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January 19, 2011 This week in College Basketball was perhaps the most exciting of the year. Florida State’s upset of Duke not only saw a changing of the guard atop the polls, but snapped Duke’s 25-game-winning-streak. Ohio State is the new number one, but the Buckeyes have hardly cruised of late winning their last three games by a total of 10 points. Three teams still remain undefeated following losses by Duke and Syracuse, but this week presents plenty of opportunity for that to change. Here are my weekly observations and what to look for this week:

1. You Can’t Let Up on Anyone from the Big East

On Saturday, both Villanova and Louisville looked dead in the water. With just under seven minutes to play, Louisville trailed Marquette 63-45 at home. The Cardinals appeared to be headed toward a second straight conference loss, but finished the game on a 26-7 run. Kyle Kuric’s layup with just four seconds remaining gave Louisville a 71-70 lead and the Cardinals held on as Jimmy Butler’s jumper from the foul-line came up short for Marquette.

In Philadelphia, Maryland looked well on its way to a marquee upset of seventh-ranked Villanova as the Terrapins held a 59-47 lead with 9:27 to play in the game. The Wildcats however would close the game on a 27-7 run to thwart any hopes of a Maryland upset. On Sunday, West Virginia was able to pull of an upset as the Mountaineers downed eighth-ranked Purdue 68-64 in Morgantown. Notre Dame also fell victim to the upset at Madison Square Garden on Sunday as the Fighting Irish were blown out by St. John’s 72-54.

2. Duke’s “Bigs” Have to Find Ways to Score

The headline of the week was most definitely top-ranked Duke’s 66-61 loss to Florida State in Tallahassee. It was the third time since the turn of the century that Duke was ranked first and fell to the Seminoles in Tallahassee. What few have pointed out however, is Duke’s lack of an inside presence, especially on offense. While Kyle Singler is a forward, he is a perimeter player. The Blue Devils’ post players have struggled; it showed against Jordan Williams and Maryland and it showed once again against Florida State. The Plumlee brothers and forward Ryan Kelly combined for just six points and ten fouls against the Seminoles while Florida State’s Bernard James, Chris Singleton and Terrance Shannon combined for 32 points. Of Florida State’s starting frontcourt, only Chris Singleton was in any foul trouble and that was largely due to him guarding Singler most of the night. Duke has to find a way to get production from their big men or at least find a way to put pressure on opposing forwards to defend.

3. 45 Minutes of Missouri-Texas A&M Still May Not Have Been Enough

In perhaps the most exciting game of a very exciting weekend, the Aggies of Texas A&M downed Missouri 91-89 in overtime. In a match-up of teams that could not have more contrasting styles, Texas A&M found a way to come out victorious. Marcus Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe each scored 19 for Mizzou, but it was not enough as Khris Middleton finished with 28 points and seven rebounds as A&M improved to 16-1. Saturday’s game saw 180 points, 46 fouls called and 13 lead changes with each team leading by at least nine.

4. Conference USA Play Brings Out the Worst in UCF

After a 14-0 start and finding its way into the top 25, the Central Florida Golden Knights have dropped two in a row against Conference USA competition. UCF dropped their first game of the year last Saturday at Houston and followed it up with an embarrassing 17-point-loss at Southern Mississippi. Earlier in the year, UCF was able to knock off in-state opponents, Florida and Miami, but the Knights have struggled since. UCF is currently 1-2 in conference play and in its lone conference win, at home against Marshall, UCF had to come from behind late in the second half to pull off the victory.

5. Michigan is Just Plain Unlucky

The Michigan Wolverines are just 11-7 and 1-4 in Big Ten play, but Michigan has come up just shy of pulling off major upsets again and again. After taking undefeated Kansas to overtime last Sunday, the Wolverines had #2 Ohio State on the ropes again on Wednesday. Michigan pulled to within two twice in the final 30 seconds against Ohio State, but were unable to get any closer. Michigan has lost to three of the nation’s top five teams, but all were competitive. The Wolverines lost by just three against Syracuse, in overtime against Kansas and fell by just four to the Buckeyes on Wednesday. Michigan has shown a tendency to follow up the heartbreaking losses with half-hearted efforts. After losing to Syracuse early in the year, the Wolverines lost their next game to UTEP. Michigan followed up its pair of heartbreakers against Kansas and Ohio State with a 19-point-loss to a 9-8 Indiana team on Saturday.

