Originally Published: February 7, 2013

As the upsets pile up, who knows what to expect

By Rece Davis | ESPN.com


Editor's note: Rece Davis is the host of "College GameDay," which will be in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday for No. 11 Louisville versus No. 25 Notre Dame.

Another week, another rash of carnage in the top 5. Embarrassing losses will lead to upheaval in next week's polls. In the meantime, we will opine that there's no great team, and that's probably correct, although Indiana and Michigan seem to have separated themselves just a tad from the rest of the pack.

But with all due respect to those two teams, there is only one squad in a power-six conference still unbeaten in conference play: Miami.

Jim Larranaga's move from George Mason to the Hurricanes seemed like a move with an eye on early retirement. I mean aren't all 60-something professionals who move to South Florida ready to wear sandals with socks and call it a career? Not Larranaga. He's taken a roster with enough age on it to move into the Del Boca Vista retirement complex and moved them to the ACC penthouse.

Reggie Johnson
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireReggie Johnson is just one of many veterans for ACC-leading Miami.

This team is filled with veterans. They have size up front with nearly 25-year-old senior Kenny Kadji and jumbo size with 23-year-old classmate Reggie Johnson, who averages nearly a double-double. Kadji can knock down 3s and is tough inside too. Durand Scott, who turns 23 in a couple of weeks, has been at his best when most needed. He's averaged better than 18 PPG against ranked teams -- four points better than his overall average. That's veteran savvy.

But the eye of the Hurricanes has become sophomore Shane Larkin. The reigning ACC player of the week has never seen a stat category he couldn't fill. Wherever the Canes are lagging, Larkin fills that void. He shoots better than 40 percent from 3. He leads the team in assists. He's one of six Hurricanes to have a double-digit rebound game and he's averaged 4 steals in games against ranked opponents, which is up nearly a steal and half from his overall team leading number. In short, the Canes are built to make a tournament run. Larranaga knows a little something about that.

The Canes go for a season sweep of North Carolina on Saturday. In eight previous seasons in the ACC, Miami had a grand total of one win against the Heels. Larranaga's team, which beat UNC in Chapel Hill in their first meeting, is a win away from becoming just the third current member of the ACC not named Duke or North Carolina to start 9-0 in conference play. Virginia did it in 1980-81 and went on to the Final Four. NC State did it in 1972-73 and finished undefeated, but was on probation and banned from the tournament.

Given its legacy and historical dominance, it's easy to get a little myopic about the ACC's Tobacco Road power base. As Ken Pomeroy pointed out in a column this week, that probably contributes to the surprise over the Hurricanes' success. There's also the fact that they've never before enjoyed this kind of success it in this league.

While North Carolina might be viewed as a bubble team (or at least near the bubble), the Heels appear to be improving. They are among the nation's top rebounding teams. They lead the ACC in steals and they've won six of their past seven. While Miami can keep separation with the rest of the conference with a win, it's a resume-building opportunity for the Heels.

Under Mike Brey, Notre Dame had been a dominant team at home -- until recently. After going 100-7 at Purcell Pavilion over the past six-plus seasons, the Irish are just 2-2 in their past four home games. The Irish host Louisville on Saturday, and "College GameDay" will be there.

Rick Pitino
Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsRick Pitino's Cardinals appear to have bounced back from an odd three-game losing streak.

The Cardinals are one of the teams that took a rock between the eyes while ranked No. 1. Five times this season, a No. 1 team has been defeated. Louisville got to the top spot with defense. The Cards lead all teams from the Big Six conferences in virtually all categories pertaining to forcing turnovers and scoring off them. I don't always buy Digger Phelps' belief that teams need to lose to take that next step, but UL has benefited from its three-game slide.

The Cardinals players say their press is more effective and it's getting them in transition. Notre Dame can't win that style of game. Rick Pitino broke out the treadmill to send a message: Do it right or run. The Cards got the message, and as a result, look much more like the team that was ranked No. 1 earlier this season.

During our coverage of college football's national signing day, I promoted the college basketball doubleheader to be played on ESPNU on Wednesday night. I said, "Somebody's going to pay for Kansas' loss to Oklahoma State. And that somebody will be TCU." Actually, it turns out that somebody will be the Jayhawks themselves, who will endure Bill Self's scathing words and grueling practices after falling to the Horned Frogs.

Another week, another rash of unthinkable upsets. If you use ESPN.com's BPI predictor model, the Jayhawks' loss to the Horned Frogs was the equivalent of a 1-seed losing to a 16-seed. It was easily the worst loss of the season for any top-10 team. But there was one bright spot: Self's line about this being the worst Kansas team since Naismith's squad lost to the Topeka YMCA was pure postgame news conference gold. It was certainly borne of frustration, but it's best to keep a sense of humor about such things.

What's even more laughable is the spate of ridiculously low scores that keep popping up. KU's 55 points against TCU barely registers as unusual in this season of grind-it-out games seemingly played in quicksand rather than on hardwood. However, it was the Jayhawks' worst offensive performance in six years. How much of that is due to the way the game is officiated? What directives should be given to officials? How should those in charge support them to call the game in a way that gives us more offensive flow? How do we avoid turning it into a free throw shooting contest in the process? What can be done to encourage coaches to avoid trying to control every dribble?

Those are all topics up for discussion Saturday morning on "College GameDay" at Notre Dame.

The reasons why Louisville can still win it all

By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

The Louisville Cardinals are ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press poll, which leads me to the conclusion that pollsters really do not like three-game losing streaks.

Let's get the bad news out of the way. Rick Pitino's team did indeed drop three in a row in the span of seven January days: at home to Syracuse 70-68, at Villanova 73-64 and at Georgetown 53-51.

Now the good news. By just about any performance measure, this team is better than the one that Pitino took to the Final Four last April. The Cardinals' offense is much better than it was last season (granted, that's a low hurdle), and the defense has improved as well (no small feat). In per-possession terms, this is the best team in the Big East, one that's outscoring conference opponents by 0.16 points per possession.

Year after year, this conference's best team is a legitimate Final Four threat. That's the case once again this season.

So set aside the rankings and take a fresh appraisal of the Cardinals ahead of their matchup at Notre Dame on Saturday night (9 ET, ESPN) in this final season of the "old" Big East.

To read the various reasons why Gasaway thinks Louisville is still very much a national-title contender, click here. Insider