College Basketball history took place on Saturday, when for the first time ever, each of the top 6 teams in the AP Top 25 lost on the same day.
Therefore, with just a week left in the season, and such monumental moves atop the sport on Saturday, rather than doing a traditional power ranking today, we're going to do something different here - and rank the losses, from the least concerning to most.
Off all of the losses that occurred to the nation’s top six teams on Saturday, the one that was the least concerning was Kentucky. The Wildcats went into a raucous Bud Walton Arena and gave Arkansas everything they could handle with many factors not in their favor.
First off, the college basketball world has started to see just how big of a home court advantage Bud Walton is, especially when Arkansas is rolling. Arkansas is now 6-1 at home in SEC play, with wins over Tennessee, Auburn and now Kentucky - the top three teams in the league outside of Arkansas itself.
In addition, going into the game the feeling was that guards Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington were not expected to play considering they missed both of Kentucky’s last two games because of injuries. Although both did end up playing there was some clear rust, as they shot a combined 8 of 25 from the floor with 24 points. With that being said, Kentucky was able to recover from an early 17-6 deficit and make it a game. Kentucky has shown a handful of times this season, they are a mentally tough team that can come back from any deficit, just like they did against Alabama and LSU last week without Washington and Wheeler in the lineup.
Arkansas displayed a very nice gameplan, by letting Oscar Tshiebwe get his and focusing on limiting everyone else. Oscar finished the day, with a ridiculous 30 and 18 stat line, however Kellan Grady was only limited to just three points while shooting only 1 for 3 from the field. With Washington and Wheeler at less than 100 percent, Arkansas made sure that Grady would not beat them, and this should serve as a lesson to Kentucky. They will need Grady in the biggest games against the best teams to step up and make shots.
The Mountain road trip to Colorado and Utah, has been considered to be one of the toughest road trips in college hoops for a long time by many coaches in the Pac 12. Arizona did fall victim to Colorado on Saturday, in what was an uncharacteristically bad effort from the Wildcats.
Arizona is one of the most physically imposing teams in college hoops, starting two guys 6'10 or taller in Azuolas Tubelis and Christian Koloko, and also bring another seven-footer - Oumar Ballo - off the bench. That size didn’t help Saturday, when Colorado outscored Arizona 54-26 in the paint. Considering this was Arizona’s first loss of the season that falls in the Quadrant 2 category or worse, the level of concern should not be tremendously high just yet.
Future NBA Lottery Pick Ben Mathurin finished with only 12 points, which is his lowest scoring total since February 5th. Only shooting 3 of 11 from the floor, Mathurin will not play a worse game all season, and everything that could have gone wrong for Arizona did. Although the loss isn’t the end of the world, Arizona desperately needs to do whatever they can to stay on the No. 1 seed line - or it means staying out West in the same bracket as Gonzaga.
It's worth noting that a common theme with Arizona this season has been that point guard Kerr Kriisa hasn’t played great in their losses, a trend which continued against Colorado. Kriisa finished with only five points, and more importantly Arizona turned the ball over 18 times, in which Colorado scored 21 off. This Arizona team can beat anyone, as long as they don’t beat themselves which happened Saturday Night.
Saturday’s game at Baylor, could not have started off any better for the Jayhawks. Kansas led Baylor 16-4 eight minutes into the game, however ultimately Kansas was not able to hold on and Baylor came away with the 80-70 victory.
One thing that not many people will notice about Kansas, is that they have not been recruiting at a vintage Kansas level since the FBI scandal in 2017. The reason why this is important, is due to the fact that usually when Kansas is in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament they have at least one NBA lottery pick and one of the most purely talented teams in the country. Instead this season, Bill Self has used his ability as an elite player developer, especially with the kids that have been in the Kansas program, turning them into really good players in the process.
In terms of Saturday,future Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji, did put up 27 points, but was an inefficient 8-22 from the field and 4/14 from three. The ultimate worry for Kansas in March, is that if Agbaji was a bad game, is there enough top end talent that can step up for Kansas, which again is where recruiting comes into play. Christian Braun did contribute 17 points, and played the best game of any Jayhawk but the same cannot be said about Jalen Wilson. Wilson had been key in Kansas’ previous four-game winning streak heading into the game, but was limited to seven points, on 2-10 shooting from the field against Baylor. Wilson is at his best, when he doesn’t have to be the go to guy that’s relied upon on offense. Kansas needed his production in the worst way on Saturday, which contributed to the loss.
Thankfully for the Jayhawks, David McCormack’s effort over the past few games has been solid, including a 13 and 10 double-double against Baylor.
