Daily Word: Second-best Big 12 team?
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. If Kansas is the unanimous No. 1 in the Big 12, who's the second-best?
Andy Katz: Iowa State still possesses the most offensive weapons to be a formidable force. The Cyclones have an experienced unit that has been extremely resilient. DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim can each go for 30-plus. Georges Niang can be a tough matchup for any team. If you're looking for a Big 12 team other than Kansas that could reach the Final Four, it's most likely Iowa State.
C.L. Brown: I'm not ready to concede Kansas as the unanimous No. 1, considering how Texas handled the Jayhawks in Austin. That being said, the Longhorns can prove their mettle on the road this week with games at Iowa State and Kansas.
Myron Medcalf: Like C.L., I'll go with the Texas team that manhandled the Jayhawks a few weeks ago. The Longhorns have the size inside to make life tough on Kansas and the rest of the league. And they still have a chance to end up on top, too.
2. What will this week tell us about Duke?
Katz: The Blue Devils can reach the Final Four. Duke has a legit shot to go 3-0 this week, but even a 2-1 record during this week's stretch (at Georgia Tech, at North Carolina and versus Syracuse) would be quite an impressive feat. The Blue Devils have found their identity and have one of the top offensive talents in Jabari Parker, and they shoot as well from 3-point range as any team in the country.
Brown: It should reveal just how NCAA tournament-ready the Blue Devils are. Mike Krzyzewski likened games against North Carolina and Syracuse on Thursday and Saturday to a Final Four setup. Of course, that would make Georgia Tech on Tuesday the lower seed, early-round game Duke has to avoid looking past.
Medcalf: It might tell us that the Blue Devils are one of the three best teams in the country and the best in the ACC. A road win over a soaring UNC and a home win over Cuse would boost their case. It could also tell us that their occasionally spotty defense hasn't caught up with their tremendous offense yet and will continue to be a burden.
3. Eight ranked teams face unranked opponents on Tuesday. Who's most likely to fall?
Katz: Kentucky is at Ole Miss, and the Rebels are in desperation mode if they want any chance of making the NCAA tournament. Ole Miss gets Kentucky and Florida at home and must win one, if not both, to be in the conversation. All SEC records are not created equal, and the Rebels' 7-5 league mark doesn't have the wins to prove that they are worthy just yet. Ole Miss might be able to catch Kentucky in a bit of a post-Florida hangover.
Brown: I'm putting Iowa on upset alert at Indiana, which is 2-1 against ranked teams at home this season. The Hoosiers have dropped their past three games and four of their past five, but three of those losses were by a combined 12 points. The loss to Purdue was the only time they didn't compete.
Medcalf: Well, Lubbock, Texas, hasn't been an easy trip in recent weeks, so Kansas should be on alert. Tubby Smith has already elevated the program in his first season. Another Top-25 win for the Red Raiders would be a major statement for the team.
Games To Watch
Texas is alone in second place in the Big 12 standings behind Kansas, while Iowa State is one of three teams with five losses. The Cyclones would like to use some Hilton magic to pull the Longhorns back down to the middle of the pack.
This one went to overtime the previous time these two teams squared off, but the game was at Utah State's Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Aztecs' long winning streak is a thing of the past, but they did answer the Wyoming loss by beating Air Force.
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