by Terrence Mayrose
Kentucky Basketball Falls From Its perch. Who’s Next?
The 75-76’ Indiana Hoosiers can breathe a little easier now that Kentucky, the last remaining unbeaten team this season, has suffered it’s first loss to South Carolina. Led by an array of tough, clutch, and “how the hell did he hit that” shots from Devan Downey, the Gamecocks made Kentucky’s stay atop the polls very short.
The recent upset of John (“ never actually been to a Final Four”) Calipari, John (“one and done”) Wall and Kentucky as well as the memories of Mario Chalmers trey to beat an undefeated Memphis in 08’ show that even the best of the best can take a loss. Which makes hoopsters wonder: Will there ever be another undefeated champion ?
Devan Downey dropped thirty in the 68-62 upset, and put himself on the map as one of the nation’s best scorers; although Gamecock faithful will be quick to tell you that he’s no fluke. The Chester, S.C. native spurned his home state by electing to attend Cincinnati as a freshman. After posting 11.9 ppg in his freshman year, Downey decided to come home, and it’s been all good since. After sitting out the ’06-’07 season, Downey’s scored 18.4 ppg (07-08),and 19.8(08-09). He’s even better this season as Downey’s 22.4 ppg leads the SEC. With a scorer like this, and a decent record, 12-8 (3-3), The Gamecocks have a shot to be a dark horse in the SEC tournament. After all, they have shown they can play with (and beat) the best.
Now that no unbeatens remain, who is the frontrunner for a national title? With such a crop of great teams atop the polls there may not be just one, but Kansas stands out. Bill Self’s crew is currently 19-1 with their only setback to #14 Tennessee. A January 30th trip to #13 Kansas State, and Feb 8th trip to #6 Texas could yield two wins that would give the Jayhawks the most impressive resume in the country. It should also be noted that Kansas currently ranks 2nd in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency and you know how much we like that.
Speaking of frontrunners… CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish points out that the end of January is a great time to find out who will make the Final Four. Parrish stated that in the past five seasons, at least three of the Final Four teams (all four in ’08) have been in the Top Ten during the last week of January. Remember to refer back to this in March when filling out your sheets. Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova, Syracuse, Michigan State, Texas, Georgetown, Duke, West Virginia and Purdue are your current candidates.