Daily Word: Quinn Cook a key for Duke
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Is Quinn Cook's importance in Duke's pursuit of big things undervalued?
Katz: Sure. Cook is the point guard for Blue Devils. He had his moments a year ago when his services were invaluable. His 24 points and 10-for-10 from the line against Michigan proved that the Blue Devils aren't just Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. If Duke is going to win the title, let alone the ACC, then Cook must be the third musketeer.
Medcalf: Not after his 24-point, 9-assist effort against Michigan. I think everyone recognizes that the Blue Devils won't win the ACC or make an NCAA tourney run unless he continues to produce at a high level.
O'Neil: Any point guard is critical and Cook is no different. He has to direct this high-level Blue Devils team smartly and keep Duke on track.
2. OK, VCU is 8-3. But after this weekend's loss against Northern Iowa, should the Rams be worried?
Andy Katz: The Rams have lost games on the road (at Northern Iowa) and on neutral courts (Florida State and Georgetown). Not bad, but it proves the Rams were overranked early in the season. This team can still challenge for the Atlantic 10 title, if it can tighten up its defense. UMass is the new favorite in the league and the Rams are now chasing with George Washington, Dayton and Saint Louis.
Myron Medcalf: Yes. Shaka Smart has his most talented team. And the Rams are still forcing a lot of turnovers. But they're also allowing teams to shoot 46 percent from the field. That should definitely be a concern for the program.
Dana O'Neil: December is too early to worry, but no doubt the Rams have to fix some problems. The team I thought had separated itself from the Atlantic 10 pack instead is chasing UMass. The biggest issue out of this nonconference trip-up could come in March, when VCU is without any quality wins to bulk its résumé.
3. Which team wasted a golden opportunity over the weekend?
Katz: Cincinnati. The Bearcats were routed in their rivalry game with Xavier, this a week after losing against New Mexico. The blowout loss against Xavier prevented any momentum heading to the Jimmy V Classic matchup Tuesday night against Pitt at Madison Square Garden. Now, this game looms large as the Bearcats don't have another game left in the nonconference against a potential NCAA team (unless MTSU and/or Nebraska prove me wrong).
Medcalf: Michigan had chances to knock off the No. 1 team in America, Arizona, at home. The Wolverines led by as much as 11 points in the second half. That's a rare opportunity. Now, they were certainly defeated by a really good Wildcats squad. But an opportunity to knock off a No. 1 team at home doesn't happen every weekend. Michigan missed a huge opportunity.
O'Neil: Kentucky. The Wildcats don't have a bad loss, but now with just Louisville left before heading into a subpar SEC, Kentucky is running out of chances to gain quality victories and secure the sort of seed we all thought it would have come March.
Games To Watch
Duke ends its 13-day layoff with what should be a tuneup for Thursday's game against UCLA at Madison Square Garden. The Devils played back-to-back games against ranked opponents -- losing against Arizona and beating Michigan -- before taking the nearly two-week break.
They Said It
ESPNU Basketball Podcast
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.