Each week I'll write about the sport I love, college basketball:
• Illinois has been one of the surprise stories of the season under coach John Groce. Brandon Paul had 35 points in the big win at Gonzaga. This team keeps coming up with solid performances, showing how deep the Big Ten is. Minnesota and Illinois are going to create nightmares for the elite teams in the Big Ten such as Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State. The conference is so deep and these teams are gaining a lot of confidence by playing well in non-league action.
• The rich get richer. John Calipari added another top-flight prospect to his recruiting class when New Jersey-based center Karl Towns announced his college intention, going to Lexington. Towns was listed as the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2015, but the 4.0 student reclassified to 2014 to start playing college basketball in two seasons. The 7-footer played for Calipari over the summer as a member of the Dominican Republic's national team.
• Talk about an up-and-down stretch. Iowa State's Will Clyburn started the month of December by scoring 32 points in a win over BYU. He then went on to total eight points in two games, against Florida Gulf Coast and rival Iowa. Versus the Hawkeyes, Clyburn went 0-for-five from the field and did not score, pretty amazing for a guy averaging over 16 ppg going into the contest.
• Indiana suffered a blow when diaper dandy Austin Etherington was lost for the season with a knee injury. At least Tom Crean gets a couple of big bodies back next week in Hanner Mosquera-Pera and Peter Jurkin when their nine-game NCAA suspensions end.
• Unfortunately, if you do not understand the responsibility of being a student-athlete, your college basketball days end quickly. Mississippi junior forward Jason Carter found that out as he was dismissed for a violation of team rules. A junior college transfer, Carter started his career at Alabama before transferring to Chipola Junior College.
• I really like the potential in Texas big man Cameron Ridley. He knows how to finish off plays around the basket. Ridley senses the defense and knows what to do when he gets the rock in the low post. When he gets his body in a little better shape, he will be really dangerous.