WEEKEND WATCH
Originally Published: Jan 25, 2013

Some Once-Hot Teams Seek Rebounds

By Rece Davis
ESPN.com

Editor's note: Rece Davis is host of "College GameDay," which will broadcast from Raleigh, N.C., this Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. ET on ESPNU.

Last Saturday delivered thriller after thriller. Five games matched ranked opponents and delivered in thrilling fashion with three of the games coming down to the final possession.

The schedule is not as imposing this weekend. There are no games between ranked teams Saturday. That doesn't mean the thrill is gone. The momentum might not be gone but it's plotting an exit strategy for several formerly sizzling teams who have hit a couple of potholes.

Tubby Smith
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTubby Smith is trying to get Minnesota back on track following a three-game losing streak.

Wisconsin was the toast of the Big Ten after a 4-0 start and a win at Indiana. The Badgers haven't won since. It seems as if they haven't made a free throw since. The Badgers were 7-of-18 from free throw line in a loss to Michigan State. True, Wisconsin is the worst free throw shooting team in the conference, but even the normally reliable Jared Berggren made just 2 of 8.

While trying to end its two-game stumble, the Badgers welcome Minnesota. The Gophers are still ranked 12th in the country, but that's not going to last. Tubby Smith's team is on a three-game skid and he is ripped about it. He'd already scolded his starters after the Michigan loss, questioning their attitude. The Gophers' Rodney Williams tweeted about being thrown under the bus. He quickly recanted, saying the tweet wasn't aimed at his coach.

There was no mistaking Tubby's intent. His piercing glare was locked on his team after the debacle at Northwestern. He decided they could use a dose of "under the bus" therapy. Said Smith, "When you're losing, people point the finger. That's the way it starts, instead of being, 'My fault.' Then, you look at the refs. You look at the coach. Somebody's not doing something. That's what losers do."

It was a "come to Tubby" sermon that the Gophers would do well to heed. Minnesota desperately needs something to feel good about. Wisconsin will be desperate too. Bo Ryan's team has trips to Ohio State and Illinois coming up next. If the Badgers can't beat the Gophers, their 4-0 conference start could spiral into a losing Big Ten record before the first week of February is done. Such is life in the nation's toughest conference.

Louisville has squandered two straight games. Their free throw shooting against Villanova made Shaq and Dwight Howard look like Mark Price and Ray Allen. OK, so that's slightly hyperbolic. There's no need to hit the panic button for the Ville. After all, when does it really help to panic. ($1 to Jay Bilas.) The Cardinals face Georgetown on the road. The Ville hasn't beaten the Hoyas since 2009. Both teams rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. Louisville is most effective in forcing turnovers and getting steals. They're second in the nation in steal percentage and turnovers forced percentage. Georgetown can be a little loose with the ball. The Hoyas have thrown up some clunkers on offense too, but they looked sharp against Notre Dame. No one will ever confuse the Irish defense with Louisville's, but Georgetown will arrive confident.

Russ Smith
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsRuss Smith and Louisville would like to put this week behind them.

Otto Porter has scored 19 or more in four straight games. He has improved his perimeter game. He doesn't take a lot of 3s, but he has been judicious and effective, hitting 45 percent from behind the arc. He will be priority 1 for that stifling Louisville defense. The Cardinals will be a Final Four contender regardless of the outcome of one road game, but given the choice of rediscovering momentum or a three-game losing streak, coach Rick Pitino will take the former.

"College GameDay" goes to Raleigh, N.C., for the first time Saturday just in time to see if North Carolina State can regain its mojo against rival North Carolina. The Wolfpack have lost two of three since beating Duke, including a particularly demoralizing loss to Wake Forest. A late 12-0 run for the Demon Deacons doomed the Pack. Which team are the Fighting Gottfrieds? The team that gave Duke its first loss or the team that couldn't close at Maryland and Wake.

NC State is inconsistent on defense. Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo can get points quickly. The Pack can give them up in a hurry. But at least they will score and they will run. The Wolfpack gets out in transition on nearly 25 percent of their plays. That's tops in the nation. In a season that's seen far too many games look like a cross between Greco-Roman wrestling and shooting the warped, overinflated ball at the tiny carnival hoop, seeing two teams that want to push it will be fun.

Don't miss the Ole Miss-Auburn game Saturday. That might be the first time in the history of the Internet anyone has ever written that. But Marshall Henderson makes you break the old molds. Henderson is a guy who knows the fine print on transfer papers. He has filled out a few of them. But he has settled in with Andy Kennedy in Oxford. He leads the SEC in scoring. If you haven't seen him, think Jimmer Fredette meets Eminem. He's got range. He's got swagger. He has been hot enough to melt Hades … to paraphrase Marshall Mathers. Ole Miss plays Kentucky and Florida next week. The Rebels' Cinderella Man could have them staking claim to being the best team in the SEC if they can keep riding the fickle wave of momentum.

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