That didn't take long.
In his first season as Kentucky's coach, John Calipari's Wildcats will be the No. 1 team in America when the new Associated Press poll is released Monday. Kentucky – the nation's only remaining undefeated team – will replace a Texas team that is stinging following back-to-back losses against Kansas State and Connecticut.
"This team was an NIT team [a year ago]," Calipari told reporters Saturday. "And I'm playing with a bunch of children. But they're very good children."
Indeed, the Wildcats start three freshmen – but all of them could be lottery picks in this summer's NBA draft. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe combined for 42 of Kentucky's points in Saturday's 101-70 thrashing of Arkansas at Rupp Arena. The win improved Kentucky's record to 19-0 overall and 4-0 in SEC play.
"They just hit a buzzsaw today," Calipari said. "I think we would have smashed anyone in the country today. That's not arrogance, but that's as good as we've played for the first 20 minutes. We would've beaten a lot of teams today."
Kentucky is hoping to stay atop the polls longer than Texas, which held its No. 1 ranking for just one week before it lost at Kansas State Monday night. That setback wasn't as difficult to stomach as Saturday's 14-point loss to unranked Connecticut, which shot 55 percent against the Longhorns while outrebounding one of the nation's best top frontcourts 31-29.
Like Kentucky, three of Texas' top six players are freshmen.
"It's been great for the younger guys to go through this and realize that right now, at this time of the year, the intensity has to go up," Texas coach Rick Barnes said.
Now, more winners and losers.
West Virginia – Da'Sean Butler scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half to lead the Mountaineers to a 71-65 victory over No. 21 Ohio State in Morgantown. The non-conference win should provide a much-needed jolt of confidence for Bob Huggins' squad, which was being hyped as a Final Four contender before losing to Purdue, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Duke – The Blue Devils shook their road blues and last season's blowout loss at Littlejohn Coliseum by dropping Clemson 60-47. Nolan Smith led the way with 22 points. The Tigers were limited to 36 percent shooting from the field. It was Duke's first true win away from Cameron Indoor Stadium this season.
Ben Howland – The UCLA coach finally has a reason to smile after what has been a miserable season. The Bruins won their second straight game by defeating Washington State and are now 4-3 in Pac-10 play. Even better news: UCLA's next two games are against Oregon and Oregon State, both on the road.
Georgia – First-year Bulldogs coach Mark Fox got his biggest win to date when Georgia defeated No. 8 Tennessee 78-63. Still, considering their performances over the past few weeks, the Bulldogs' victory wasn't all that shocking. Georgia had lost its previous three games – against Mississippi State, Kentucky and Ole Miss – by an average of five points. In other words, you could see this coming.
Cole Aldrich – Kansas' preseason All-American center finally had a breakout game in the Jayhawks' 84-61 victory at Iowa State. Playing against future NBA forward Craig Brackins, Aldrich scored 19 points and snared 11 rebounds to lead help Kansas maintain its status as the only Big 12 team without a conference loss. Aldrich, who has battled bronchitis for months, said he'd been playing most of the season with a heavy heart because of the declining health of his grandmother, who had been in hospice care before passing away during the week.
Baylor – Other than Kansas, no one in the Big 12 is playing better than the Bears, who bounced back from a close loss to the Jayhawks by demolishing Massachusetts by 26 points. Tweety Carter, LaceDarius Dunn and Ekpe Udoh form one of the top trios in the country. Scott Drew's squad has a huge game Tuesday when Kansas State visits Waco.
Kalin Lucas – The Michigan State guard hit a game-deciding 3-pointer in the Spartans' 65-64, come-from-behind victory over Minnesota. The win kept Michigan State undefeated in the Big Ten and capped a 22-point performance by Lucas, a team captain who had been benched earlier this month because of a lack of leadership.
Cal – Thanks to a 65-61 win over Oregon State, the Golden Bears are where everyone thought they would be prior to the season: at the top of the Pac-10 standings. Cal has won four of its last five games since a shocking loss to UCLA on Jan. 6. The problem is that Mike Montgomery's squad plays its next four games away from home. If the Golden Bears can go at least 3-1 during that stretch they should emerge as conference champions.
George Blaney – Connecticut's interim coach couldn't be doing much of a better job of filling in for Jim Calhoun. Three days after knocking off a pesky St. John's squad, the Huskies put an 88-74 whipping on top-ranked Texas. Blaney had head coaching gigs at Dartmouth, Holy Cross and Seton Hall before joining Calhoun's staff in 2001.
Randy Culpepper – UTEP's junior guard scored 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting in the Miners' 96-59 victory over Central Florida. Culpepper, who entered the game averaging 16.1 points, made 9 of his 15 attempts from beyond the arc as UTEP improved to 13-5 overall and 4-1 in Conference USA.
