Daily Word: Unranked and looking for a surprise
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. Which unranked team is a bigger threat this weekend -- Notre Dame when it plays Duke or Indiana as it faces Michigan State?
Andy Katz: Notre Dame. Indiana can knock off Michigan State, which has shown to be a bit vulnerable, even against a Hoosiers team that hasn't had the shelf-life win yet. But the Irish, even without Jerian Grant, will have a rocking environment for their first-ever ACC home game. The Irish do have an advantage inside. If they can exploit it then they have the shot for an upset and the first court-storming of 2014.
C.L. Brown: Michigan State doesn't have much luck winning in Bloomington. The Hoosiers have won nine of their past 12 meetings with the Spartans in Assembly Hall. Despite the loss at Illinois, I expect IU to give State all it can handle.
Eamonn Brennan: Close call, but I'll sidle over to the Notre Dame section of the caucus, if only because the Irish's combination of efficient, deliberate offense and cautious transition defense actually matches up fairly well with Duke, especially in South Bend.
2. Should we expect any fireworks from Andy Enfield and Steve Alford when USC meets UCLA on Sunday?
Katz: If Andy Enfield were smart he would keep quiet here. He has said enough. I don't see Steve Alford fanning the flames of the new rivalry between the two coaches. Let's remember, USC can't say with any seriousness that it is equal or can be equal to UCLA long term. The Bruins don't make that case with USC in football. The handshake will be scripted. But that's probably the only courteous thing that will happen during the game.
Brown: If Alford initiates anything it means Enfield has won. USC isn't supposed to challenge UCLA, so Enfield almost has to take shots while he's trying to establish the Trojans. Alford inherited a team with a lot more talent -- not to mention he's at the program that is more accomplished -- so he doesn't have to respond.
Brennan: Hey, L.A. is the town that invented -- or at least perfected -- "any press is good press," which, thanks for that, guys. How better to raise an apathetic city's interest in college hoops than a catty, passive-aggressive postgame handshake? It's college hoops fever, Los Angeles! Catch it!
3. Oregon got a wild win against Utah to stay unbeaten. Will it be hard to put that behind it and refocus on Colorado?
Katz: Yes. The Ducks have found ways to win -- at Ole Miss and at Utah. But this will be the Ducks' biggest challenge. And yet a loss shouldn't lessen the overall perception of Oregon. Colorado needs to run on the Ducks, get Josh Scott involved as much as possible and defend on the transition. Do that and the Buffs can hold serve at home and hand Oregon its first loss of the season.
Brown: It shouldn't be hard at all. Oregon has never won in Boulder (0-4) and has to respect what Colorado has done this season. If anything, the Ducks' great escape in Utah should be a wake-up call for what to expect on the road in the Pac-12.
Brennan: One could just as easily argue that Oregon needed a nervy scare on the road to refocus ahead of a big road game. This kind of stuff can cut both ways, depending on your favored narrative. I assume the Ducks will be ready.
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VCU looked shaky for a stretch early in the month, needing OT to get by Eastern Kentucky and then losing to Northern Iowa. But the Rams have won three straight, including the past two against ACC foes Boston College and Virginia Tech.
They Said It
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Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.