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Mike Lopresti | | January 16, 2023

What to learn from the wildest weekend yet in men's hoops

Texas, Xavier and Clemson surge in Andy Katz's latest Power 36 men's college basketball rankings

All those who beat a ranked team over the weekend, raise your hands.

Oh, my. So many. Eight weeks from Selection Sunday, the pot was just stirred nicely by a domino weekend in college basketball. The AP Top 25 members fell over one... after another... after another. 13 of them by Sunday night, 10 courtesy of unranked opponents.

Was there anything to be learned from the carnage? Let’s take a look at the 13 winners.

No. 2 Kansas 62, No. 14 Iowa State 60

No surprise about this in Lawrence. In one of the sport’s most stunning ongoing feats, Bill Self still owns as many Big 12 regular season titles (16) as home defeats. But the game did further the intrigue about Kansas’ habit of playing on the brink. Four of the Jayhawks' five conference wins have come by a combined 11 points and included 44 lead changes. KJ Adams Jr., who never used to score a lot, has had to provide crucial baskets in the final 12 seconds in three of them.

Kansas has now won 11 games in a row decided by five points or fewer or in overtime going back to last season. Commendable poise and championship pluck, but nobody gets away with that forever. “I don’t know that this many close games helps you in the postseason,” Self said.

BRACKETOLOGY: Andy Katz's first March Madness men's bracket predictions of 2023

Kentucky 63, No. 5 Tennessee 56

John Calipari takes away the players’ cell phones and iPads the night before the game and look what happens: A Prozac victory for an alarmed fan base, and maybe the day it all turned around for the Wildcats. The main ingredients of the upset in Knoxville were a 43-23 wipeout in rebounding and 22-for-25 from the line for a team that came in 312th in the nation in free throw shooting. No word on how quickly the players were allowed to tweet out their glee. Or was it relief?

In some ways, it was a baffling victory. Kentucky had more turnovers than field goals and received zero points from emerging freshman stalwart Cason Wallace. This was the first time in five years that the Wildcats won a game when shooting under 36 percent. But victory — not style points — is what was needed to light up the sudden darkness in Kentucky.

“Here’s what happened today; we defended and fought like my teams normally do,” Calipari said afterward. “My guess is a lot of fans from other programs (are) hoping we die. And they shut that TV off today, they are so mad.”

POWER 36: Texas, Xavier and Clemson surge in Andy Katz's latest Power 36 men's college basketball rankings

St. John’s 85, No. 6 Connecticut 74

Once upon a time, St. John’s was 11-1, then the Red Storm dropped five in a row to vanish from the radar screen. They were noticeable enough this day, though, especially Joel Soriano with his 19 points and 13 rebounds, continuing a dynamic — if slightly unheralded — season. He leads the nation with 16 double-doubles.

More conspicuous is UConn’s January sag. The Huskies started 14-0 — blasting through Alabama by 15 points, Iowa State by 18 and Florida by 21 — and were one of the nation’s last unbeatens. They’ve since lost four of five in the Big East, three by double digits.

MORE: St. John's men's basketball knocks off No. 6 UConn behind 2nd-half defensive display

Oregon 87, No. 9 Arizona 68

Might as well use a Ouija board to figure out the Ducks. The week before they were pummeled by 27 points at Colorado and two days later went into Utah and took down the Utes by 10. Last Thursday, they were so bad in a 90-73 loss at home to Arizona State — they were down 29 — that coach Dana Altman later said he didn’t sleep that night, trying to figure out what to do. Then his team ran over the Wildcats by 19. Jermaine Couisnard, out the first half of the season with a knee injury, got his first start and scored 27 points.

Put all that together and they’re 10-8, with four of the losses to ranked teams. Does the rest of the season see Good Oregon or Bad Oregon? They’ll have to stay tuned in Eugene.

LATEST RANKINGS: Click or tap here to view the latest AP Top 25

No. 17 TCU 82, No. 11 Kansas State 68

The Horned Frog hoopers did a nice job of taking the TCU fans’ minds off what happened to the football team in the title game. As is their custom, they ran past the Wildcats 32-13 in fast break points. They lead the nation in fast break scoring, outsprinting their five Big 12 opponents so far 112-41. Good thing, because the outside game has been icy. TCU is 340th in the nation in three-point shooting.

