Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball, where there's no truth to the rumor that Texas A&M (1) has petitioned the Big 12 for 30 home games a season:
To paraphrase Tom Hanks: There's no crying in January!
With utmost tenderness and respect, The Minutes offers the following advice to the young lady caught on camera weeping in the Dean Dome after her North Carolina Tar Heels (2) were upset Saturday by Maryland (3):
Suck it up, honey.
Unless you'd wagered an entire semester's meal money on the Heels, crying over a regular-season league loss is incomprehensible. Even if it results in Duke (4) being the last unbeaten in the ACC.
If you want perspective on the pain of losing, consult with Ohio State (5) fans, who have seen the Buckeyes get blown out of three straight national championship games (two in football sandwiched around one in basketball). By now, the bawling has been beaten out of the Bucknuts.
The recently concluded "Week of Impact" had a direct impact on the rankings, with 14 of the ESPN/USA Today's Top 25 losing at least once. If fans of every beaten favorite had boo-hooed like Carolina Girl this past weekend, there would have been a nationwide run on Kleenex. Among the weaknesses recently exposed in top teams:
UCLA (6): Remember the Bruins' mighty struggles the past two years with Florida's athletic frontcourt? They've relived those issues in their two losses, surrendering 25 points and nine rebounds to 6-foot-8 forward Davon Jefferson of USC on Saturday and 19 points and 10 rebounds to 6-7 forward Damion James of Texas in early December. UCLA has a lot of things going for it, but quickness and athleticism on the front line -- especially the 3 and 4 spots -- are not among them. USC smoked the Bruins' normally resolute defense for 60.9 percent shooting. UCLA, which has challenged Louisville for Most Injury-Prone Team In America status in recent years, is struggling to find enough live bodies to put on the floor.
North Carolina: This isn't exactly a shocking revelation, but the Tar Heels are a bit lax at the defensive end. "It's certainly the thing that stands out the most where we need work," coach Roy Williams said Monday. Blessed with a team that normally can outscore its opposition, that didn't happen against Maryland. "They got what they wanted, when they wanted it," Williams said. The coach made a couple of comparisons of his current team to the 2005 national champions, including saying that the champs weren't a very good defensive team at this point in the season either -- but that team was more talented than this one.
Marquette (7): The Golden Eagles lost by double digits twice last week and have lost three of their past five. Not coincidentally, they've been outrebounded five games in a row. Tom Crean has built his team around an aggressive, resourceful trio of guards, but they need help on the inside. Marquette has nobody taller than 6-6 playing more than 18 minutes per game. The Eagles need more from center Ousmane Barro, a 6-10 senior with offensive limitations but the ability to block shots and hit the glass.
Texas A&M: The Aggies rolled to a 15-1 record by scrupulously avoiding true road games. Dispatched to the road last week, they were blown out twice by unranked opponents. In those games, they had 16 assists and 34 turnovers, showing that the void left by departed point guard Acie Law isn't so easily filled when the going gets tough. Dominique Kirk has done an admirable job of transitioning from a catch-and-shoot guard to the point, but he's still not a natural in that role. And center DeAndre Jordan -- a huge talent but very raw offensively -- might be hitting the freshman wall: He's had eight points and eight turnovers his past two games.
Butler (8): It's far easier said than done, but shutting down the Bulldogs' senior backcourt of Mike Green and A.J. Graves is the way to beat Butler. In their two losses to date, Green and Graves have shot a combined 10-for-45, which is atrocious. Graves in particular has struggled lately, making just 17 of 59 field goals and 7 of 13 free throws in January. The free-throw percentage is shocking; Graves was second nationally from the line last season at 94.8 percent, missing eight free throws all season.
Basketball Bucket List
By now you probably know about the "Bucket List" concept, from the movie of the same name -- a list of things to do to fulfill your life before kicking the bucket. If the idea works for Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, then this customized hoops version works for The Minutes:
10. Re-enacting Jimmy Chitwood's winning shot at Hinkle Fieldhouse (9).
9. Waving the wheat in Phog Allen Fieldhouse (10).
8. Doing the Soulja Boy dance with Bo Ryan (11). Watch this to practice your steps.
7. Feeling the brotherly love at a Big Five game in The Palestra (12).
6. Being the shirtless "O" to the shirtless "V" of Bruce Pearl (13) at a Tennessee women's game.
5. Appearing in "One Shining Moment" (14).
4. Singing "My Old Kentucky Home" on Senior Day at Kentucky, then watching the game with Ashley Judd (15).
3. Performing as the Stanford Tree (16) for a game.
2. Camping out in Krzyzewskiville (17) before a Duke-Carolina game at Cameron Indoor.
1. Watching a game with John Wooden (18).
Minutes readers are encouraged to send in their own bucket lists, possibly for compilation in a future Forde Minutes column.
