Roundball chatter

Each week I write about the sport I love, college basketball:

• Earlier this season, Illinois looked like lock city for the NCAA tournament. Now John Groce's team has dropped six in a row, including a 56-46 defeat at Indiana on Sunday. At 2-6 in the Big Ten and 13-8 overall, the Illini have a tough week ahead against a pair of nationally ranked teams in Iowa and Wisconsin. Illinois is now a bubble team.

• The Maize and Blue of Michigan are getting better and better. Guards Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton gave the Wolverines a combined 55 big points in a win over Michigan State, giving John Beilein's team first place in the Big Ten.

• Josh Smith had a world of potential. He started his career at UCLA, but weight issues were a major dilemma there. He transferred to Georgetown and played well at times this season. Then he ran into academic problems, which have ended his season. He has to be accountable for his actions, and the story is a disappointment.

• How about a salute to Rick Barnes and Texas? He has a young team that has been on fire, winning five in a row. The Longhorns are 16-4 going into this weekend's showdown against Kansas. Defense has been a vital key as the Longhorns have held their past five opponents to an average of 66.6 points per game while allowing 39.2 percent shooting (115-of-293) from the field, including a 25.9 percent (28-of-108) mark from beyond the 3-point arc.

• Northern Colorado went 13-18 last season. This time around, the team is tied for first in the Big Sky and 13-4 overall. After a 2-2 start, the Bears have won 11 of 13 games. You may remember Northern Colorado from an early-season upset over Kansas State.

• Usually a major hoops conference will get about six bids into the Big Dance. Look at the SEC and realize that the league's stock is down. Other than Florida and Kentucky, which teams are lock city?

• Which team has the best chance to run the table going into March Madness and the NCAA tourney? The Vitale Bald Dome Index -- better known as the VBDI -- says it's Wichita State.