(Yet again, let me note that this feature is part — but only a small part — of our weekly college basketball package, which runs every Tuesday in the print AJC. I offer my contribution for your digital perusal.)
1. Does Georgia have a prayer against No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday? Sure. As good as the Wildcats can be, they trailed in the second halves of both SEC road games, and neither of those — at Auburn, at Tennessee — was against top-shelf competition. At 1-4 in league play, the Bulldogs aren’t top-shelf, either. But they’re at home, which means something.
2. If you had to pick one team against the field to win the national championship, would it be Kentucky? North Carolina? Missouri? Syracuse? None of the above. I’d pick the same team I picked — incorrectly — last March. I’d pick Ohio State because I think Jared Sullinger, whose numbers are almost the same as a sophomore as they were as a freshman, will be the man for this March. (And April.)
3. Is the state of local college basketball as bad as we thought it might be? It’s pretty close. Georgia State has been a pleasant surprise, surging to the top of the Colonial before losing at Northeastern and at Delaware last week. But Georgia is 10-9, Georgia Tech is 8-11 and Kennesaw State lost at home Monday to the North Florida Ospreys to fall to 3-18 and 0-9 in the Atlantic Sun. Aggregate record of the four locals: 35-44.
1. Kentucky: The Wildcats couldn’t pull away from Alabama at Rupp Arena on Saturday, which was surprising given that Vanderbilt had handled the Tide rudely two nights earlier.
2. Missouri: Those seeking the early leader for Best Conference Road Win By Anybody In Any League need look no further than the Tigers’ one-point escape from Baylor.
3. Ohio State: Talk about having a separation gear. The Buckeyes have won five Big Ten games, and the average margin of victory in those five has been 28.8 points.
4. Syracuse: The Orange finally lost, falling Saturday at Notre Dame. But Syracuse responded nicely, subduing a rugged Cincinnati team on the road Monday night.
5. Kansas: Last week was huge for KU. The Jayhawks routed Baylor in Lawrence and beat Texas in Austin. Feel free to look ahead to Feb. 4, when Kansas meets Missouri.
6. San Diego State: The Aztecs are at it again. They haven’t lost since November, and they won at New Mexico last week. This week they face 16-3 Wyoming on the road.
7. North Carolina: The Tar Heels won a game but lost a key man last week. Guard Dexter Strickland, the best perimeter defender on a team that doesn’t defend much, tore his ACL.
8. Murray State: The last unbeaten could remain that way awhile. The Racers’ toughest remaining regular-season game will come at Southeast Missouri State on Feb. 15.
9. Georgetown: In most of the nation, Feb. 1 will be big news because of football signees. In the hoops-centric Big East, it’s the day Connecticut plays the Hoyas.
10. Baylor: Time for the Bears to regroup after losing to Kansas and Missouri, and it won’t be easy. They play Oklahoma in Norman on Tuesday and then get Texas in Waco.
11. Duke: The home loss to Florida State only underscores a point become increasingly apparent: By Duke standards, this isn’t a terribly imposing band of Blue Devils.
12. Creighton: The Missouri Valley Conference is generally considered the best of the mid-majors, and the 18-2 Bluejays appear to be the giant of the Valley.
13. Michigan State: The Spartans’ one-point loss at rival Michigan threw the Big Ten into a three-way tie. But Michigan comes to East Lansing on Feb. 5.
14. Saint Mary’s: Yet another brand-name mid-major, the Gaels have won 17 of 18 and seized a 1 1/2-game lead over Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference.
15. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs went 1-1 on on the road last week, losing at Ole Miss but winning at Vanderbilt in OT. This is probably the SEC’s second-best team.
16. Florida State: The strangest team in the country. The Seminoles went 0-2 against Ivy Leaguers Harvard and Princeton but are 2-0 against North Carolina and Duke.
By Mark Bradley