|Monday, December 30
Updated: January 6, 1:40 PM ET
By Andy Katz
The Cardinals (7-1) picked up the best win of the week with an 81-63 victory over archrival Kentucky at Freedom Hall. The win proved to fans in the state, to teams in Conference USA, and to everyone in the nation that the Cardinals are a legit NCAA team. Louisville did a tremendous job of adjusting within the flow of the game. Louisville got to the boards after getting beat up in the first 10 minutes. The Cardinals played tenacious defense and shut down Kentucky. If the Cardinals can continue to get the kind of balance they had from Reece Gaines (overall leadership and an 18.4 ppg average) and Bryant Northern (three huge 3s) on the perimeter, and Marvin Stone (16 points) and Ellis Myles (14 rebounds) inside, then they'll be as tough to beat as Marquette and Cincinnati in Conference USA.
On Our Radar
Mike Ames, Delaware: He scored 27 points, including a perfect 7 for 7 from the free-throw line in an impressive 66-56 victory over Eastern Washington. The Blue Hens need the 6-3 junior guard to take over games to stay in the heat of the CAA race next month.
Desmond Penigar, Utah State: The 6-7 senior kept the Aggies perfect (18-0) record in their in-season tournament. Peniger scored 24 points and grabbed 15 boards in the tournament title win over Idaho State. Peniger scored 18 and grabbed 13 boards in the win over Arkansas State on Friday. Utah State (9-2) continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in the West.
Matt Nelson, Colorado State: Nelson scored 29 points and grabbed 12 boards in a win over Prairie View A&M on Saturday. Nelson has led the Rams to an impressive 10-2 start. Colorado State has played an overall soft schedule but does have a home win over South Carolina. The Rams suddenly look potentially like a top-five team in a crowded Mountain West.
OKLAHOMA: The Sooners failed in their second bid to beat a ranked team away from Norman. Our preseason No. 1 pick needs to beat Michigan State to re-establish itself as a national title contender.
UNC-WILMINGTON: The win over Charleston should remind everyone that Wilmington is still a team to deal with this season. Wilmington can't be tossed aside just yet in the CAA.
SETON HALL: The Pirates have slowly slid down to the bottom of the Big East West Division. West Virginia's non-conference rise could mean the Pirates finish last.
VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers quietly beat Georgetown on Saturday. Couple that win with the one at Rutgers and Virginia is on a nice little run.
VERMONT: T.J. Sorrentine, last year's America East player of the year, is out for the season with two broken wrists. The Catamounts will struggle to catch Boston University without Sorrentine.
LSU: The Tigers had to beat Tulane to validate their win over Arizona. They did.
GEORGIA TECH: No one expected the Yellow Jackets to beat Maryland on the road, but Tech isn't clicking at the wrong time.
DUKE: The Blue Devils breezed past Dayton Sunday at home to stay unbeaten. Duke is still waiting to be seriously pushed in a game.
NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels lost Sean May for two months, but picked up one of the best turnaround wins Saturday. Beating St. John's on the road was a significant win for a team that was humbled the previous night by Iona. The Tar Heels' staff and players should be proud of their determination to prevent a brutal weekend in New York.
COLORADO: The Buffaloes beat Charlotte on the road, the kind of win they weren't able to land last season. Colorado might be ready to make a run for seventh place in the Big 12 if Texas A&M, Iowa State and Baylor don't hit a consistent stride.
XAVIER: Xavier is winning games, but senior David West isn't pleased. He said, "I don't know how Coach is going to take this, but we're not playing together like a team. That's obvious. The village idiot can see that. We've got guys on the team who won't pass to other guys, who don't rebound or don't screen if they don't get their touches. We're just not playing together." This was following Xavier's 24-point win over Eastern Kentucky Saturday.
SAN FRANCISCO: The Dons looked lost a few weeks ago but have rebounded to pick up a quality win over BYU at home. That win proves the WCC is deeper than it has been the past five years. Gonzaga, Pepperdine, San Diego and USF are all helping the overall RPI of the WCC with their non-conference wins.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His Weekly Watch, a look back at the week and a preview of the week ahead, runs every Monday.