, they have failed time and time again to capitalize on them. West Coast bias lives on for at least another week.