For a sporting nation recovering from the five-month joy ride of college football – and still steeped in the one-and-done nature of the NFL Playoffs – it can be quite difficult to comprehend how one loss does not make or break a season in college basketball. These things happen.
College basketball is a 30-something game schedule on the shoulders of college-aged young men. Do you recall your days in college? Was there ever a lapse in judgment or attention to detail? There are reasons no team since Bob Knight’s 1976 Indiana team has finished a season undefeated: The competition level nationally is fiercer, the schedule is longer and the distractions, one could argue, are more numerous.
This type of “Well, where do they go from here?” mentality was on full display this weekend, as the two top-ranked teams in the AP Poll, Duke and Michigan, fell on the road to their respective rivals. As it stands, there are no more undefeated teams remaining in college basketball.
Duke ran into a buzz saw in an amped-up and talented N.C. State team ready to reclaim a piece of the ACC pie – and to expose Duke without starting forward Ryan Kelly. And, sure, that’s what happened. N.C. State was the better team on Saturday, led by its standouts C.J. Leslie (25 points, six rebounds), Lorenzo Brown (12 points, 13 assists) and Richard Howell (16 points, 18 rebounds).
Michigan’s efficient and effective offense came to a grinding halt in a 56-53 loss to Ohio State, as the Wolverines totaled just 22 first-half points and could not get some of their better players going. Defensively, Michigan showed a few holes, as coach John Beilein could not find an answer for Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas, who scored 20 points (8-of-18) and grabbed four boards.
One thing to keep in mind: Both losses came on the road in hostile environments.
As a result, well, not much changed. Duke and Michigan slid a bit in the polls, but they are still 15-1 and 16-1, respectively. All is not lost with one stumble in college basketball. Again, these things happen.
Don’t expect Knight’s 1976 squad to be popping bottles like Mercury Morris over it.