EDITOR’S NOTE: Fo, Fo, Fo is more than just a nod to legend Moses Malone. It’s columnist Kyle Tucker’s weekly college basketball rundown: four No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament, four other dangerous teams and four games he can’t wait to watch.
We had to switch it up a little bit this week — making our second category four dangerous teams regardless of weight class — because my “four dangerous mid-majors” just keep losing.
Wichita State got handled at home by Oklahoma. Houston lost at LSU. Temple got drilled by Villanova and barely beat Drexel. Gonzaga was taken to overtime by North Dakota, which is ranked 256th by Ken Pomeroy.
On the bright side, my four No. 1 seeds all won last week and my games to watch mostly lived up to the hype. So let’s try this again:
Fo No. 1 seeds
Villanova (11-0) — The top-ranked Wildcats clobbered Temple by 20 on the road for their fifth win over a KenPom top-100 team. And while you already know elite scorers Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, keep an eye on redshirt freshman Omari Spellman. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound former 5-star recruit, who sat out last season for academic reasons, just dropped 27 and 8 on the Owls. Jay Wright has so many weapons.
Michigan State (10-1) — The Spartans are in the middle of an absolutely brutal stretch of six straight games against teams outside the top 100 (and both games this week are against sub-200 squads). Barf. But if you’re looking for something to appreciate about Tom Izzo’s team, train your eyes not on star Miles Bridges (whose sophomore season is off to a somewhat underwhelming start), rather point guard Cassius Winston. He’s averaging 6.4 assists to 2.6 turnovers and shooting 58 percent from 3-point land.
Duke (11-1) — The Blue Devils are still on their 11-day layoff after losing a stunner at Boston College. Unless he’s done nothing but eat pizza and play video games during the break (and maybe even still), we can assume Marvin Bagley III remains the best amateur big man on the planet. Dec. 30 at home against Florida State is Duke’s next real test.
Arizona State (10-0) — The Sun Devils have won each of their last three games (against KenPom top-75 teams St. John’s, Kansas and Vanderbilt) by double digits. The defense needs some work, but Bobby Hurley’s team has a scary offense and senior guard Tra Holder is a treat: 25 points against the Commodores, 29 against the Jayhawks and 40 against Xavier. Time to put him in the National Player of the Year discussion.
Fo mo’ dangerous teams
Purdue (11-2) — The Boilermakers lost back-to-back games against Tennessee and Western Kentucky, but since then they’ve ripped off seven consecutive wins, including Arizona, Louisville, Maryland and Butler. They rank 11th nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency and already have six top-60 wins. A good-shooting team with a 7-foot-2 NBA prospect in the paint? That’ll be useful in March.
Kentucky (9-1) — The Wildcats have won seven in a row since losing a close one to Kansas in Chicago. Most of those were against no-name opponents, but its shootout win Saturday over Virginia Tech, the top-scoring and best-shooting team in America, was impressive. Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox have emerged as go-to guys, and a team starting five (5-star) freshmen seems to be figuring it out.
Oklahoma (8-1) — That early loss to Arkansas doesn’t look so bad now, and the Sooners have since beaten Oregon, Southern California and Wichita State away from home. Their road win Saturday over the Shockers (a popular Final Four pick this year) was most impressive. Freshman sensation Trae Young went for 29 points and 10 assists in that one and now ranks No. 1 nationally in scoring and No. 3 in assists. It’s time to give OU some respect.
North Carolina (10-1) — Sure, the Tar Heels got hammered early by Michigan State, but the defending national champions now have five top-100 wins, including Arkansas, Michigan and Tennessee. Coming from behind in Knoxville on Sunday against the ranked Volunteers was no small feat, and Luke Maye and Joel Berry are about as good a one-two punch as there is.
Fo games to watch
NOTE: It’s slim pickings on the schedule the week before Christmas.
Connecticut (7-3) at Arizona (8-3) on Thursday, Dec. 21 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The Huskies’ losses are all to decent-to-great teams (Michigan State, Arkansas and Syracuse) and they’ve beaten Oregon, but that’s about all the positives you can muster. The Wildcats are trending in the other direction. They lost three straight to fall from No. 2 to unranked but have since beaten UNLV, Texas A&M and Alabama during a five-game winning streak.
Xavier (10-1) at Northern Iowa (8-3) on Friday, Dec. 22 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network. What a schedule for the Panthers. Their three losses are to Villanova, North Carolina and Iowa State — with wins over top-100 teams N.C. State, SMU, UNLV and UT Arlington. And now here come the Musketeers.
Ohio State (9-3) vs. North Carolina (10-1) on Saturday, Dec. 23 at 1:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The first half of the CBS Sports Classic in New Orleans should be a fun one. The Buckeyes have overcome a bumpy start under former Butler coach Chris Holtmann and won four straight, including Wisconsin and Michigan handily. UNC and OSU have two common opponents: the Wolverines and Stanford. The Tar Heels won those games by 15 and 24 points, respectively, while the Buckeyes won by 9 and 8.
UCLA (7-3) vs. Kentucky (9-1) on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 4 p.m. ET on CBS. The Bruins and Wildcats rank No. 1 and 2 all-time in national titles (UCLA leads 11 to 8), but this game could be a beatdown. Steve Alford’s team has yet to beat a top-50 opponent and is coming off consecutive losses to Michigan and Cincinnati. John Calipari’s club is gathering steam and probably has too many weapons for the undermanned Bruins.