1. Does Georgia have a chance to finish strong? Winning at Mississippi State on Saturday gave the Bulldogs their first victory of substance since they beat Notre Dame in November, and this week offers an opportunity to consolidate gains. They face South Carolina, which is awful, on the road, and then get Vanderbilt at Stegeman Coliseum on Sunday. Win both and it’s possible Mark Fox’s team could finish 7-9 or even 8-8 in SEC play.
2. Which is the nation’s most disappointing team? Aforementioned Vandy has shooters on the perimeter and size underneath and experience everywhere — its contributors are either seniors or juniors, which rarely happens in contemporary college hoops — and still it has lost eight games, five of them at Memorial Gym. Ranked seventh in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, Vandy didn’t receive a single vote this week.
3. Which is the nation’s biggest sleeper? Every season brings one of these — a team that pops up on the RPI radar for no apparent reason. Southern Miss is 21-4 and is tied with Memphis for the lead in Conference USA, which doesn’t really register anymore. The Golden Eagles didn’t crack the Top 25 in either major poll this week, but they’re 12th in ESPN Insider’s RPI. How? Don’t know. Their three biggest victories were over Memphis, Colorado State and Ole Miss.
1. Kentucky: Trailing with four minutes left at Vanderbilt, the Wildcats shut out the Commodores the rest of the way. Which takes some doing.
2. Syracuse: The Orange handled Georgetown and UConn at home last week and passed an even sterner test at Louisville on Monday.
3. Missouri: The Tigers are 3-0 against Baylor and Kansas, the other Big 12 powers, and they left no doubt against the Bears on Saturday.
4. Kansas: An impressive rebound. After losing narrowly at Missouri, the Jayhawks beat Baylor by 14 points in Waco.
5. Duke: The astonishing Austin Rivers-led escape from Chapel Hill on Wednesday left the Blue Devils in a three-way tie atop the ACC.
6. Michigan State: No one doubts that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is the best coach in the business, but Tom Izzo is clearly the second-best.
7. Ohio State: Just when folks were thinking the Buckeyes were the best March bet, they got smacked at home by Michigan State.
8. North Carolina: Losing by 33 points at Florida State was bad. Blowing an eight-point lead at home against Duke was even worse.
9. Wichita State: Should have seen the Shockers’ emphatic road victory at Creighton coming. They’ve lost once since New Year’s Eve.
10. UNLV: The Rebels lost by two points at San Diego State in January. On Saturday they beat the Aztecs in Vegas by two points.
11. Baylor: On the one hand, the Bears haven’t lost to anybody except Missouri and Kansas. On the other, they’re 0-4 against those two.
12. Louisville: The Cardinals had rebounded from their New Year’s sag to win six straight before falling to Syracuse on Monday.
13. Georgetown: The Hoyas pushed Syracuse to overtime in the Carrier Dome before losing and have a kind schedule from here on.
14. Saint Mary’s: The Gaels suffered a thudding loss at Gonzaga on Thursday, and now they face Murray State on Bracketbuster weekend.
15. Murray State: Speaking of whom … the Racers’ giddy unbeaten season was derailed by a home loss against Tennessee State.
16. Florida State: Should have seen the loss at Boston College coming, too. As well as they defend, the ‘Noles struggle to make a basket.
Dropped out: Florida, Creighton, San Diego State.
By Mark Bradley