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Monday, December 12, 2011
Katz's five observations from the week

By Andy Katz

Before we begin a new week of games, here are five thoughts from the past seven days:

1. Kentucky should be able to grow from its loss to Indiana on Saturday. It might not seem that way to upset UK fans, but the Wildcats needed to see how to handle a tough environment and late-game situations. They couldn’t convert at the free-throw line to ice the game and then didn’t do what coach John Calipari and his staff instructed in the final possession -- foul a Hoosier, any Hoosier. (Kentucky still had a foul to give and using it would have forced Indiana to take a shot against a set defense.) If the Cats watch those final two possessions and learn what to do in the future, this team will be fine. There's still title-winning talent on Big Blue.

2. Seton Hall’s Herb Pope continues to have an amazing recovery from collapsing last year in a life-or-death scare. As of right now, he's the comeback player of the year with his play. He led the Pirates with 26 points and 14 boards in a 14-point win over Wake Forest this weekend and is averaging 21.9 points and 11.3 rebounds for the surprising 8-1 Pirates.

3. Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus picked up his 500th win on Saturday. Majerus has gone through quite a bit in his career with multiple health concerns. He was a doting son to his ailing mother, who passed away earlier this year. So Majerus deserves all the credit that comes his way after notching No. 500. And it is even sweeter that he’s coaching a potential NCAA team with the Billikens now 9-1.

4. Northern Iowa is back to being relevant just two years after that stunning defeat of Kansas in the NCAA tournament. The Panthers have lost just once and that was a late-night game at Saint Mary's after an arduous travel schedule to begin the season. UNI has won eight in a row since, including an easy sweep of Iowa and Iowa State and a blowout of previously 8-1 Milwaukee on Saturday. Ben Jacobson's group looks like a strong contender with Creighton, Wichita State and Indiana State for the Missouri Valley Conference title.

5. First-year coach Larry Shyatt is making Wyoming play defense and as a result has the Cowboys surging in the Mountain West in his second stint as head coach in Laramie. Wyoming has played a relatively soft slate so far, but the Pokes are 9-1 with a solid 11-point road win over rival Colorado during the weekend. There’s no reason to think Wyoming can’t put itself into postseason contention with this strong start.