Friday's Five Topics

By Josh Herwitt - December 28, 2007

Here are five topics around the nation that I'm burning on during another slow late December night in college basketball:

* In looking a little bit ahead at January and February, I'm starting to wonder, when will No. 1 North Carolina actually lose? When will Memphis lose?!? For North Carolina, playing in the ACC almost guarantees the Tar Heels a loss along the way. Don't be upset Tar Heel fans. Yes, UNC did destroy Nevada last night, but come on, it just wouldn't be realistic to not think that Roy Williams' club wouldn't slip up once in having to crawl through the trenches of the ACC. Memphis, though, could realistically go undefeated this season in having the benefit -- and displeasure when it comes to RPI ratings and NCAA Tournament seeding -- of playing in a weak (yet slowly improving) conference like Conference USA. The Tigers should get by No. 17 Arizona tomorrow, and I don't see them losing to Gonzaga in late January or in-state rival Tennessee in late February with both of those games at home. Houston? UAB? Maybe, but I wouldn't put my money on them after the way John Calipari's crew ran by Georgetown last weekend and through C-USA untouched last season.

* Up in Pullman, Wash., it would be a near-miracle if No. 4 Washington doesn't suffer its first loss of the season in the next couple of weeks as Pac-10 starts up. The Cougars, after all, will first face in-state rival Washington in Seattle at Bank of America Arena, which has never been an easy place to play in for visiting teams. Nor are a lot of places in the Pac-10, which garnered the most preseason pub of any conference this season with USC's O.J. Mayo and UCLA's Kevin Love both coming to Tinseltown. That's where the Cougars will head next after their rivalry game against the Huskies, and my guess is that Jan. 12 will be the day when Tony Bennett's club suffers its first loss to No. 5 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

* Speaking of those UCLA Bruins, freshman phenom Kevin Love is starting to find his rhythm since the loss at home to Texas at the beginning of the month. The 6-foot-10 forward from Lake Oswego, Ore., knocked down all of his shots in a 16-point performance against Western Illinois and put up 17, along with a game-high 16 rebounds, on Michigan at Crisler Arena. Ben Howland will need his fab freshman to continue to play like that with the Bruins opening up Pac-10 play next Thursday at Maples Pavilion against Stanford. UCLA will face Cal a couple days later and then head back down to Southern California to welcome the Washington schools to Westwood the following week.

* Also out in the West...No. 20 BYU has garnered much of the pub lately in the Mountain West Conference after last year's NCAA Tournament appearance, but former Iowa head man Steve Alford has New Mexico flying under the radar right now at 12-2 for the second time in seven seasons and first time since going 14-2 in 2004-05. The Lobos have yet to be tested in winning all 10 of their home games so far, but that should come in conference play when they head to Provo, where the Cougars have one of the longest home-winning streaks in the country, and Salt Lake City to play inside an always rowdy Jon M. Huntsman Center.

* Tonight we'll get to see just how good Ole Miss really is as one of the nine undefeated teams left in the country and the No. 22-ranked team in this week's AP poll. The Rebels haven't had too many challenges yet but have beaten Winthrop, who upset Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, and No. 21 Clemson last week by three in the San Juan Shootout. Andy Kennedy's team, though, is hoping to make it back to the Big Dance this season, and with Tennessee welcoming the Rebels to Knoxville for their SEC opener, we'll quickly learn just how good Ole Miss will be this season.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 03:15 PM on December 28, 2007

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