College Basketball Catch-Up: No. 4 falls and a new contender from the Big East has arisen

Arizona drops its fourth Pac-12 game of the year and Creighton is finally living up to its preseason hype.

[A photo of a Stanford player shooting over an Arizona guard.]

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

In a week which featured No. 6 Tennessee losing on two buzzer-beaters, No. 1 Purdue losing for the second straight week and eight ranked teams losing on Saturday, here are my top headlines.

The tree topples No. 4 Arizona

After a brutal week of watching the Trojans get swept by my home state teams, Oregon and Oregon State, nothing could have consoled me better than watching Stanford take down No. 4 Arizona.

The Wildcats went into the weekend second in the Pac-12 but No. 4 in the country, and many still think they are the best team in the Pac-12. However, Saturday showed a different side of Arizona that most of us are not used to. The Wildcats held a three-point lead at halftime, up 44-41 on the Cardinal, but in the second half, it was all Stanford, as they outscored Arizona by 12 and went on to win 88-79.

Arizona shot an absurd 35 3-point shots, more than their regular field goal attempts, meaning they shot more threes than layups. It’s not like the Wildcats were really red-hot from three either; they shot 14-for-35 and while 14 threes is a lot, there is no reason to shoot 35 3-pointers unless you can’t miss as a team. To put things into perspective, 35 3-point attempts a game is 12 more than the Wildcats’ average of 23 attempts per game.

The most impressive part of the game to me was how Stanford rendered Arizona’s star player, junior forward Azuolas Tubelis, useless. Tubelis was in foul trouble the whole game so he watched much of the game from the bench, but when he was on, he only scored four points and was unable to grab a single rebound in 17 minutes.

Arizona did, however, have four players in double digits, including a 26-point outing from senior guard Courtney Ramey. But Tommy Lloyd’s squad looked a little lost without Tubelis and could not stop the Cardinal.

Stanford, on the other hand, played its best game of basketball this year by far. All five starters scored double-digit points, most notably 22 from junior guard Michael O’Connell.

Everything — and I mean everything — went right for Stanford as they shot an otherworldly 61% from the field and 56% from three, out-dueling Arizona in every single statistical category except for blocks.

This loss brought me pure joy, as I do not like to see Arizona succeed, so seeing a team like Stanford knock them off will always bring a smile to my face.

Arizona is a funny team, though. They were undefeated coming into conference play with wins over No. 17 San Diego State, No. 10 Creighton, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 14 Indiana. But for some reason these Pac-12 away games are their kryptonite and three of their four losses have come on the road in conference play. When it comes down to it, I still trust them and think they can make a deep run in March.

Creighton is rolling and they are my pick to win the Big East

The No. 23 Blue Jays started off the season hot, winning six straight including wins over No. 21 Texas Tech and No. 9 Arkansas. Then they hit a rough patch, losing five games in a row, including BYU, Nebraska and Arizona State.

However, after everyone wrote them off as just another team with too much preseason hype, Creighton has surged back with eight straight wins including wins over No. 13 Xavier, No. 19 Providence and most recently, No. 21 UConn.

The Blue Jays have one of the best starting lineups in the entire country, with all starting five averaging double digits. They are led by junior center Ryan Kalkbrenner and sophomore guard Ryan Nembhard, who is clearly a leader on this team despite not always scoring the most.

Creighton sits at second in the Big East, only half a game back from first place No. 10 Marquette. Going forward, the Blue Jays play No. 24 Providence and No. 11 Marquette, both of which will be huge games if Creighton wants to win the Big East.

Creighton is probably the only team I trust in the Big East, because I think it is a mediocre conference. But take that with a grain of salt because the last few teams I said I trust the most (Kansas State and Purdue) have dropped a game within a week of me saying that. At this rate, expect a Creighton loss this week to completely undermine me.

This week, I’m looking forward to Tuesday when No. 1 Alabama heads to Knoxville to take on No. 10 Tennessee and Saturday when No. 9 Baylor and No. 5 Kansas battle for supremacy in the Big 12.

“College Basketball Catch-Up” runs every Monday.