Chandler Parsons – The Florida standout hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to catapult the Gators to a 58-56 victory over South Carolina in Gainesville. The shot was the second game winner for Parsons in three weeks. On Jan. 3 he made a 75-footer at the buzzer to give Florida a 62-61 win over North Carolina State.
UAB – Not many teams have been as fortunate in close game as the Blazers, who defeated Marshall 61-59. UAB has now won three straight games – and four of its last six – by two points or less. Mike Davis' squad is 16-2 overall and 4-0 in Conference USA.
Dominique Jones – The South Florida guard scored 46 points on 15-of-23 shooting to lead the Bulls to a 109-105 overtime victory over Providence. Jones is averaging 27.8 points over his last six games.
The Big 12 – The buzz about the league being the nation's best conference was silenced when No. 1 Texas lost to unranked Connecticut in Storrs while No. 10 Kansas State fell to unranked Oklahoma State at home. The loss to the Huskies was the second in a row for Texas, which hardly looks like the team that whipped North Carolina and Michigan State earlier this season. Kansas State – whose next two games are against Baylor and Kansas – is hoping things don't snowball.
Arkansas – The Razorbacks' 101-70 loss to Kentucky marked its worst defeat since joining the SEC. Courtney Fortson scored 21 points but was just 5-of-17 from the floor. As a team Arkansas made just 30.6 percent of its field-goal attempts and misfired on 16 of its 19 3s.
Minnesota – Tough week for the Gophers. First they learn that point guard Al Nolen has been ruled academically ineligible for the second semester. Then they turn in an inspired performance against Big Ten leader Michigan State – only to lose in the final minute 65-64. The Gophers led by as many as 13, but scored just six points over the final seven minutes.
DeMarcus Cousins' grill – The Kentucky forward learned the hard way that it's important to wear a mouthpiece. Cousins had portions of his two front teeth knocked out early in the first half of the Wildcats' victory over Arkansas. A freshman, Cousins played the rest of the game with a mouthguard. He was not available for postgame interviews – presumably because he was on his way to the dentist.
Mississippi State – Even with an impressive record, the Bulldogs will never garner much respect until they stop losing to teams they should beat. Rick Stansbury's squad shot just 31.8 percent overall – and only 11.1 percent from beyond the arc – in a 73-69 loss to Alabama. Mississippi State is now 15-4, with its other three losses coming to Rider, Richmond and Western Kentucky.
Junior Cadougan – The freshman was supposed to be Marquette's starting point guard before injuring his Achilles in September. Cadougan hadn't played in a game until Saturday, when he made his debut in a loss to Syracuse. Marquette's NCAA title hopes are slim and the Golden Eagles are already deep in the backcourt (their problem is a lack of bodies down low). It doesn't make sense for Cadougan to burn his redshirt and finish out the season. He – and Marquette – will regret the decision down the road.
Fred Hill – It'd be one thing if Rutgers was competitive and showing signs of progress. Instead Hill's Scarlet Knights keep getting worse. Rutgers trailed by as many as 30 points in its 88-63 loss to No. 12 Georgetown. The Scarlet Knights have now lost eight straight and are the only Big East team without a league win. Hill's seat is getting hotter every day.
Chris Warren and Terrico White – What was once regarded as one of the nation's top backcourts is starting to fade. White only mustered one point in the Rebels' 73-63 victory over LSU, and Warren was held scoreless until the 10-minute mark of the second half. To be fair, Warren came through with some clutch shots to help his team pull away at the end, but it never should've come to that against one of the SEC's worst teams.
Manny Harris – The Michigan star hurt himself and his team by getting suspended for the Wolverines' game against Purdue. Harris' crime: Unsportsmanlike conduct in practice. Even without the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Michigan only lost by 10 to the Boilermakers on the road. It's tough not to wonder what the score would've been had Harris been in uniform.
Wichita State – Instead of capitalizing on the momentum it should've gained from Tuesday's victory over No. 20 Northern Iowa, the Shockers lost 78-64 to a Drake squad that entered the game with a 9-11 record. It was a huge setback for a Wichita State team that is gunning for an NCAA tournament berth.
Willie Warren – An ankle injury kept the Oklahoma guard from playing against Texas Tech, and the result was a 75-65 loss that dropped the Sooners to 11-8 overall and 2-3 in Big 12 play. One season after reaching the Elite Eight, Oklahoma has virtually no shot of making the NCAA tournament and could be in danger of missing out on the NIT.
Dayton – The Flyers took a major step back in the race for the Atlantic 10 championship by losing to St. Joseph's 60-59. Dayton has now lost two of its last three games and is a full two games behind A-10 leader Temple. Even worse is that Saturday's loss was against a St. Joseph's team that has won just seven games. The Flyers' NCAA tournament hopes are in jeopardy.
- John Calipari
- Kansas State
- Michigan State