Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4.

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1. The Opening Tip

Every now and then in college football, we’ll have a Saturday that wreaks total havoc on the top 25. This past Saturday was very similar in the college basketball world, with 9 ranked teams suffering losses.

Here’s a list of the ranked teams that lost and the scores:

  • No. 5 Louisville (77-62 at Clemson)
  • No. 10 Seton Hall (74-71 at Providence)
  • No. 11 Auburn (85-73 at Mizzou)
  • No. 14 West Virginia (70-59 at No. 1 Baylor)
  • No. 19 Butler (73-66 vs. Georgetown)
  • No. 20 Houston (73-72 at SMU)
  • No. 22 Illinois (72-57 at Rutgers)
  • No. 24 Texas Tech (73-70 at Oklahoma State)
  • No. 25 LSU (88-82 at Alabama)

A couple of things stand out about that list. First and foremost, 8 of the 9 ranked teams that lost did so on the road. This year in particular has been absolutely brutal for road teams.

Another thing that stands out? Rankings apparently mean nothing. The only ranked team that lost to another ranked team was West Virginia, and the Mountaineers lost to the No. 1 team in the country, so they have the most forgivable loss on the list.

There are precious few dominant teams in the major conferences this year. In fact, Baylor might be the only one at this point, and the Bears aren’t even getting the credit they deserve (despite being No. 1). We could have another Saturday like this before postseason play begins.

The good news? This is going to lead to perhaps one of the best NCAA Tournaments in recent memory!

Now, let’s move on to some SEC talk.

2. Home-Court Advantage

I want to start this section by talking about Herb Jones. If you don’t know by now, the Alabama wing player had one of the gutsiest performances in recent college basketball memory in an upset win over LSU on Saturday.

Jones suffered a wrist injury a couple of weeks ago, but has returned to the court despite not being at 100%. In fact, he couldn’t really use his left hand at all. So, he probably didn’t play very much and wasn’t very effective, right?

Wrong. Jones had 17 rebounds, 6 points, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 29 minutes of action. Check out the ferocity he has when he pulls down this one-handed rebound:

Oh, and he also made 2 one-handed free throws:

It’s unclear how long it will be until he can use both hands again, but perhaps he doesn’t need both hands. What a performance!

Now, for a look around the rest of the SEC:

  • Speaking of LSU, the Tigers are trending in the wrong direction, but it’s easy to see why. In the Tigers’ last 6 games, they’re 3-0 at home and 3-0 on the road. Yes, road wins are difficult (see above), but that’s not all it is. In LSU’s 3 losses, they’ve shot 18 threes (at Vanderbilt), 32 threes (at Auburn) and 27 threes (at Alabama). That’s not LSU’s game, and they need to get back to driving and getting to the free-throw line.
  • Mizzou Arena was rocking on Saturday evening as the Tigers upset Auburn 85-73. Auburn was without star freshman Isaac Okoro, but that doesn’t explain letting Mizzou guards Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith each score 28 points. That’s just awful defense. Still, when Pinson is getting to the rim and throwing down dunks like this, it’s quite hard to stop:

  • Mississippi State and Arkansas played probably the most-impactful SEC game of the weekend in Fayetteville, as both teams desperately needed a win to stay on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Thanks to Abdul Ado’s last-second putback, the Bulldogs got the win:

  • Could that one missed boxout cost the Razorbacks a spot in the tourney? We’ll find out over the next few weeks.
  • The Kentucky Wildcats loved watching Auburn and LSU lose on Saturday. They managed to hold on to beat a tough Ole Miss squad and now have sole possession of first place in the SEC race. However, they head to Baton Rouge for a huge game on Tuesday night. We’ll see if they’re up to the challenge.

Now, for some non-SEC storylines.

3. Road Game

It’s time we started paying attention to what Penn State is doing. The Nittany Lions aren’t getting much love outside of Big Ten circles, but everyone in the Big Ten knows just how dangerous Penn State has been lately.

The Nittany Lions are riding an 8-game winning streak, beating teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana and at Michigan State in that stretch. They face Illinois this week (more on that later), but they’re up to No. 9 in the AP Poll and are right in the Big Ten race.

Maryland is 11-3 in B1G play and Penn State is 10-4. The bad news? Those 2 teams don’t play each other again this season, with Maryland having won the only matchup.

Lamar Stevens and Myreon Jones are 2 names you need to know moving forward. Illinois will have to deal with them this week, and if Ayo Dosunmu is still out after hurting his knee, that’ll be a tough game for the Illini to win in State College.

Penn State has some difficult games remaining, but the Nittany Lions look like a team that can do some major damage in March.

