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College Hoops Roundup: No. 1 Kentucky Loses, Weekend Games to Watch

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College basketball is officially weird this year. After having one of the most impressive teams we’ve seen in quite some time last year in Kentucky go undefeated and three other great teams in Duke, Wisconsin and Arizona, it felt like an incredibly short list of true national title contenders.

Well, this year it’s wide-ass-open. North Carolina lost at Northern Iowa. Maryland lost at North Carolina. Kansas lost to Michigan State. Now, Kentucky lost at UCLA last night. None are actually terrible losses, UNC was injured, UK was on the road and obviously Maryland and Kansas lost to top-10 teams, but it’s just showing how open college basketball is as of December 4.

Taking a moment to talk about UCLA’s win over UK and I’m sure the comment section is expecting me to make some excuses as a Kentucky grad. There were none. UCLA simply outplayed UK and was a matchup nightmare. While I said I was scared of Tony Parker, I should have been scared of that goofy-ass Tim Welsh, who looked like Jimmy Chitwood draining 15-footers. With point guard Tyler Ulis banged up (hyperextended elbow) and losing Marcus Lee to a head injury, UK was forced to play into the hands of UCLA, which was to rush its offense and shoot jumpers. Unfortunately without Lee, it took away a lot of offensive rebounding and Ulis having his shot off with the elbow. It was a perfect gameplan by Steve Alford.

It just showed how good UCLA can be when they play their best, which could be scary come March. Also showed how far Kentucky has to go (typical with a Calipari coached team). I still have the Wildcats in the first tier of teams as national title contenders along with Kansas, UNC, Maryland, Duke, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Villanova and Michigan State.

Heading into the weekend there are only a couple of intriguing games. I don’t have lines for the Saturday/Sunday games yet, but I’ll tweet my picks out @barstoolreags. Just as a heads up for those following I’m 25-11 on the year on picks on the greatest Website on this here Interwebs.

Oregon (-2) at UNLV – Friday, 11pm

This is a game that will get lose in the shuffle because it’s at 11pm, but Oregon is a team to watch. The Ducks are quietly undefeated with wins over Baylor and Valpo. Tyler Dorsey is a name for college fans to know as he very well could win Pac-12 Player of the Year. He’s currently averaging 15 points a game while pitching in 3 rebounds and assists a game. The scary thing with Oregon is they will only get better when Dylan Ennis returns from injury. Ennis is a menace defensively and showed with Nova he can shoot, as long as it’s not in the Round of 32 in March – GOT EEEM. On the flip side UNLV has a kid in Patrick McCaw who is putting up 19 a game while shooting 47 percent from deep. Watching him in the Maui Invitational showed what type of talent he is and he’s one of the best guards in the country. They also have Stephen Zimmerman, a likely NBA lottery pick. The fact this game is at a neutral location (but in Vegas) should help UNLV a little bit.

The Pick: UNLV

Arizona at Gonzaga – Saturday, 3:15pm

What one time would have been the best game of the weekend no longer is, because Kaleb Tarczewski is out for 4-6 weeks. It’s hard to imagine Arizona competing against Gonzaga’s absurd frontcourt without Tarc, but Allonzo Trier at guard gives them some hope. However, Kyle Wiltjer is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate. For those who don’t know POY is different than best player in America i.e. Simmons won’t win National POY because he’s likely going to play in the NIT. He’s putting up 19 points and seven rebounds a game and will stretch the defense better than any big in the country. Combining him with Domantas Sabonis, who is greatly improved and Przemek Karnowski, who is a typical bully in the paint, gives Gonzaga a big edge here.

The Pick: Gonzaga by double digits

Providence at Rhode Island – Saturday, 7 pm

A rivalry game for the Stoolies out there. As a college basketball fan I would do anything for Rhode Island to get EC Matthews back from an injury as he’s one of the best players America doesn’t know about. His loss completely ruins what Rhode Island is capable of and Providence will absolutely exploit this. The real question is does Kris Dunn get another triple double? Is this the game he gets a quadruple double? He’s arguably the most exciting player in America, and the best player in America. Rhode Island will need a lot of shooting from Four McGlynn to win this game and I don’t see it happening.

The Pick: Providence by 8

Vanderbilt at Baylor – Sunday, 8 pm

Nothing happens on Sunday’s besides the Giants kicking the Jets ass, right? No other teams around? Well, this is the best game of the weekend between two teams a lot of people often forget about. You have the nerds from Vanderbilt, who happens to be nasty at basketball led by Damian Jones and the football-crazed school of Baylor. I’m excited to see Damian Jones, Luke Kornet and Jeff Roberson go up against Rico Gathers, Johnathan Motley and Ishamil Wainwright in a battle in the post. I like the pieces Vanderbilt has better thanks to the shooting and depth. On top of that while Vandy’s head coach Kevin Stallings looks like Kevin from The Office, he’s a helluva coach at x’s and o’s, especially on inbounds plays, which goes a long way. This one is coming down the stretch and will be won in the last minute.

The Pick: Vanderbilt by a possession