Observations: Kentucky’s loss to UCLA won’t be last upset this season

UCLA’s win over Kentucky again proves how rankings are meaningless.

Three weeks ago the Bruins lost at Pauley Pavilion to Monmouth.

On Thursday night they beat top-ranked Kentucky in the same building and the game was never in doubt down the stretch.

Sensing a trend here?

You shouldn’t.

This is going to be college basketball during the 2015-16 season.

Unlike last season when teams like Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, and Virginia prior to losing Justin Anderson separated themselves from the rest of the nation, this year is going to see different teams taking turns at the top of the polls each and every week.

Think about this for a second: UCLA wasn’t receiving any votes in last week’s Top 25 and it went out and handled Kentucky — the supposed “top-ranked” team in the country — with relative ease.

Like many others I submit my vote for the Top 25 each Sunday night, but the numbers next to each program each week have very little bearing to how games are going to turn out.

Two years ago in 2014 we saw a No. 7 seed (UConn) beat a No. 8 seed (Kentucky) in the national title game.

Nobody should be remotely shocked if something similar happens next April in Houston.

UNLV’s Derrick Jones could become a national name after Friday

There are freak athletes and then there’s UNLV’s Derrick Jones.

Look him up on You Tube and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

UNLV’s high-flying freshman made his name on the AAU circuit thanks to his freakish athleticism and ability to regularly send crowds into a frenzy with his high octane dunks from all angles on the court.

That type of ability will be in the spotlight Friday as the Runnin Rebels take on Oregon at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Dave Rice’s team (6-1) played well last week at the Maui Invitational, but needs a win against a quality opponent like Oregon to cement its place as a legitimate contender in the Mountain West Conference. The Ducks aren’t at full strength as Dylan Ennis and Jordan Bell are still out with injuries, but have already beaten both Baylor and Valpo this season despite being shorthanded.

If UNLV is going to have a chance to win this game it’s going to need Jones to play heavy minutes against Oregon’s versatile front line.

Goodluck Okonoboh’s decision to leave the Runnin Rebels’ program last week and transfer means that UNLV has minutes available up front and those minutes are likely to slide to Jones as an undersized power forward at 6-7.

The Philadelphia native is already averaging 13.0 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting an impressive 63.4 percent from the field in just 19.7 minutes.

Those numbers are sure to now increase.

How soon?

We’ll find out Friday in Sin City.

Vanderbilt fans better buckle up for the next few weeks

The ‘Dores proved they were for real when they stood toe-to-toe with Kansas on the night before Thanksgiving in the finals of the Maui Invitational.

Now we’re going to find out how Vanderbilt responds when it gets punched in the mouth because it’s bound to happen at some point between now and Christmas.

Kevin Stallings’ team is about to begin an arduous four-game stretch which features a pair of road games at Baylor and Purdue along with home tilts against Dayton and reigning SoCon champion Wofford.

That’s two games against two teams with two of the best front lines in the sport — Baylor and Purdue — and another that runs offense as well as anybody in Dayton.

The Dores have one of the best offensive teams in the country, but I’m still not sure how they’re going to respond in a really physical game.

We’ll find out during the next two and a half weeks.

This Just In

Mark Few told CBS Sports he still doesn’t know if Przemek Karnowski (back) will play Saturday vs. Arizona. “Spasms are slightly better,” Few said.

Wake Forest’s Codi Miller-McIntyre (foot) will not play Friday against Arkansas, Danny Manning told CBS Sports. McIntyre has yet to play this season.

Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet (hamstring) will “probably give it a go” Saturday against Saint Louis, Gregg Marshall told CBS Sports. VanVleet did not play in three games last week at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

Oregon’s Jordan Bell (foot) will not play Friday against UNLV, Dana Altman told CBS Sports.

Bryce Alford (USATSI)
Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe tries to guard UCLA’s Bryce Alford on Thursday. (USATSI)

This and That

Duke’s interior combination of Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee is similar to the tandem of Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek that started for the Blue Devils when they won the 2010 national title. Just like Thomas and Zoubek, Jefferson and Plumlee know their roles, embrace who they are, and do an unbelievable job of sacrificing for their teammates. You can’t measure what these guys do in a box score. Mike Krzyzewski’s team is currently 7-1 overall.

Butler’s Tyler Wideman is gradually starting to do all the things that Kameron Woods did last season on the interior. The 6-8 sophomore is averaging 10.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks over his last four games. If Wideman continues to produce near this level, Chris Holtmann’s team could be really dangerous by February and March.

The sleeper game of the weekend is Davidson against North Carolina on Sunday night in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels will have a significant advantage up front with their size and athleticism, but Bob McKillop is one of college basketball’s elite coaches and has another prolific offensive team that’s averaging 88.0 points each time it takes the floor. This one will be worth your time.

Indiana is allowing an average of 73.6 points this season and that obviously includes games against low and mid-major opponents. In the five games the Hoosiers have played against Creighton, Wake Forest, St. John’s, UNLV, and Duke, they’re surrendering an average of 77.2 points. That’s not going to cut it if this team has aspirations of competing with the teams at the top of the Big Ten. Tom Crean’s squad is 5-3 overall.

Mike Lonergan is positioning George Washington to make its second NCAA Tournament in three seasons. The Colonials earned major equity with an early-season win over Virginia and methodically scheduled several strong RPI games that will help their resume down the line. George Washington is 7-1 overall and has a legitimate chance to win all five of the remaining games on its non-conference schedule.

Providence transfer Josh Fortune has found a home at Colorado. The 6-5 wing is third on the Buffaloes in scoring and is averaging 11.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. A long-range specialist while he was with the Friars, Fortune is shooting 46.9 percent from 3-point range this season and has made 11-19 shots from distance in his last three games.

Ethan Happ officially arrived on Wednesday night for Wisconsin. The redshirt freshman broke out against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and had 18 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocked shots in an overtime victory that could jolt the Badgers’ season in the right direction. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are going to be All-Big Ten caliber players this season for Wisconsin, but the key for the Badgers is getting a guy like Happ to consistently be an offensive threat each time he takes the floor. Bo Ryan’s squad is 5-3 overall and next hosts Temple on Saturday at the Kohl Center. Tip off is at 12:30 ET on CBS.

If Rhode Island wants to have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament the Rams have to beat Providence on Saturday night at the Ryan Center. Dan Hurley’s team is 5-2 overall and have remade their offense following E.C. Matthews’ season-ending ACL injury. But to truly move the needle nationally they need to take down their in-state rival. This should be one heck of an atmosphere in Kingston.

Alabama transfer Ricky Tarrant has quietly made a significant difference for Memphis. The fifth-year guard is second on the Tigers in scoring at 13.3 points and has dished out 18 assists on the season to just seven turnovers. The key for Josh Pastner’s club is improving that ratio as a team: Memphis is averaging 15 assists to 13 turnovers each time it takes the floor. The Tigers are 4-2 overall.

The Big 12 may not be pound-for-pound as good of a league as the ACC, but you better believe it’s going to be a bear once again. One of the main reasons why? How well coached the teams are that are projected at the bottom of the conference. Kansas State, TCU, and Texas Tech all have coaches — Bruce Weber, Trent Johnson, and Tubby Smith — that have taken teams deep into the NCAA Tournament and in Smith’s case he won a national title at Kentucky in 1998. It’s not going to be easy to face these teams in league play — especially on the road.

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