Now, for some other stories from around the college basketball world:

  • Speaking of Maryland, the Terrapins picked up a big win of their own on Saturday. They beat Michigan State in East Lansing, and Anthony Cowan Jr. (another name you need to know) was incredible. He scored 24 points and was big in the clutch, hitting this long three late in the second half:

  • Like Penn State, Maryland has won 8 games in a row and the Terps don’t show any signs of slowing down.
  • I’m a fan of beautiful basketball, no matter who is playing it (unless it’s Kansas), and Villanova had a possession that would make Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs proud on Sunday. Just look at this ball movement:

  • I could watch basketball like that all day. College basketball needs more of that sort of unselfish play, always making the extra pass.
  • Louisville has had a really rough go of it lately. Despite being the No. 5 team in the AP Poll last week (the Cardinals have since dropped to No. 11), the Cardinals lost to Georgia Tech and Clemson, who were both unranked. It was an especially bad week for Louisville star Jordan Nwora. He scored only 2 points against Georgia Tech and didn’t even start against Clemson, scoring 5 points in 29 minutes of action. He’ll need to do a lot better if the Cardinals are going to rebound from this bad week.
  • Now, we need to talk about Texas Tech. First, the Red Raiders absolutely destroyed TCU, outscoring them 88-42. Then, on Saturday, they went to Oklahoma State and lost 73-70. The Red Raiders have been plagued with inconsistency all year and that could hurt them come March.

Next, let’s take a look ahead to the next few days on the college basketball schedule.

4. Outlet Pass

The next 3 days of college basketball are going to be exciting. Here’s a look at 5 games I can’t wait to watch between now and Friday:

  1. No. 10 Kentucky at LSU (Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) — This is a battle for the top spot in the SEC standings. LSU hasn’t lost a home game in SEC play, so the Wildcats will have their work cut out for them.
  2. No. 25 Ohio State at No. 20 Iowa (Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN) — The Buckeyes are back in the top 25 after a rough start to the Big Ten season. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes need a win to keep pace with Maryland and Penn State in the race for the B1G regular season title. It’ll be an intense atmosphere at Iowa on Thursday.
  3. No. 21 Butler at No. 16 Seton Hall (Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — The Big East is loaded this year, and Butler has had trouble navigating conference play. The Bulldogs are 7-6 in Big East action, while Seton Hall is leading the conference race with a 10-3 mark. However, the Pirates really need this game if they want to win the regular-season title, as they’re on a 2-game losing streak and Creighton and Villanova are only 1 game back in the loss column.
  4. No. 15 Creighton at No. 19 Marquette (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — Creighton and Marquette are both still alive in the Big East title race. Marquette is an impressive 12-1 at home. This won’t be an easy game for the Blue Jays.
  5. Illinois at No. 9 Penn State (Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — The Illini have lost 4 games in a row, and heading to Penn State isn’t a great way to get back on track. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have won 8 games in a row and are one of the hottest teams in the country. These are 2 teams on drastically different tracks. Can the Illini right the ship?

That’s a very interesting slate of games. We’ll see if there are any more wild upsets this week that shake up the top 25.

5. Buzzer Beaters

Now, for a couple of random questions before we head out for the day. Here are today’s questions:

What team is the most underrated so far this year?

I mentioned Penn State earlier, but I also think Colorado (currently No. 18 in the AP Poll) is vastly underrated. The Pac-12, as a whole, doesn’t receive as much national attention as the rest of the major conferences, but there are some good teams out west. Colorado is tied with Oregon atop the Pac-12 standings, sporting a 20-6 overall record and a 9-4 league record. McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey are the sorts of players who can lead teams on long runs in March Madness.

Of the 8 cities set to host opening weekend games in the NCAA Tournament, which one would make the best trip?

I’m always partial to St. Louis, having grown up about an hour north of the city. However, of St. Louis, Albany, Spokane, Cleveland, Omaha, Sacramento, Tampa and Greensboro, I’ll pick Greensboro. North Carolina is a great basketball state and I’ve always wanted to head out that way to watch some hoops. I imagine Duke will be playing at that tourney site, too, so there will be plenty of excitement in town.

Hoops Odds by BetOnline

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Let’s take a look at the latest odds to win the 2020 NCAA Championship. Head over to BetOnline to see the full list.

  • Kansas: +700
  • Gonzaga: +800
  • Duke: +800
  • Baylor: +800
  • Louisville: +1400
  • Maryland: +1400
  • San Diego State: +1400

Some notable SEC teams’ odds to win it all:

  • Kentucky: +2500
  • Auburn: +2500
  • Florida: +4000
  • LSU: +6600

Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.