Come for the bats, stay for the 32 missed three-pointers! Good luck figuring out what was even the weirdest part of another roller-coaster college basketball weekend, let alone picking the best team in the country.
If you enjoy physical comedy, Marquette-Providence was for you. Not because of the game itself, but because a bat took over the arena, delaying the game twice and causing a terrified 6-foot-10, 240-pound Sidiki Johnson to fall over.
Or maybe you appreciate the humor in Ypsilanti, Mich., where an Eastern Michigan fan drained a half-court shot during a break in a game that featured one of the worst offensive outputs in NCAA history. Northern Illinois scored FOUR points in the first half, breaking its own NCAA record of five points for one-half futility in the shot-clock era. The Huskies shot 1-for-33 from three-point range, missing their first 32, and overall they went 8-for-61 from the field, ultimately leading to a 42-25 loss. Fittingly, the game was not on national TV and instead was available via live stream on the MAC website, complete with the expected low production value in all its glory.
As the college basketball season progresses, you'd think clarity would develop over time, perhaps with a statement weekend in which good teams firmly establish themselves as the best teams. We think we know who belongs in the top 10 right now, but getting more specific than that with any conviction is impossible. A month of conference play has not yet brought clarity, or anything close to it. In fact, the last weekend of January did the opposite.
We started early Saturday with a bang, as Villanova -- which, in November, was seen losing to Columbia by 18 -- notched its second straight win over a top-five team by beating No. 3 Syracuse before much of the West Coast even woke up. Then, a day after I insisted that No. 5 Louisville was one of the two most fun teams to watch in the country, the Cardinals brought star Russ Smith off the bench and lost their third straight game, falling at Georgetown 53-51. The Big East is confusing, and the aforementioned bat-dodging Marquette is surprisingly alone in second place, just a half game behind Syracuse.
The road losses by Top-25 teams started in the Big East and spread across the country. No. 11 Kansas State went to bubble resident Iowa State and fell 73-67, a few days after the Cyclones lost to a bad Texas Tech team. No. 12 Minnesota lost its fourth straight game by the very Big Ten score of 45-44 at Wisconsin, in controversial fashion. The Badgers' winning shot probably came after the shot clock expired, and Minnesota responded with Trevor Mbakwe somehow injuring his wrist on a horrendous touch foul call with two seconds left that gave the Gophers a chance to tie at the line with someone other than Mbakwe, who's a 63-percent free-throw shooter. They still failed to tie it, and have now lost four in a row. Finally, there was No. 15 New Mexico, which dropped its first game in the brutal Mountain West by scoring a Northern Illinois-esque 34 points at San Diego State.
The closest thing to statement wins came from Duke and Indiana, two teams that have been among the few to hold the No. 1 ranking so far this season. No. 7 Indiana held serve at home, beating 13th-ranked Michigan State as Victor Oladipo further established himself as a go-to player, especially given the struggles of Cody Zeller, who's made a total of two field goals in his last two games. No. 1 Duke, meanwhile, steamrolled Maryland at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but this came just a few days after the Blue Devils were embarrassed in a 90-63 loss at Miami. They were No. 1 last week, but they won't be anymore.
Throw in No. 18 N.C. State's dominant-until-the-last-few-minutes win over North Carolina at home, and we could try to establish some sort of "look how difficult it is to win on the road" narrative. Not groundbreaking stuff, but it appears as true as ever … until we look deeper, of course. Take Patriot League frontrunner Lehigh, which stormed into a rather hostile atmosphere at Bucknell on Wednesday and won without possible lottery pick C.J. McCollum -- only to get inexplicably blown out by 21 points against 10-12 rival Lafayette at home Sunday. Or there's No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth, which had won 13 in a row before losing at Richmond on Thursday and at home against La Salle on Saturday.
Finally there's No. 2 Michigan, which will likely rise to No. 1 after breezing through a road game at floundering Illinois, a team that beat Gonzaga, Butler and Ohio State but is now 2-5 in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in the country. Overall, while it's hardly a large sample size less than halfway through the conference schedule, Big Ten home teams have gone 24-20 (.545) in league play. Last year, they finished 67-41 (.620).
You can argue just about anything and be correct in some capacity. Legitimate cases for No. 1 can be made for Michigan, Kansas, Duke, Indiana, Florida, Arizona and Syracuse, at minimum. And if you're really feeling crazy, you could even argue in favor of Northern Illinois as a defensive powerhouse. You wouldn't be alone. Historically terrible Northern Illinois offense? Of course not! The Huskies sports information department praised the team's "best defensive effort since 2005-06, allowing just 42 points," as the main tease for its game story, instantly becoming the frontrunner in the race for the prestigious Buried Lede of the Year award.
If you devoted most of the weekend to watching college hoops, chances are you still have no idea who the best team in America is. Maybe Michigan can truly stake its claim by winning at Indiana next Saturday night, but, realistically, we should get used to the volatility. We're watching a season in which fans can be more effective shooters than Division I scholarship athletes. Bats can control the tempo of a Marquette-Providence game. Come March, you will still lose your office pool to John/Jane Doe from accounting, and you will be left feeling like Auburn fans in the presence of Marshall Henderson when it's revealed that he/she picked tournament winners based on favorite mascots.