Long term, Kansas does have the pieces for a deep run in March, however they will need them to show up on a consistent basis which did not happen against Baylor.
Big picture, a loss especially at this time of year is not the worst thing in the world. Many times, when you have a long winning streak, your weaknesses become smaller and less noticeable, due to the fact that the main focus was achieved, and the game was won. Instead, a loss gives you the chance to focus on what went wrong and hopefully those weaknesses can be solved.
Considering this game was Saint Mary's biggest game of the year, their great effort was expected. In addition, this year's version of the WCC is the best in the Conference's history with three, and maybe even four teams likely to make the NCAA Tournament. With that being said, Gonzaga had still run through the league prior to Saturday.
So what went wrong? Gonzaga’s frontcourt of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren combined for only 12 points and shot 5 of 17 from the field. It is better that the disastrous game for the Gonzaga frontcourt came late in the regular season, opposed to the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga only had four total assists as a team in the game, and when that happens Gonzaga is in trouble. For a team that is known for their elite spacing and ball movement, only four assists will not get the job done.
Last season, Gonzaga entered the National Championship game undefeated, fresh off a buzzer beater victory over UCLA in the Final Four and couldn’t have felt any better about themselves. Baylor was able to take advantage of a vulnerable Gonzaga team and the rest is history.
This year, Gonzaga played a grueling non-conference schedule against teams like Duke, Texas Tech, Alabama, UCLA and Texas with the hopes of getting this Bulldogs team to be more ready for March. In the past, playing in the WCC hasn’t challenged Gonzaga well enough prior to March. However, the hope is that this year the tough non-conference schedule and the late WCC loss will have Gonzaga ready to go for March.
Saturday’s loss to Tennessee, marked the third loss in Auburn’s last six games. Point Guard play has had a lot to do with Auburn’s recent struggles, which was on full display Saturday. Eastern Kentucky transfer Wendell Green shot an abysmal, 2 of 15 from the floor against Tennessee. This puts Bruce Pearl in a tricky spot, considering that it was Green’s tough shot making that led Auburn to so many big wins at earlier points in the season.
There is no denying that Auburn has the best frontcourt in college basketball between future top 3 pick Jabari Smith and the future SEC Defensive Player of the Year in Walker Kessler. Both of these guys have played well in the games that Auburn has dropped. The issue is,
that the frontcourt relies on others to get them the ball, and especially against Tennessee that was not happening. The Tigers were also really bothered by Tennessee's physicality and ability to get in their face. Tennessee outrebounded Auburn 47-28 and used that physicality to their advantage.
Long term, point guard play could be the issue that prevents Auburn from a long tournament run and they don’t have much time to figure it out.
All three of Auburn's recent losses have come by three points or less so they are competitive and show up to each and every game. However, earlier in the season they were winning these close games and now that is not the case.
Going into Saturday’s game at Michigan State, Purdue had total control of a Big Ten regular season title and all they had to do was win out. That is no longer the case, as the Boilers fell 68-65 to Michigan State thanks to a Tyson Walker game winning three-pointer in the final seconds. This was a disappointing loss for Purdue, taking into account that Michigan State had lost five of their previous six games and three in a row going in. Tom Izzo’s team was going to give their best efforts, however when you’re a Purdue team competing for a No. 1 seed and so close to a Big Ten Title, that is a game you have to win. Unlike their competitors at the top of the Big Ten Wisconsin, Purdue has not been able to win that one big road game so far this season.
The bottom line is, this is a Purdue team that cannot be relied on defensively. The Boilers have been giving up 70+ points, even in their victories and rank 166th in the country in defensive efficiency. There are some really eye-popping similarities between this Purdue team and last year's Iowa team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Both have elite offenses, with an elite big man, while playing on no defense. That is the same Iowa team that got run off the floor by Oregon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. It is very difficult to buy into a team to go far in March, when they cannot get stops.
Purdue does have an elite offense that is capable of scoring 100 points any time they take the floor. However, they rely solely on that offense, so if they have an off night scoring the ball, Purdue can be in store for an early tournament exit.
Finally, point guard play is becoming a worry for this Purdue team, as they are lacking some playmaking alongside Jaden Ivey and their bigs. Isaiah Thompson, who was shooting the ball in the early portion of the season, played 15 minutes against Michigan State and didn’t register a single statistic.
At this point in the year, the best teams are the ones that have their rotations fully sorted out and know who their best players are. Purdue is a team that has shown some major concerns heading into March, and the high of concern should be high going forward.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter @ZKrull_