The busiest people in college basketball this weekend were the clean-up crews.
They were the ones who had to pick up all the debris left over from court stormings at the expense of the elite teams that suffered stunning losses.
NC State toppled unbeaten second-ranked Duke. Rutgers shocked shorthanded fourth-ranked Wisconsin. North Carolina edged fifth-ranked Louisville. Oregon State waylaid seventh-ranked Arizona. And Oklahoma State dumped 10th-ranked Texas. The carnage could have been even more widespread had Kentucky and Virginia not rallied for wins, but the top-ranked Wildcats survived at Texas A&M in double overtime on Saturday and the third-ranked Cavaliers outplayed host Notre Dame down the stretch.
Of the five top 10 teams who did lose this weekend, some have more to worry about than others. Here's a look at what the concern level should be for each of the upset victims:
DUKE (lost 87-75 at NC State): On the heels of a game in which Duke shot only 36.9 percent from the floor, the far bigger concern was its defense. The Blue Devils did a poor job stopping dribble penetration, closing out on shooters and defending the paint, enabling NC State to shoot a torrid 55.0 percent. Defense was a season-long issue for Duke last year because the Blue Devils lacked perimeter players who could stay in front of their man or a center capable of cleaning up mistakes and protecting the rim. The arrival of center Jahlil Okafor and perimeter stopper Justise Winslow has improved Duke's defense considerably, but the Blue Devils still rank a modest 48th in points per possession surrendered and still can be susceptible against quick guards off the dribble. An elite offense offsets that to some extent, but as Sunday's loss showed, Duke can still be vulnerable on nights when shots aren't falling. Threat level: Guarded.
WISCONSIN (lost 67-62 at Rutgers):
Wisconsin is the clear favorite to win the Big Ten. Rutgers is the obvious choice to finish last in the league. Thus the Scarlet Knights' victory on Sunday was a stunner even if the Badgers were without All-American candidate Frank Kaminsky due to concussion symptoms and lost starting point guard Traevon Jackson to a foot. Many of Wisconsin's issues were at the defensive end as Rutgers shot 66.7 percent in the second half while storming back from a 12-point deficit. The Badgers couldn't stay in front of Myles Mack and Khadeem Jack off the dribble and they had no last line of defense with Kaminsky sidelined. Wisconsin might have overcome Rutgers' torrid second half at full strength, but they lacked their usual firepower without their elite big man and their point guard who's so adept at creating off the dribble in late shot clock situations. Kaminsky should be back soon but Jackson may not be. Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard told CBS Sports Radio in Madison, "I don't think it's good" when asked about Jackson's injury. Threat level: Elevated.
LOUISVILLE (lost 72-71 at North Carolina): Unlike the other elite teams that fell this weekend, Louisville's one-point setback in Chapel Hill on Saturday wasn't a bad loss. Eighteenth-ranked North Carolina came in motivated after a home loss to Notre Dame five days earlier and rallied to edge the Cardinals in the final seconds on a game-winning layup by Marcus Paige. The silver lining for Louisville was guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier both delivering excellent performances in the same game, but there also were some concerns. Montrezl Harrell was underwhelming at both ends. North Carolina dominated the offensive glass as it often does. And Louisville got zero points out of its bench as Shaqquan Aaron, Quentin Snider and Mangok Mathiang each failed to score and former sixth man Anton Gill didn't even play at all. It's too soon to worry about Harrell's erratic play of late and North Carolina makes a lot of teams look bad on the glass, but the bench scoring is something to watch. Louisville needs more sources of offense because each of its starters are streaky. Threat level: Low.
ARIZONA (lost 58-56 at Oregon State): Sunday's road loss at surprising Oregon State shined a spotlight on why Arizona seems to be operating a notch or two below the level it played at last season. The Wildcats are even more prone to scoring droughts now that go-to threat Nick Johnson has turned pro and they aren't quite as stifling on defense without do-it-all Aaron Gordon blocking shots, defending multiple positions and gobbling up rebounds. Arizona's 21-point first half against Oregon State's 2-3 zone highlighted the scoring issues created when a team doesn't have an outside shooter in its starting lineup. The Wildcats played zone buster Gabe York more in the second half but they uncharacteristically fell apart down the stretch on defense. Malcolm Duvivier beat Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off the dribble, drew a foul and made the layup to put Oregon State up four with less than two minutes to play. Then Langston Walker blew by Stanley Johnson for the game-winning layup a couple possessions later. Arizona still had one last chance but its lack of a go-to threat on offense contributed to a directionless final possession that ended with T.J. McConnell missing a runner at the buzzer. Threat level: Elevated.
TEXAS (lost at Oklahoma State 69-58): So much for the return of leading scorer Isaiah Taylor solving the scoring woes that cropped up for Texas from time to time during non-league play. The Longhorns were inept in a blowout home loss to Oklahoma and only slightly better on Saturday in shooting 34.4 percent from the floor in Stillwater. Typically consistent Jonathan Holmes followed up a 2-for-9 game against the Sooners by missing all 10 of his shots against the Cowboys. Taylor continued to shoot poorly from the field and is still working his way back to his previous form. And Texas' bevy of post players were not effective scoring in the paint as only Myles Turner had a decent game and much of his production was from the perimeter. Texas also wasn't great keeping Phil Forte and LeBryan Nash in check, but defense isn't the primary concern for this group. The reason the Longhorns have lost three of five and have not lived up to expectations for the past few weeks is that they're having too hard a time scoring. Threat level: Elevated.
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