Daily Word: Will Duke, UCLA defend at MSG?
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. Both Duke and UCLA can score, but which team's defense do you trust more?
Andy Katz: Duke hasn't defended in a traditional Coach K way the entire season, but the potential is still in play. The length of UCLA gives the Bruins a legit shot to be a decent defensive team. It could be a push, but the commitment to defense is still more ingrained in the Duke principles than at UCLA, so the Blue Devils get the nod.
Dana O'Neil: This is definitely picking the lesser of two evils because both teams have not been good defensively. Duke just isn't good enough at it yet, and at UCLA, the Bruins are like kids in a candy store, freed from Ben Howland's shackled offense and now going crazy. Forced to choose, as I am here, I trust Duke slightly more because Mike Krzyzewski is going to insist the Blue Devils at least try to defend.
C.L. Brown: As Duke guard Quinn Cook said, they won't settle for merely outscoring teams, "Duke [basketball] is shutting down teams." The Blue Devils proved in the Michigan game Dec. 3 that they can still play defense when they're focused. It's a part of their identity they will eventually reclaim.
2. Did Stanford's win over UConn show the Pac-12 has more depth than once thought?
Katz: The depth was there, but hadn't appeared consistently from Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA or Cal. Still, the Pac-12 is better at the bottom (see: Utah) and should end up with a higher percentage of teams playing come March than it has had in years. The Pac-12 will end up having one of the more competitive seasons, and don't be surprised if the second- or third-place team has four losses.
O'Neil: One win does not a deep league make, but certainly the Pac-12 is deeper than it has been, which technically isn't a big jump, but still it's definite progress. The league desperately needs someone not named Arizona or Oregon to start winning big games, and Stanford's upset is a step in the right direction.
Brown: It helps, but more proof would make for a much better argument. The Pac-12 has its chance this week with marquee games including UCLA against Duke, Colorado versus Oklahoma State and Stanford against Michigan.
3. What impressed you most about Texas' win in Chapel Hill?
Katz: The Longhorns' poise. Texas didn't have it a year ago and wasn't capable of playing with a lead down the stretch against an elite team. This team has grown because the players who want to be there are in place. The Longhorns are having a season-changing week, with Wednesday's win at Carolina and Michigan State on deck.
O'Neil: The Longhorns' ability to expose North Carolina's major (massive?) deficiency won this game. The Tar Heels have been absolutely awful on the boards -- if they could have rebounded even marginally, they would have beaten Kentucky far more easily -- and Texas went right at the glaring weakness with huge success.
Brown: The Longhorns showed composure for such a young team in being able to close out the game after losing an 11-point lead in the second half. They were unselfish in sharing the spotlight as Jonathan Holmes, Demarcus Holland and Javan Felix all contributed big shots down the stretch.
Games To Watch
Two of college basketball's most storied programs meet at the World's Most Famous Arena. Don't expect world-famous defense from either side, however. Both teams can score, but neither ranks in the NCAA's top 100 for points allowed per game.
They Said It
ESPNU Basketball Podcast
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.