With nearly two-thirds of the college schedule completed, strong teams are expected to start show large disparities between themselves and low ranked teams. With that, there is supposed to be some clarity on who the powerhouses are, and who will make it deep into tournament play come March.
However, after watching performances by three of the top-four teams ranked in the AP poll, the powerhouse seen looks as muddled as ever.
Three of the top four teams in the AP Poll lost, marking the first time that combination of teams has lost on the same date since 1979.
Tennessee 82, Kentucky 80
Despite scoring 80 points, Kentucky did not look comfortable on offense. The Wildcats shot only 41.7 % from the field and took 24 attempts from beyond the arc while only cashing in on six of them.
With four minutes left in the second half, Tennessee took the lead and never looked back, topping the Wildcats 82-80.
The Volunteer defenders did a fantastic job of pressuring the Wildcats play makers into tough shots. While it was impossible to entirely contain a lineup composed of Malik Monk, De’Aron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe, forcing them into uncomfortable situations proved to be their poison pill.
For a team that has freshman as it’s two leading scorers (Fox and Monk), learning how to react to tough circumstances is part of the learning process. With most of the schedule already completed, the Wildcats don’t have much time to fix huge issues.
Defensively, the team collapsed, giving up 47% shooting from the field, including 25 points from senior guard Robert Hubbs III. The Wildcats had no answer for the Vols taking it inside on them, and the road pressure allowed for easy buckets.
Marquette 74, Villanova 72
Down 17 at one point, the Marquette Golden Eagles got a season-altering win by beating the No. 1 team in the nation, the Villanova Wildcats.
During the last possession, Wildcat Jalen Brunson missed a layup, which was rebounded by Marquette, followed by fans storming the field. It was just the second time in program history that the Golden Eagles beat a top-ranked team, and the first time since 2003.
Senior guard Katin Reinhardt poured in 19 points off the bench for the Golden Eagles, and the Wildcat defense that only gave up 62 points per game on average gave up 50% shooting from the field. Meanwhile, the team only shot 40% themselves and attempted an absurd amount of threes that just weren’t dropping for them. Is anyone seeing a trend here?
Villanova head coach Jay Wright says the Wildcats only played solid basketball for 38 minutes on the night, when the name of the game is playing all 40 as hard as possible. But will the team have enough time to fix flaws and adjust roles?
West Virginia 85, Kansas 69
While the other two match ups were a game until the final whistle, No. 18 West Virginia dismantled No. 2 Kansas, keying them to an important win for the program while bringing questions to the forefront surrounding the Jayhawks.
Mountaineer forward Esa Ahmad had a career performance, totaling 27 points on 17 shots. The Jayhawks had no defender capable of stopping him, and yet another defensive collapse from a top-five team saw their opponents shoot 48% from the field.
Kansas shot the three ball better than their top-team counterparts, hitting 13 treys, but still attempted 29 of them in what was considered a chuck fest.
Freshman guard and potential one-and-done player Josh Jackson led the Jayhawks with 22 points, but with no way to stop the Mountaineer offense, the team had no time to catch up.
Three top-five teams lost in the same fashion, although the scores were different. Bad team defense to go along with a bunch of missed three pointers led to a sloppy offensive playbook that couldn’t work down the stretch. Now the question is; Can these teams fix their woes before tournament time comes around?