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Sunday, December 18, 2011
King's five observations from the week

By Jason King

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

1. Time to drop Illinois, Alabama, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt from the polls. There’s certainly no shame in losing, but getting absolutely shellacked is something totally different. Illinois was embarrassed in a 64-48 loss to UNLV in Chicago. Ugly as the game was, the score could be even more lopsided when Bruce Weber’s squad takes on unbeaten Missouri this week in St. Louis.

Alabama was whipped by unranked Kansas State on Saturday in Kansas City. It wasn’t a terrible loss considering the tough purple-clad environment, but the Crimson Tide has now dropped three of its past four contests (also to Dayton and Georgetown), which means they will disappear from the polls for awhile -- or at least until they find someone who can shoot from the outside. Bama's offense has been atrocious. Anthony Grant’s team has scored 62 points or less in its past four games and is shooting just 24.4 percent from 3-point range on the season.

Texas A&M was blown out by Florida 84-64 Saturday, and that was with Khris Middleton in the lineup. The Aggies, who are averaging just 64.4 points a game, are void of offensive threats beyond Middleton, guard Elston Turner and forward David Loubeau. Right now they look like the fifth- or sixth-best team in the Big 12. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt lost at home to Indiana State. Remember, this is an experienced squad that entered the season ranked seventh in the country. Time to put Kevin Stallings on the hot seat?

2. Detroit will contend for the Horizon League title. Don’t let the Titans’ 5-8 record fool you. With previously suspended center Eli Holman back in the mix, this is a scary, scary team. Just ask Alabama and Mississippi State, each of whom squeaked by with single-digits wins against Detroit last week. Also, the Titans’ tough nonconference schedule should pay off during conference play.

3. Baylor has to toughen up down low. The Bears pulled off one of their best wins in years by defeating BYU 86-83 in Provo on Saturday. The victory came before a raucous crowd of 22,700 and featured a handful of clutch plays by Baylor down the stretch, including a tip-in by Perry Jones in the final minute and a block by Pierre Jackson on BYU’s potential game-tying 3 at the buzzer. Still, Baylor lost the rebounding battle 41-26, including a 16-5 differential on the offensive glass. And get this stat: BYU grabbed the first 14 rebounds of the game. That’s a disturbing stat considering Baylor’s frontcourt boasts as much size, length and depth as any unit in the country. And it’s not as if the Cougars are known for their size and strength down low. If Baylor’s forwards don’t develop a mean streak and play with more ferocity, the Bears will have no chance of winning the Big 12.

4. Todd Mayo is a stud. O.J. Mayo’s younger brother signed with Marquette last spring and arrived on campus with little fanfare. Ten games into his freshman season, Mayo appears to be the steal of the 2011 recruiting class. The guard scored 22 points in Saturday’s win against Northern Colorado, when he replaced Darius Johnson-Odom in the starting lineup. Johnson-Odom was serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules. For the season, Mayo is averaging 11 points in just 19.8 minutes per game.

5. Syracuse is for real. Most folks probably realized that already. But any skeptics of the No. 1-ranked Orange probably don’t have many doubts about their potential after Saturday’s 88-72 spanking of North Carolina State. The victory came against a solid, well-coached Wolfpack squad that was back by 19,400 rowdy fans at the RBC Center. Dion Waiters scored 22 points off the bench and Kris Joseph added 21 for Syracuse, which was playing outside of its home state for the first time this season.