U-Conn could be Waterloo for NCAA’s No. 1

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College basketball saw only two top-10 teams lose last week led by Purdue who lost twice and West Virginia who lost a tough home game to Syracuse.

Overall, 10 top-25 teams lost last week with Connecticut being one of the lowlights as they took two losses.

Teams on the rise that are playing great ball under the radar are Clemson (15-3) and Pittsburgh (15-2). After getting pummeled at Duke two weeks ago, Clemson has put together three straight conference wins pushing their ACC record to 3-1. During that three game stretch, senior forward Trevor Booker has led the way averaging 20 points per game. This week Clemson visits No. 17 Georgia Tech and then welcomes No. 6 Duke on Saturday night for a rematch.

It’s amazing that Pitt hasn’t moved up higher in the rankings thus far. They have lost only two games this season, one to top ranked Texas and the other to Indiana on neutral courts. The Panthers are on an eight game win streak that includes three straight road wins at Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Connecticut which has helped propel them into a tie for first place in Big East play at 5-0 with No. 4 Villanova.

It’s safe to say the Big East is, by far, the best conference in college hoops making it hard to understand the pollsters thought process the last two weeks with the rankings they’ve sent.

Pur-don’t

After staring out the season 14-0, Purdue – the former No. 6 team in the Nation – has lost three straight games. Losing at Wisconsin is tolerable. Losing to Ohio State at home with Evan Turner back in the mix is acceptable, but losing at Northwestern is just plain rank.

This was a team that expected to go far into the NCAA tournament in March. What’s next, losing to Iowa or Penn State? Just one day prior, Digger Phelps said on ESPN that Purdue was the most overrated team in the nation, much to my disbelief, but maybe he’s on to something. The Northwestern 72-64 win was the Wildcats best win against a ranked opponent since they defeated No. 4 Michigan State and Earvin Johnson in 1979.

UNLV falling apart

Just when we all started to believe that the Rebels (14-4) were on the verge of something special this season, they go and lose at home as an 11-point favorite to lowly Utah (9-8) on Saturday night. A loss to ranked BYU in Provo, while playing hard for the entire game, was somewhat encouraging for UNLV’s remaining schedule.

Then there was the big road win at New Mexico, but losing at home to the Utes may have shown the most telling sign that the Rebels just aren’t ready for big time basketball yet, and worst of all, they may be looking for an N.I.T. invite rather than the Big Dance.

It’s likely that only two, maybe three, Mountain West teams will go to the NCAA Tournament and a home loss to Utah drops them down several notches in the ratings. It looks like they may have to win the conference tournament to go dancing this year.

Rocky Tobacco Road

North Carolina (12-6), the defending National Champions, have lost two in a row and three of their last four games. They lost a tough home game to Georgia Tech on Saturday, but what’s worse is that they got destroyed 83-64 at Clemson, the worst loss of Coach Roy Williams seven seasons at Chapel Hill.

The Heels now find themselves 1-2 in ACC play sitting near the bottom and things don‘t appear to be getting any better. If they don’t pick up the pace, they may find themselves in the same boat as UNLV when invites come out in March. Surprisingly, unranked Virginia is sitting atop the conference at 3-0.

Upsets of the Week

The big double digit favorites seem like they get there often, but last week there were six games that saw double-digit favorites lose outright. Last Monday, N.C. State won at Florida State as an 11-point dog. On Thursday, Middle Tennessee State lost to Florida International as a 14-point favorite.

Saturday saw two fall among the many big favorites that did cover on a huge schedule. Cal Poly didn’t need the 13-points as they beat Long Beach by 11. Then the Rebels joined the party losing to Utah laying 11-points. Sunday’s limited schedule had Bowling Green winning at Kent State, who was favored by 11-points and lowly Indiana passed up the 11-points beating Minnesota in overtime.

Game of the Week:

Saturday, Jan.23, 2009

1 pm (PT) TV:CBS

No. 1 Texas at No. 22 Connecticut : What a week for the top ranked Texas Longhorns (17-0). On Monday, they travel to Manhattan, Kansas to play upstart Kansas State and Jacob Pullen. On Saturday they roll into Connecticut giving them two ranked opponents on the road in the same week after having only three road games all season among their 17 wins. Upset city looks to occur at one of these places. Should Texas get by unscathed, then they truly are the No. 1 team in the nation, but it doesn’t look promising.

Connecticut is reeling right now having lost three straight games, two of which were ranked and the latest being a loss at Michigan. They need a big game to get them straight again and Texas may be just the team to inspire them.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts

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