College Basketball Catch-Up: Five weeks until March and Top 25 turmoil continues

Upsets continue to plague the land as the Big 12-SEC challenge brings even more drama to the Top 25.

[A photo of two Mississipppi State basketball players celebrating a win over No. 15 TCU.]

“College Basketball Catch-Up” is a column by Terence Holton discussing the latest men’s college basketball headlines.

I began writing this column at approximately 10:30 a.m. PST on Saturday. Since I began writing, there have been seven upsets amongst the Top 25 teams. There is no better representation of this season of college basketball that I can think of than that. This has been one of the wildest seasons to date, with madness occurring far before the month of March. So what were the biggest headlines from this week?

Wild Big 12-SEC challenge on Saturday

The day started off normal, with No. 7 Virginia vanquishing Boston College from Charlottesville. Then, the state of Alabama experienced a rude awakening of real college basketball from the Big 12. I, of course, am referring to West Virginia conquering No. 15 Auburn 80-77 and then Oklahoma putting the Boomer in Boomer Sooner as the Sooners decimated No. 2 Alabama 93-69.

It seemed as if the Big 12 was going to steamroll the SEC after the morning slate of games. However, Missouri got revenge for its brothers down south and upset No. 13 Iowa State 78-61.

The two conferences went back and forth with heavyweight competitors trading blows, including Mississippi State upsetting No. 11 TCU and No. 17 Baylor narrowly outlasting Arkansas. The battle ended with the headlining matchups of the clash of “gaudy orange” between No. 10 Texas and No. 4 Tennessee where the Volunteers won 82-71 and the battle of Blue Bloods between No. 9 Kansas and Kentucky, where the Jayhawks outlasted the Wildcats 77-68.

To me, it is clear that these are by far the best two conferences in all of college basketball, and I believe one of the top teams from these conferences will win March Madness. Both conferences are wide open, with some of the top teams from each conference losing games in which they were heavily favored. Realistically, there are about six or seven Big 12 teams who I think could win their conference and about six SEC teams who could win theirs.

These teams also are not just playing well because their in-conference opponents are good – they have played well against the rest of college basketball.

If I had to choose right now, I would say Tennessee and Baylor will win their respective conferences, but like I said, it could be any one of them. Don’t be surprised if the Final Four ends up majority SEC or Big 12.

Upsets galore

There was an upset five out of the seven days of this past week. I could go in depth on each of the matchups, but that feels redundant as most of them were within Big 12 conference play. The most notable upsets outside of the Big 12-SEC challenge included USC ringing the Victory Bell and taking down No. 8 UCLA, Creighton smacking around a tired No. 13 Xavier and Pitt blowing away the No. 20 Miami Hurricanes.

This, however, isn’t the first time there has been this much craziness this year. Two weekends ago there was a period of 24 hours where there were 14 Top-25 losses. Fourteen. So why can’t the Top 25 stay consistent?

I think the simplest answer to this question is there has never been a more competitive field in college basketball. With the transfer portal being the deepest it has ever been, there is talent being spread across the country.

Seeing top 10 teams drop this year just seems to be a regular occurrence. As someone who has been pushing the narrative that UCLA was overrated, the Trojans’ win on Thursday came as no surprise. However, watching teams in the Big 12 and Big East fight for supremacy within their respective conferences the way they have been is something we have never seen before. Usually, both the Big East and Big 12 are dominated by the blue bloods — Kansas and Villanova — but neither team is in prime position to win their conference as of right now.

All I know is that with six weeks left before conference tournaments start, the race to stay in the Top 25 is heating up and I expect upwards of 10 upsets to happen within the next two weeks. Nobody is safe.

The one thing that we can all agree on is that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will have its hands full when Selection Sunday comes around on March 12.

“College Basketball Catch-Up” runs every Monday.