Things are about to get real. Conference play is about to begin. Don’t wait until after the Super Bowl to start paying attention to college hoops. There are some good teams out there, trying to position themselves for a run to the national championship. And we keeping learning more and more with every passing week.
Here are five things we learned this weekend:
The Pac-12 can make your head spin
We know Arizona is good -- really good. Perhaps freshman Shabazz Muhammad has UCLA headed in the right direction, especially after that big win over Missouri that might keep coach Ben Howland employed a while longer.
But as conference play begins, the rest of the teams seem determined to leave you scratching your head and wondering what will happen next. Harvard is good and keeps improving, but how does Cal explain dropping a home game to a team from the Ivy League? Saturday, the Bears shot 47.2 from the field and 85.7 percent from the line but fell to Harvard 67-62. How? Three-point shooting maybe? Harvard went 10-for-27 and Cal went 0-for-6.
Then there's Oregon State, which led Towson 44-25 on Saturday, only to lose 67-66 in overtime. Yes, the game was at Oregon State and yes, it’s the same Towson that finished 1-31 last season. Coach Craig Robinson -- Barack Obama's brother-in-law -- may need a presidential pardon for that one, which snapped a five-game winning streak for the Beavers.
And Washington had a four-game win streak stopped as the Huskies shot 29.7 percent in a 61-53 loss to Connecticut on Saturday in Hartford. NBA scouts came to see guard C.J. Wilcox, but he was held to five points on 2-for-12 shooting.
“If you figure it out, let me know,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told reporters after the game. His head did not spin, however.
Connecticut can smile about its future again
With Kevin Ollie locked up, UConn's future is bright once again.
There has been considerable gloom and doom around the UConn basketball program in 2012. The 2013 postseason ban triggered a series of events, including transfers, lost recruits and lots of academic talk. Hall of Fame coach and UConn icon Jim Calhoun had health problems, fractured his hip, and then retired in September, leaving the program in limbo with a coach that was given a seven-month contract.
But athletic director Warde Manuel did the right thing Saturday and Christmas came (just a few days late) for coach Kevin Ollie, who signed a five-year extension worth approximately $7 million. Ollie led the Huskies to a 10-2 record in nonconference play but his guys are also doing well in the classroom.
Ollie said his legs were shaking when he got an ovation before Saturday’s win over Washington in Hartford. The refreshing thing about that is that he really means it. Keep your eyes on Ollie because he is destined for success and UConn was smart to hold on to him.
Kansas can shoot the 3
Sixth-ranked Kansas shoots a high percentage from the floor, shares the ball and has a potent offense to go with that stingy defense that coach Bill Self always features. But the Jayhawks simply showed off from 3-point range in an 89-57 victory over American on Saturday.
Self could only say it was “unbelievable” after watching his team hit 15-of-24 from behind the arc. It was just one behind the school record of 16 set against Baylor in 2005.
Check out Ken Davis' latest college basketball power rankings at FOXSports.com.
“They played kind of a contain defense,” Self said of American. “We made them pay by doing that, made a lot of shots.” (Kansas shot 63 percent from the floor.) “Our top six minute guys had 23 assists and two turnovers. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team get that many assists with that few turnovers before.”
All of this happened with sensational freshman Ben McLemore in foul trouble with two quick personals. Travis Releford led KU with 19 points and was 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
Those are three huge brand names in college basketball. All began the season in the rankings but have fallen out and had failed to put their imprint on this season -- until the weekend.
Freshman Shabazz Muhammad had 27 points Friday as UCLA defeated then-No. 7 Missouri in overtime. It was almost a must-win for UCLA at this point in the season, playing at home against a ranked nonconference opponent. The Bruins still need a good start to the Pac-12 season, but coach Ben Howland’s seat is cooler than it was last week.
Saturday's win over UNLV has North Carolina back in the top 25 conversation.
Kentucky lost at Louisville on Saturday, but John Calipari’s youngsters kept it close for 40 minutes. A lot of people were expecting a blowout, but Kentucky seems to be learning and played like a more cohesive unit.
And it is possible North Carolina turned its season around with the home win over then-No. 20 UNLV on Saturday. The Tar Heels were ready to play, grabbed the lead and withstood a rally by the Rebels. Roy Williams will have the Heels ready for March.
BYU has a scoring force again
Raise your hand if you knew Tyler Haws was averaging 20.9 points and shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range for BYU this season. ... OK, that’s not many.
Raise your hand if you had even heard of Tyler Haws before Saturday. Haws lit up the scoreboard Saturday in a 97-71 BYU victory over Virginia Tech in Salt Lake City. Here’s the scoop: Haws spent the last two years on a mission in the Philippines. He had averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds as a freshman in 2009-10. That’s when he was playing on a 30-6 BYU team that featured some guy named Jimmer Fredette.
Saturday night, Haws had 29 points in the first half when he was 9-of-13 from the field and hit 6-of-8 from 3-point range on the way to finishing with 42 points. Haws has also been outstanding from the free-throw line throughout his career. BYU is 10-4 with Loyola Marymount coming to the Marriott Center on Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.