About the only Tennessee entity taking a beating lately is Fred Thompson. The rest of the Volunteer State suddenly rules college basketball.
Tennessee (19) has ridden an 11-game winning streak and strong schedule to No. 1 in the RPI. Undefeated Memphis (20) has risen to No. 1 in the AP and USA Today polls for the first time since a one-week cameo in 1983. If you add No. 14 Vanderbilt (21) to the mix, Tennessee has more ranked teams than any other state.
And that's not all. Austin Peay (22), in Clarksville, leads the Ohio Valley Conference. Chattanooga (23) is tops in its division of the Southern Conference. Belmont (24), in Nashville, is second in the Atlantic Sun standings and has wins over Cincinnati and Alabama. And there is that women's program in Knoxville that you might have heard about.
Roll it all together, and it's a pretty good body of work for a state that has never won an NCAA men's title, hasn't put a team in the men's Final Four since a Keith Lee-led Memphis team made it in 1985, and has produced a paucity of truly great men's players. (Best Tennessee-bred male basketball player of all time is who? Penny Hardaway? Elliot Perry? Larry Finch? Tony Delk? Ron Mercer? Todd Day? Brandan Wright? The Volunteers' top seven career scorers all are imports from other states.)
For one night at least, you can walk a mile in Ron Hunter's (25) shoes without inconveniencing the IUPUI coach. That's because on Thursday night, when IUPUI plays the Oakland Grizzlies, Hunter will be coaching barefoot.
Hunter is coaching to raise awareness (and shoes) for a charitable organization called Samaritan's Feet. The goal is to collect 40,000 pairs of donated new shoes (in honor of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death) for people in Africa without shoes.
(For $29.99 at www.samaritansfeet.org, you can donate two pairs of shoes to the effort, or buy one pair and donate a pair. And yes, The Minutes is putting his money where his mouth is by making a donation.)
The Minutes applauds Hunter for being willing to take an unconventional step for a good cause, and hopes others will follow. In fact, here are the six coaches The Minutes would most enjoy seeing shoeless on the sidelines:
Bob Knight (26), Texas Tech. If he decides to kick a player like he did once at Indiana, it won't hurt the kid's shin.
Rick Pitino, Louisville and Tubby Smith, Minnesota (27). They both stomp their loafers to get their players' attention. What happens when they have no loafers?
Rick Majerus (28), Saint Louis. It's not like going barefoot would ruin his outfit.
Jay Wright (29), Villanova. The Minutes strongly suspects a pedicure.
Gary Williams (30), Maryland. Perhaps, like the Grinch, his shoes are too tight. Maybe he'd smile without them.
Taking the "Freshman of the Year" to an extreme
You think college basketball is overrun with freshmen now that they're prohibited from jumping to the NBA? Try coaching 13 of them at The Citadel (31). With no scholarship upperclassmen.
That's the task for second-year coach Ed Conroy (32) -- and if that surname sounds familiar in connection with that school, it should. Conroy's cousin and fellow Citadel alum, Pat, is the extraordinary author who wrote "The Lords of Discipline" and "My Losing Season," about life at The Citadel.
"I told Pat he'll have to write 'Our Winning Program,' instead of 'Our Losing Season,'" Ed Conroy said.
Pat Conroy doesn't have to work on a sequel just yet, because his cousin just might be coaching the youngest team in college basketball history -- and he's feeling the effects of it.
"Somebody asked me the other day if I wish there was still freshman ineligibility," Conroy said. "I told them, 'Yes and no. If they did, we wouldn't have a team. But I wouldn't wish this on anybody.'"
The "this" Conroy referred to is a 5-12 record, 0-8 in the Southern Conference. The Citadel was terrible for several years before Conroy got this job, and after a 7-23 debut season, he's basically starting from scratch.
Some players left during the coaching transition, others had problems with the strict military regimen at the school. The end result was that Conroy signed eight scholarship freshmen and invited five more as walk-ons: players from Croatia, Indiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Georgia and even a couple of in-staters from South Carolina.
They joined the only holdovers from 2006-07, senior Demetrius Nelson and junior walk-on Jonathan Brick. Then, in the seventh game of the season, Nelson suffered a stress fracture in his foot (he will be redshirted).
