Brennan: Observations from the week

1. Texas is here to stay. Forget last season's Longhorns. Yes, that team was disappointing. Yes, it was arguably just as talented -- maybe more so -- as this year's group. Yes, you never know when a sudden, inexplicable decline might occur. But this year's group is every bit as talented as last year's, and this year's has a secret ingredient thrown in: chemistry. It's always hard to gauge this mysterious "chemistry"; to paraphrase Judge Potter Stewart, you just know it when you see it. When you watch Texas, you see it. More important than anything, though, is this: the Longhorns defend. Rick Barnes' team is one of the best in the country on the defensive end. They make every shot difficult for the opposition, a trait that came through in a major way Saturday at Kansas, when Texas went on a 36-13 second-half run thanks primarily to its ability to lock down Kansas' wide range of capable scorers at the closeout level. Few teams in the country have that ability, and as long as the Longhorns play some semblance of cohesive offensive basketball, their chances at a Big 12 title -- and sundry other prestigious hardware -- will remain intact.

2. Pittsburgh appears to be the Big East's best team. Thanks to Villanova, the Big East is suddenly difficult to figure. What seemed to be a three-team race between Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Villanova has turned into something of a free-for-all after this week's results. Connecticut beat Villanova at home just a few days before Villanova took it to Syracuse -- and by "took it to Syracuse," I meant that in the most literal hoops-related manner possible. Basically, the Wildcats scored at will -- in front of 33,000 orange-clad fans at the Carrier Dome. Coupled with Pittsburgh's win over the Orange on Monday, it appears the Panthers are the league's nominal favorite to this point. But you can't count out Villanova, which played its best game of the season Saturday, any more than you can count out Syracuse or Connecticut. At this point, all four deserve your respect, and all four will be in the Big East title chase for weeks to come.

3. Gonzaga is in trouble. It might take a quirky doctor from a network TV drama to diagnose exactly what's wrong with the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Whatever it is, it's clear Gonzaga has taken a step back this season. The Bulldogs struggled through its brutal nonconference schedule. Fine. That happens. But to lose back-to-back conference games -- the most recent of which came at San Francisco on Saturday -- makes one think the Zags are in worse shape than previously anticipated. Saint Mary's lost at Vanderbilt on Saturday, but at this point, it's clear the Gaels are the class of the league, and the Bulldogs will have to figure some important things out if they want to win their 11th straight WCC regular season championship. Right now, shockingly, it's not looking good.

4. The national title is way up in the air. Yes, it's cheap of me to toss in the same thesis I used for Saturday's recap as Monday's No. 4 observation. But is it true? Does anyone think it's not true? I rest my case. Bottom line is that this college hoops season is shaping up to be a classic, if only because, as of Jan. 25, we have no idea who the national champion will be. Sure, we have some idea. But at this point, there's no such thing as a lock. That excites me. I hope it excites you too.

5. The game of the week -- of the century -- happens Wednesday. Excuse me if this delves more into "preview" than "week-that-was" territory, but there's something you should know before you commit to a late-night office meeting Wednesday. What is this golden kernel of truth? It's this: At 10 p.m. ET Wednesday night, No. 6 San Diego State travels to No. 9 BYU. Jimmer Fredette will be involved. Kawhi Leonard will be in the building. The Aztecs will be putting their undefeated, 20-0 record on the line. Jimmer Fredette will be involved. (Did we mention Fredette? Because we can mention him again.) The Mountain West isn't known for being the greatest basketball conference of all-time, but in 2011, it has two must-see teams. And on Jan. 26, 2011, those teams meet in a game that will not only help decide the conference title, but will help us learn just how much faith we should have in either of these teams come tournament time. If you care about your bracket, watch. Heck, if you care about college basketball, you should watch anyway. It'll be a good one.