The first Saturday of the new year proved to be far more exciting than anticipated, much to the detriment of ranked teams who took their show on the road. Removing #7 Missouri and #20 Marquette, who both lost on the road to ranked opponents (more on both of those games below), five ranked teams lost to unranked opponents with four of the losses coming on the road. The Big East provided the most intrigue, with #8 Connecticut and #9 Georgetown falling on the road while #10 Louisville lost in double overtime at home. So which of the three defeats is most concerning?
While bowl games will garner most of the attention on Monday college basketball won't be taking the day off with leagues transitioning into conference play. One such matchup is the first game of Big 12 play as Texas A&M (9-3) visits Waco to take on #6 Baylor (13-0), and Billy Kennedy's Aggies can definitely use a win for resume reasons.
The game between Top 5 teams and in-state rivals Louisville and Kentucky was expected to be a high-intensity affair played at a good pace. Well thanks to the "third team" we got the intensity but not the pace, but by the end of the afternoon at Rupp Arena it was clear that Kentucky's 69-62 victory would be long remembered for the play of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist, who has emerged as the leader of John Calipari's talented squad, stole the show with 24 point and 19 rebounds in leading Kentucky to their 44th straight home victory.
NO. 4 LOUISVILLE (12-1) AT NO. 3 KENTUCKY (12-1)
The final day of 2011 features one of the most anticipated games of the college basketball season, a rivalry game that captivates an entire state and is one of the best games in college basketball. #4 Louisville (12-1), fresh off of a lost to Georgetown in their Big East opener, visits #3 Kentucky (12-1) in what should be a spirited battle at Rupp Arena. The Cardinals have played just one road game this season but it was also one of their best efforts as they won at Butler without the then-injured Peyton Siva.
The matchup between #10 Florida and Rutgers on Thursday night was hyped up due to the return of Mike Rosario, who transferred from the New Jersey school following two seasons in New Brunswick. But his return was a subplot in what turned out to be one of the best games of the calendar year, with the focus by the end being Mike Rice's young guards. Eli Carter led the way with 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while Myles Mack knocked down some big shots late in regulation and during the overtime periods to lead Rutgers to the 85-83 double overtime victory.
It can be argued that Vanderbilt's trip to #13 Marquette is the big game of the day on Thursday, especially when considering a Commodore resume that could use some added bulk. But there's also the first-ever conference game as a member of the West Coast Conference for BYU (11-3), and they're jumping directly into the fire thanks to the league schedule-makers. Dave Rose's Cougars visit Saint Mary's (11-2) in the league opener for both teams, and there are some very good individual battles to keep track of in Moraga.
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