Saturday, Kentucky upset Vanderbilt, who was previously undefeated and ranked #13 by the AP, 79-73 in double Over Time. It was UK's first big win of the Billy Gillispie era.
Vanderbilt is an interesting team. Last year's team made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and would have been in the Elite Eight, if not for a missed traveling call on Georgetown's Jeff Green that produced Georgetown's game winning basket. And although they lost some key players from last year's team, they've managed to be one of this season's runaway successes. But despite this season's impressive record, they've turned in some very underwhelming performances. And they've escaped with squeaker wins over some less-than-stellar opponents (see: Bradley, DePaul).
Vanderbilt didn't look terribly athletic or strong against Kentucky. And even though the Wildcats are ecstatic that they pulled off their first big win, Vanderbilt just never quite looked like a legitimate top tier team in that game.
Michigan State Falls to Iowa
Although it didn't get the attention that Kentucky's nationally televised win over Vanderbilt did, #6 Michigan State's 43-36 loss at Iowa was the biggest upset of the day. Iowa may be the worst team in the Big Ten (Drive and Dish has previously noted the Hawkeyes' profound Godawfulness). Yet they managed to slow the game down and "ugly" the whole thing up, which got Michigan State to play down to their level.
I'm glad that I didn't see that game. It would have been brutal to watch, as most of Iowa's games are. But I feel bad for Michigan State. They're a legitimate top 10 team, and there's no way that they should have lost to Iowa -- let alone only score 36 points in the entire game.
Tom Izzo is probably running his team into the ground right now. Each one of his players will probably drop five to seven pounds of water weight before their next game (thanks to all the running they will have done).
Look, Iowa is a tough place for visiting teams to play. With the exception of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses (which only come along once every four years), there really isn't much going on in Iowa. That's why Iowa Hawkeyes' football, wrestling and basketball are so important to the locals. As such, far too many Iowans derive their sense of self worth from the success of Hawkeye athletics. So, for Iowans, it's win at all costs -- which is why visiting teams often find that their hotel rooms have no warm running water, have no functioning air conditioning or heat, have mysterious power outages, have an unusually high number of fire alarms in the middle of the night, etc.
What's worse, when the visiting teams arrive in the visitor's locker room, they often find that -- in addition to being painted pink, from ceiling to floor (including lockers, benches, toilets, urinals, sinks, fire extinguishers . . . literally everything in the room) -- the visitor's locker room lacks running water. Which really sucks because, since their hotel rooms frequently lack warm water, teams often bypass using the showers and the toilets in their hotels, and wait until they get to the locker room to take care of those necessities.
But that stuff is par for the course in Iowa City. Ask the 2005 Illinois Fighting Illini. They went to Iowa City undefeated and ranked #1 in the nation. But, after they found it difficult to get restful sleep in their hotel rooms, and couldn't find warm water in either their hotel rooms or in the locker room, the Illini played their ugliest game of the season. Illinois was lucky to sneak out of that place with a win that year. They almost didn't.
By the way, I wouldn't necessarily trust the food in Iowa City either. I think that if I were coaching a team that had to play at Iowa, I'd pack enough sack lunches to take care of each of my team's meals.
Iowa is just that way.
In fact, many Iowans actually pride themselves on that kind of stuff. I know some of those kinds of Iowa fans.
But that's still no excuse for Michigan State's horrible loss in Iowa City.