Believe it or not, January is almost over, which means just one month separates us from March Madness (and it’s the short month). Let’s check out all of the top headlines from the last week in college basketball.
While there were plenty of upsets the previous week that led to some major shakeups at the top of the polls, the top-6 teams stayed the same this week. Even Michigan State didn’t fall after losing to Purdue on Sunday. Meanwhile, Kentucky has jumped up to no. 7 on the heels of seven straight wins. Five of the top seven teams in the country have already held serve in games Monday and Tuesday night, so barring an upset this weekend, don’t expect any major shakeups in the top-10 next week.
And the Winner Is…
One of the highlights of last weekend’s schedule was the Big 12-SEC Challenge. The Big 12 won the competition 6-4. However, the SEC was at a slight disadvantage, as they had three ranked teams in Auburn, Mississippi State, and LSU that didn’t participate before they have four more teams than the Big 12. It’s also worth mentioning that Kentucky won their top-10 showdown against Kansas while top-ranked Tennessee handled their business against West Virginia, so the SEC did manage victories in the more compelling games.
Two in a Row
Speaking of Kansas, the Jayhawks have suffered back-to-back losses after falling to Texas on Tuesday. The Jayhawks have now lost three of their last four, dropping them to 5-3 in Big 12 play. Kansas, of course, has won 14 straight Big 12 titles, although they have plenty of work to do over their final 10 games to keep that streak intact. They also have another big test this weekend when they host Texas Tech. The good news is that no other team is seizing control at the top of the league standings. However, there are four of five teams, including Kansas, that look like potential contenders, giving the Jayhawks plenty of competition.
Back at Full Strength
After missing two games with a shoulder injury, Duke point guard Tre Jones has returned to the lineup for the team’s last two games. The Blue Devils managed to beat both Virginia and Pitt without Jones, so they managed fine in his absence. However, having a true point guard back on the floor will surely help them moving forward. Jones is also the team’s best defensive player, and his presence on that side of the floor can make a big difference for the Blue Devils. After games against St. John’s and Boston College over the next week, Duke plays four straight games against ranked teams, so it’s important for them to be at full strength.
Gone for Good
Miami has finally received conclusive news about junior forward Dewan Hernandez, although it was not the news they wanted. The NCAA ruled this week that Hernandez would have to sit the rest of this season and 40% of next season because of his association with Christian Dawkins, who was one of three people found guilty in October at a trial relating to the FBI’s probe into the corruption in college basketball. Hernandez was on a list of players set to receive payments from Dawkins, although there is no proof such payments were ever made.
After the NCAA’s ruling, Hernandez decided to leave school and declare for the NBA Draft rather than wait to play midway through next season. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are enduring a trying season without him. Miami is 1-6 in ACC play and 9-10 overall, as they are poised to take a huge step backward after three straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Memphis head coach and former NBA standout Penny Hardaway made waves this week by claiming that some of his colleagues, as well as those in the media, have a problem with him coaching at a major institution with no previous experience coaching in college. Before getting hired to coach his alma mater, Hardaway played 14 seasons in the NBA and then coached only at the high school and AAU level. He also had former NBA players Sam Mitchell and Mike Miller on his coaching staff.
“I’m getting used to this as a coach because it’s a little jealousy from a lot of these coaches around the country,” explained Hardaway. “I do understand that because we are NBA players trying to come back, and we didn’t have any experience as college coaches. So we didn’t quote, unquote, ‘Pay our dues.’ So the coaches and their so-called boys that are in the media, they’re going to always throw jabs at us.”