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December 4, 2006

Plenty of storylines after wild week

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What was the biggest storyline in college hoops last week? Panel any group of fans or media members and you'll likely receive a variety of answers.

It's not because of a lack of worthy candidates, but rather an extraordinary number of them.

Two top teams were beaten by unranked opponents. A pair of top-10 teams met for what turned out to be the best game of the young season. There was also a coaching switch in the Big Ten.

Fifth-ranked Kansas (6-2), just a week removed from upsetting defending national champ Florida, blew a 14-point second half lead on the road and fell to DePaul 64-57. It was just the third win for the Blue Demons, who are now 3-4.

The fourth-ranked Gators (7-2) were upset by visiting Florida State 70-66. It's only the second time the Seminoles (5-2) won the annual rivalry in the last nine meetings.

The North Carolina-Ohio State matchup lived up to all the hype and more with the No. 7 Tar Heels (6-1) emerging from an offensive showcase with a 98-89 win in Chapel Hill. The No. 3 Buckeyes (7-1) led for most of the first half and held a 48-44 edge at the intermission despite playing without 7-foot freshman Greg Oden.

Minnesota coach Dan Monson resigned just seven games into the season after the Gophers' 90-68 loss to Clemson at home.

We examine it all and much more in What We Learned Last Week:

All Eyes On ...
No. 5 Kansas (6-2)
The Good: The Jayhawks were in control versus DePaul and still looked like an elite team at times. They led by as many as 14 points in the second half and didn't allow a point over the last 7:12 of the first half.
The Bad: This young team's lack of focus continues to be a problem, particularly in games perceived as easy wins. Not only did the Jayhawks lose to a team with a losing record, they lost a double-digit lead in the second half. That just shouldn't be happening when you have their talent – at least not twice in three weeks. Small forward Brandon Rush is playing poorly as well, hitting just three of his last 14 attempts (21 percent) from 3-point range and scoring a career-low three points against the Blue Demons. He also has only one steal all season.
The Ugly: The timing of this upset is particularly troublesome. The Jayhawks appeared to put their problems behind them with the triumph win over Florida. Plus, just two days earlier coach Bill Self signed five-year contract extension and received a raise.
No. 7 North Carolina (6-1)
The Good: Not only did UNC get past Ohio State, but they followed that with a 75-63 win over Kentucky. The main reason may be the emergence of Wayne Ellington, who scored 19 and 17 points in the matchups. The freshman guard flashed his explosive first step and smooth jumper, consistently beating defenders off the dribble. Tywon Lawson has also taken over the starting point guard job and performed well, racking up 12 assists with just two turnovers since being placed in the starting five.
The Bad: Perimeter defense was a problem against the Buckeyes. OSU had a handful of guards find teammates for wide-open 3-pointers. They made 13-of-26 (50 percent) attempts from beyond the arc. There may be a few cracks in the frontcourt as well. Kentucky held a 39-32 edge on the glass, and UK center Randolph Morris scored a game-high 21 points.
The Ugly: If the Tar Heels have a tough time beating a Greg Oden-less Ohio State team in front of 23,000-plus fans in the Dean Dome, what will happen when they have to face the 7-footer in a neutral setting? Tar Heels fans probably don't want to find out the answer.
No. 18 Georgetown (4-3)
The Good: Back-to-back losses to Oregon (57-50) and Duke (61-52) aren't that costly. The start of the Big East schedule remains more than four weeks away, and the Hoyas don't have a bad loss on their résumé yet. Duke and Oregon are a combined 13-1 and Old Dominion is 6-2.
The Bad: The Hoyas were outrebounded 33-30 by an undersized Oregon team, not exactly what you'd expect from a squad with one of the nation's biggest and best frontcourts. They didn't do much better on the inside against Duke either, grabbing 29 boards to the Blue Devils' 25. Duke also had more blocks, six to four.
The Ugly: Word is out on how to defend John Thompson III's Princeton-style offense: Use a man-to-man, but sag off the guards and clog the passing lanes on the inside. It limits the touches of Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green and exposes the lack of outside shooters. They've hit just three of their last 23 3-pointers.
More Teams Making Noise
Florida State (5-2) showed just how valuable versatile wing Corey Brewer - who is out with mononucleosis – is to Florida. With no one to guard an inside-outside type of threat, Seminoles small forward Al Thornton dominated. Thornton scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Brewer, who was the SEC's co-defensive player of the year along with top-five draft pick Tyrus Thomas last season, would have at least slowed down Thornton.
The Gators got some more bad news on Saturday night when Oden made his debut against Valparaiso. The Gators play host to Ohio State on Dec. 23 and likely won't have Brewer back yet. Oden, the top-ranked prospect from the class of 2006, played just 23 minutes with a heavy brace on his injured right wrist. He scored 14 points, corralled 10 rebounds and blocked five shots in his collegiate debut. Oden shot all of his free throws left-handed, making eight of 15 attempts.
Minnesota won its first game without Monson on the sidelines and ended a five-game losing streak with a 66-63 victory over Arizona State on Saturday. Expect a lot more low scoring affairs from the Gophers. Interim coach Jim Molinari handled just about all the defensive duties on Monson's staff. It showed against the Sun Devils, who were held without a field goal for the first 5:28 of the second half and missed 14 of their first 17 shots following the intermission.
Player Spotlight
• Big 12 coaches better be prepared to make out new scouting reports on Texas A&M power forward Antanas Kavaliauskas. The Lithuanian looks nothing like the role player he was last season. He's added a new dimension to the Aggies offense, scoring a career-high 23 points and racking up seven assists in their 74-62 win over Pacific.
• Missouri coach Mike Anderson might not recognize UAB guard Paul Delaney III if he has watched any Blazers games this season. Delaney, who was mostly used off the bench during the last two seasons under Anderson, has emerged as one of the top players in Conference-USA. Delaney is averaging 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists under new coach Mike Davis. Delaney scored a career-high 32 points versus Wyoming.
• Duke's Josh McRoberts played the best game of his young career against Georgetown. The sophomore scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists. He also went 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.
• ACC coaches should give Tubby Smith a phone call when looking for advice on defending Tyler Hansbrough. Kentucky held the North Carolina star to seven points – 11 below his career average – and the big man missed eight of 10 shots from the field in Kentucky's 75-63 loss in Chapel Hill. Hansbrough scored just six points in their meeting last season, making the Wildcats responsible for two of the three times he's been held below double digits.
• Hansbrough was struggling with Kentucky Saturday, his little brother was busy putting together a breakout performance. Mississippi State freshman guard Ben Hansbrough scored 23 points and dished out eight assists in a 96-72 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
• Nebraska guard Charles Richardson racked up 15 assists in the Cornhuskers' 75-73 loss at Rutgers.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.

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