This win was the latest evidence of the trouble Jamie Dixon can cause worthy foes. TCU has beaten 32 ranked opponents in its entire history — 16 of them in the past seven seasons under Dixon.

MORE: 11 ranked men's hoops teams fall on a mid-January Saturday that tasted a little like March

No. 12 Xavier 80, No. 25 Marquette 76

The beat goes on for the Musketeers, who are 7-0 in the Big East for the first time ever. They were 8-11 last year. Their three losses this season are by a combined 13 points to Indiana, Duke and Gonzaga — all were ranked in the top 12 at the time — and they’ve won 11 in a row since with an efficient offense. They lead the nation with 21 assists a game.

Vanderbilt 97, No. 15 Arkansas 84

This was the first time the Commodores had taken down a top-15 team in seven years and the most points for Vandy over the Razorbacks since 1993. It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy in Nashville. Vanderbilt went 13-57 in SEC play the past four years but is 2-2 this season and lost at Missouri by three points.

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North Carolina State 83, No. 16 Miami 81 (OT)

This was the Wolfpack’s second win over a ranked opponent in 11 days, having plastered Duke by 24 points. They’re also the team that beat Atlantic 10 co-leader Dayton and played Kansas tough, so rest of the ACC has been warned. Add sophomore Terquavion Smith to the post-season honor lists. He is first in the league in scoring, second in steals and fourth in assists. In 50 career games at North Carolina State, he has led the Wolfpack in scoring 21 times, steals 21 times and assists 20 times.

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Indiana 63, No. 18 Wisconsin 45

Like Kentucky just down the road, Indiana was a former top-10 team badly in need of second wind. The Hoosiers had lost three in a row by painful means — blowing a 21-point lead at Iowa, losing at home by a point to Northwestern, and being mashed by 19 at Penn State. That made for a 1-4 start in the Big Ten race they were predicted to win, and they were missing two injured starters. Then again, the Badgers were without top scorer Tyler Wahl. It was no day for offense, but that was OK with Indiana. The Hoosiers led nearly the entire way against a team it had lost to in 24 of their previous 27 meetings. Indiana scored 42 points in the paint. Wisconsin scored 45 everywhere.

Is the ship righted at Indiana? This week with Illinois and Michigan State will tell more. “A lot of yelling and screaming and trying to get things accomplished in practice.” Coach Mike Woodson said of recent life in the Indiana program. “Our backs were somewhat against the wall, and losing three in a row is not fun for anybody.

“We played Indiana defense the way I think we should be playing.”

Creighton 73, No. 19 Providence 67

The roller-coaster ride goes on for Creighton, who started the season 6-0 and ranked in the top-10 and then lost six in a row. One reason for the wild ride was six games against ranked opponents — all away from home. This was the first ranked team the Bluejays had seen in Omaha, and it went fine. It hasn't helped that leading scorer Ryan Kalkbrenner missed three games with a non-COVID illness because, through it all, he was making shots. His 74.2 field goal percentage is second-best in the nation.

Florida 73, No, 20 Missouri 64

The Gators fell behind 11-0 and nobody was surprised. They have managed a 3-2 SEC record and are 10-7 overall despite having to hit out of more sand traps than an 18-handicapper. You might spot a trend in their SEC journey: Trailed Auburn 7-0 and lost 61-58, trailed Texas A&M by 11 early and lost 66-63, fell behind Georgia by 13 in the first half and won 82-75, fell behind LSU 7-0 and won 67-56. Then the 11-0 hole against Missouri. “We’re really consistent,” coach Todd Golden said, “at being bad the first four to six minutes of the game.”

New Mexico 71, No. 23 San Diego State 67

Remember when the Lobos were 14-0 and the nation’s last unbeaten team? They had a brief two-game stumble but seemed back in form to get their first road victory against a ranked opponent in a decade. Jamal Mashburn Jr. had his 39th consecutive game scoring in double figures.

TOP NEWCOMERS: The top 10 freshmen so far this season, ranked by Andy Katz

Clemson 72, No. 24 Duke 64

Duke led this series 114-32 but the Tigers are nobody’s easy target now. Their 7-0 ACC start is their best ever, and they have won 11 consecutive regular season conference games since starting 4-12 in league play last year. They are also a persistent bunch, coming from behind at halftime to win five times this season, four against ACC teams. They were down seven to Wake Forest at halftime and won by 20.

So they’re a team worth watching. The past raucous weekend showed there are lots of those.

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