6. Kansas Makes Nothing Look Easy

Kansas is off to a 18-0 start and is ranked second in the country, but the Jayhawks have developed a knack for winning the close game. Kansas has not played a particularly difficult schedule, but the Jayhawks seem to enjoy the nail-biters. Kansas followed up its overtime victory over Michigan last weekend with just a five-point-victory at Iowa State and a narrow 63-60 win over Nebraska. The Jayhawks also had a two-point-win over USC and a win by just a single point over UCLA back in December.

7. Purdue had a Tough Week

After a 15-1 start, the Purdue Boilermakers lost a pair of heartbreakers on the road this week. On Thursday, the Boilers fell 70-67 at 25th-ranked Minnesota as Lewis Jackson’s potential game-tying-three-pointer was no good. On Sunday, Purdue fell again, this time at West Virginia 68-64; Purdue missed two long jump shots late in the game that would have tied the score against the Mountaineers, but it was not to be as the Boilermakers fell to 15-3. It won’t get much easier for Purdue as the Boilermakers host Penn State on Wednesday before beginning a four-game-stretch against ranked teams.

8. The SEC is Unpredictable

Every team in the Southeastern Conference has played three conference games. Eight teams in the SEC are 2-1 in conference play (entering Tuesday), two others are 1-2 and the other two are 0-3. Early in the year, Tennessee looked like the SEC’s team to beat. The Volunteers got off to a 7-0 start with wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh, but since then, Tennessee has lost to Oakland, Charlotte, USC and the College of Charleston before getting off to an 0-2 SEC start with losses to Arkansas and Florida. The Vols’ looked to be on their way to crumbling as they found themselves down double-digits in the first half on Saturday against Vanderbilt. The Volunteers used a strong second half to down the Commodores and now nobody is really sure what to think. Tennessee has five games remaining before Bruce Pearl returns to the sideline.

Florida appeared to be playing well prior to its loss at home on Saturday to South Carolina; Kentucky, who now seems to be the favorite in the SEC, beat a previously 2-0 LSU team by nearly 40. South Carolina has victories over Vanderbilt and Florida, but lost at Alabama. Georgia is the only team in the SEC to beat Kentucky, but lost a tough one to Vanderbilt. Arkansas seems to be the class of the SEC West, but the Razorbacks still lack a quality win unless you count their home-victory over Tennessee. If the conference tournament is not won by a team from the Western Division, it is conceivable that all six teams from the SEC East could reach the NCAA Tournament while all six schools from the West are out.

9. Jimmer Fredette is Really, Really Good

Because he doesn’t play for Duke, Carolina, Kentucky or Syracuse, many fans do not know of BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. Fredette may be the best player in the country, but doesn’t seem to receive the national recognition that Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Nolan Smith or Jared Sullinger get. In the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament against Florida, Fredette put up 37 points to lead the Cougars to an overtime victory over the Gators to somewhat put him on the national stage. This year, Fredette is averaging better than 26 points-per-game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Last Tuesday against arch-rival Utah, the senior guard poured in 47 points, shot 6-for-9 from three-point-land and dished out six assists as BYU crushed the Utes. Fredette has not been held below 13 points all year long and is averaging 40 points in his last three road games. BYU will have games against TCU and Colorado State this week before its highly anticipated match-up with San Diego State next Wednesday.

What’s Upcoming…

Texas A&M will get its first real road test this week as it travels to Austin to take on the 11th-ranked Longhorns. We’ll see if Duke will once again struggle inside against a talented big man when the Blue Devils take on Tracy Smith and NC State. Arizona and Washington will battle in Seattle for Pac-10 supremacy on Thursday. It’ll be interesting to see how Syracuse responds from its first loss as the Orange return home to take on Villanova on Saturday. Meanwhile, the weekend will also feature a pair of tough tests for the country’s top two as Ohio State travels to Champagne to take on Illinois and Kansas plays host to Texas. As great as this week in College Basketball was, next week presents some more intriguing match-ups.

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