Conference play is in full swing across college basketball, which continues to be marked by a 2019-20 season of drama and upsets. Who's trending up and down this week? Our stock report looks at the latest from the Big Ten, ACC, Seton Hall, Ohio State and more.
Ending Single-Opponent Road Losing Streaks
If you were immersed in NFL wild-card weekend, you might've missed history on Saturday: For the first time ever, the Clemson Tigers have won in Chapel Hill. Clemson men's basketball was 0–59 all-time on the road at North Carolina, an inexplicably long skid that was the longest home winning streak against a single opponent in NCAA history. But the 2019-20 UNC team isn't your father's Tar Heels (just ask Roy Williams), and the Tigers sensed an opportunity against the struggling home team. At 8–7, Clemson isn't likely to make a run at the Big Dance this year, but it still got a major monkey off its back.
The Tigers weren't the only team to end a road skid, though. No. 4 Baylor went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and beat No. 3 Kansas by 12, putting the nation on notice and earning its first-ever win in Lawrence (in 18 tries). Over in the Big Ten, Illinois snapped a 15-game losing streak to Wisconsin and also grabbed its first win in Madison since 2010 thanks to the heroics of Ayo Dosunmu. And on the women's side, a different kind of streak ended: Baylor handed No. 1 UConn its first home loss since 2013—a span of 98 games.
Big Ten Chaos
When you have an astounding 12 teams in the KenPom Top 40 (for context, the Big East and SEC have five, the Big 12 has four and the ACC and Pac-12 have three), things are bound to get wild. That's what's playing out in the Big Ten this year, where all 14 teams already have at least one conference loss—and 13 teams have at least two. The Big Ten entered last week with three teams ranked in the top 12 of the AP poll ... and all three went on to lose at least one game by double-digits. No. 12 Ohio State (more on the Buckeyes below) fell on the road to No. 12 Maryland, then had a similar fate against Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday. After their big win, the Terps proceeded to get routed in Iowa City on Friday night. The weekend then closed with Purdue handing Michigan State its first conference loss in a rousing blowout at Mackey Arena.
Get used to this kind of chaos. The Big Ten is somehow even more of a juggernaut than it was last season, and winning on the road has been almost impossible: home teams are now 32-5. Even the Spartans, who currently lead the race at 5-1, had the advantage of playing four of their first six games at the Breslin Center. After hosting Wisconsin next Friday, eight of their final 13 games will come on the road. Things could get very bumpy in the Big Ten conference race—don't be surprised if some unlikely contenders emerge.
When Sandro Mamukelashvili went down with a broken wrist in Seton Hall's Dec. 8 loss at Iowa State, it was a blow to the Pirates. And when star Myles Powell left their next game—a 20-point loss to Rutgers—with a concussion, it was a big blow. Down its top two players, times were rough for a Seton Hall team that was 6-4 and about to face top-10 Maryland. But the short-handed Pirates found a way to beat the Terps, kicking off a six-game winning streak that now has them at 12-4 and 4-0 in the Big East. Powell returned to start conference play, but Mamukelashvili is still sidelined—and yet Kevin Willard's team keeps winning. Powell is putting up All-American numbers, averaging 21.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists, and Seton Hall has become a ferocious team defensively anchored by 7-footers Romaro Gill and Ike Obiagu in the paint.
What's happened to the Buckeyes? A team that was strongly in the mix for the No. 1 spot in the nation one month ago has now lost five of its last seven, the lone wins being over Southeast Missouri State and Kentucky. Ohio State has lost four straight and is now 1–4 in the Big Ten, potentially burying its conference title chances midway through January. Last week, the Buckeyes went on the road twice and came up empty both times, losing by 12 to both Maryland and Indiana. The loss to the Hoosiers is the more concerning one, considering IU had been reeling a bit of late itself.
The biggest problem for Ohio State is that its offense has disappeared. Chris Holtmann's team has failed to break 60 points in four straight games now, which isn't going to cut it even with a top-10 defense. Losing efficient glue guy Kyle Young for a pair of those games certainly didn't help, but its three-point shooting—which had been so good for the first month of the season—has tanked and the Buckeyes have struggled inside the arc as well. After shooting over 60% on twos in its last two wins over Power 5 teams (Penn State and Kentucky), Ohio State has made a dismal 37.6% of them in its four consecutive defeats. A home game against Nebraska on Tuesday should help OSU get back on track, but if the offense doesn't improve in general, winning in the Big Ten will be tough.
ACC Bubble Teams
The last time the ACC sent less than six teams dancing was 2012-13, when four teams earned a bid. That was the last season of the conference only having 12 teams, unlike the 15 it's had ever since. It's also the last year that a team not named UNC or Virginia won the league's regular-season title (yes—believe it or not, Duke has not held the regular-season crown since sharing it with Maryland in 2010). But now, in 2019-20, not only do the Tar Heels and Cavaliers not look like ACC contenders, but both are in danger of missing the Big Dance entirely.
UNC's season looks like a lost cause at this point—the Heels are 1-4 in ACC play and have fallen all the way to No. 82 on KenPom and No. 115 in the NET rankings. The reigning national champs, meanwhile, lack a single Top 50 KenPom win on their résumé right now and are No. 74 on the latest NET rankings after an 0–2 week that saw UVA lose to Boston College and Syracuse. The worst part for the ACC, though, is that there's really no one else ready to fill the gaps or take advantage of a year with less of the usual heavyweights. Florida State looks strong again, and Louisville completes the three-team top tier. After that? There's not a single ACC team that seems overly likely to make the tournament right now. Virginia Tech (No. 36 NET) and NC State (No. 56) are the best candidates—and the former picked up a big win over the latter on Saturday—but this is clearly a down year for a usually elite conference.
The Huskies have had a week to forget. Ahead of their Thursday night battle with Stanford in Palo Alto, news broke that point guard Quade Green has been ruled academically ineligible, though he could potentially return before the postseason. Without Green, Washington then turned it over 21 times in a loss to Stanford that night, before following it up with an overtime defeat to Cal in Berkeley over the weekend.
The Huskies are now 1-3 in the Pac-12 and, more critically, have only two top-100 wins all season. One of those—over Baylor during opening week—is holding up as one of the best wins nationally, as the top-five Bears have not lost since. But UW's résumé is otherwise thin right now, with the team checking in at No. 51 on the latest NET rankings. With Green sidelined, things won't get any easier. It also means a lot of pressure suddenly placed on scarcely-used sophomore guard Elijah Hardy, who went from averaging eight minutes a game to playing 31 in the loss at Stanford.