That means it's down to the unfortunately named Brick (who, it must be noted, has never shot better than 40 percent from the field as a collegian) and a band of babies. Without Nelson, the top six scorers are freshmen.
As a result, Conroy has had to pare down his game preps to keep the strategies simple. He's had to help players deal with the three-pronged demands of The Citadel: academics, military commitment and basketball. And he's answered more questions about basic college life than any other coach in America.
"We're a developmental program," Conroy said. "We teach guys over the long run. So in that way, it's been great; it's been a lot of fun starting from the ground up. All the stories on the road and in the locker room are all new -- I haven't heard them before.
"But it can be frustrating. They all learn at a different rate."
The learning curve is steepest on the road. Citadel's second game was at South Carolina. The score: 103-42.
"It was a disaster," Conroy said. "We absolutely got our doors blown off."
Emblematic of the lambs-to-the-slaughter theme of the evening was the performance of freshman Zach Urbanus, a guard from Austin, Texas. Urbanus went 0-for-6 from the field, and Conroy said his final three shots of the game were an air ball from 22 feet, an air ball from 20 feet and an air ball from 12 feet.
"I kid you not," Conroy said. "The crowd was all over him."
But Urbanus has regrouped and is shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range and averaging 10.1 points. Conroy hopes Urbanus' improvement through adversity becomes the norm for his team.
"I'm excited by the idea of a large group going through this thing together," Conroy said. "We've never been to the Big Dance, never even been to the NIT. Going to one of those tournaments is the goal. There's no reason why we can't be competitive in basketball here.
"Check back with me in a couple years. We'll see how the experiment is going."
Dusting off old dancing shoes
While The Citadel is trying (unsuccessfully) to make history with its first NCAA Tournament bid, a notably large group of other schools have a reasonable shot at their first Big Dance bids in ages. Who they are and how they stand:
Drake (33). Last bid: 1971. Current chances: The Bulldogs would just about have to pull a Clemson to blow a bid at this point. Heading into a Tuesday night game against Creighton, they're 16-1 (7-0 Missouri Valley Conference) with a snappy No. 14 RPI. The Valley might backslide to just a couple of bids this season, but as of right now, Drake is definitely the most accomplished team in that league.
Cleveland State (34). Last bid: 1986, when Kevin Mackey was coaching, Mouse McFadden was playing and the Vikings shocked Indiana. Current chances: Don't look now, but Cleveland State is 7-0 in the Horizon League and owns a two-game loss-column lead (plus the tiebreaker) over ballyhooed Butler. The Vikings have beaten the Bulldogs, South Florida and Florida State, and they don't have a single loss to a team with an RPI over double digits. But the next four games should tell a more complete story -- they're all on the road -- and they still might have to win the league tournament to lock up a bid.
Akron (35). Last bid: 1986, when the coach was Bob Huggins. Current chances: The Zips (14-3) are the last unbeaten team in MAC play at 4-0, and their three losses have come by a total of 15 points. They've also beaten primary division rivals Miami and Ohio, with the third main competitor, Kent State, on tap Wednesday. With a current RPI of 69, Akron either needs to dominate the rest of the regular season or win the MAC tourney.
Jacksonville (36). Last bid: 1986. Current chances: The Atlantic Sun is strictly a one-bid league, but the Dolphins might be in position to grab that bid this season. They lead the league at 5-0, with the A-Sun's top RPI team, No. 123 East Tennessee State, visiting on Friday night. Win that one and the Dolphins could be 9-0 traveling to face Belmont in Nashville on Feb. 7.
Baylor (37). Last bid: 1988. Current chances: No BCS league program has come further back from oblivion than this one. The Bears are No. 32 in the RPI and 6-0 in road/neutral games, and their two losses are by a total of 10 points against top-40 competition. But they have not yet beaten an RPI top 50 team -- and eight of those remain on the schedule, starting at Texas A&M on Wednesday night. At 3-0 in the Big 12, the Bears might be six victories away from firming up an at-large bid.
Cornell (38). Last bid: 1988. Current chances: Having scored in the 80s or higher in nine of 14 games, the Big Red are playing high-octane offensive basketball by Ivy League standards. They have the second-highest RPI in the league behind Brown, and numbers guru Ken Pomeroy projects records of 19-8 overall, 11-3 in league play. With the Ivy in a bit of a transition phase, why not Cornell?
When hungry in Owensboro, Ky. (39), The Minutes recommends the heaping piles of smoked meat at Moonlite Bar-B-Q (40), where they've been serving it up to rave reviews since 1963.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.