What looked to be a routine post-finals Monday in college basketball turned out to be anything but as two ranked teams fell. #10 Marquette went on the road to take on an LSU team that much isn't expected of this season and found themselves in a dog fight. Averaging 81 points per game the Golden Eagles finished the game 22 points below their average in the 67-59 loss to the Tigers, with LSU making the required plays on both ends of the floor late.
As we approach Christmas break, and transition to conference play, it seems like a good time to rank college basketball's power conference teams. 6 conferences, 74 teams, 6 unbeatens, and 1 truly awful Utah squad. Included for reference are each team's overall record (against D1 teams), their RPI, and their ranking according to KenPom.com.
Monday's schedule doesn't have much in the way of games that will make a dent on the national landscape, but that doesn't mean that there are some intriguing contests to keep an eye on. One of those being Belmont (7-4) heading east to take on Marshall (7-2) in a battle of teams expected to either win or contend in their respective leagues. Rick Byrd's Bruins have lost two straight road games, most recently falling at Miami (Ohio) due in large part to their 6-for-21 performance from beyond the arc.
Greg Mengelt previews and predicts three of Sunday's top games.
VIRIGINIA (8-1) AT OREGON (6-2)
The first meeting between Memphis and Louisville since the 2005 Conference USA title game certainly did not disappoint from a drama standpoint, with both teams landing major blows throughout the contest. But despite a combined 74 first-half points the play was ragged for much of the contest, with the Cardinals taking a 42-32 lead into the break thanks to the Tigers shooting 29% from the field and turning the ball over ten times. But led by Will Barton (28 points, 16 rebounds) Josh Pastner's team refused to fold, fighting back to take a 57-55 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
ARIZONA (7-3) VS. GONZAGA (6-2)
The end of finals week for many schools means a step up in competition on Saturday, and one contest that will garner attention is the second game of the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Florida. #22 Texas A&M (8-1), which has a strength of schedule that ranks 341st in the country, takes on #13 Florida (7-2) in what should be an interesting matchup. Do the Aggies have the horses on the perimeter to hang with the Gator guards?
With suspensions ruling out two of their key interior players for the next six games, many wondered what Mick Cronin's Cincinnati Bearcats would do to make up for the absence of Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj. Without a consistent scoring option in the paint the strategy was to let the guards go to work, and that they did in the Bearcats' 78-58 win at Wright State. Sean Kilpatrick, who was a non-factor in their loss at Xavier on Saturday, scored a game-high 20 points (6-12 3PT) while JaQuon Parker added 14 points and all five starters finished in double figures.
With the first matchup between Belmont and Middle Tennessee going to double overtime the rematch on Tuesday was expected to be just as tight. Sure enough the game didn't disappoint, with the Blue Raiders locking up the 65-62 win with a pair of blocked shots in the final 22 seconds. LaRon Dendy led the way for Middle Tennessee with 20 points, and the Blue Raiders haven't reached the ten-win mark in a season this fast since 1990-91.