It was another eventful weekend in college basketball, one that left us with plenty of questions as February approaches.
Here's another round of what's real and what's fake, as we attempt to address those queries:
What's fake? Duke can't win a national title if it can't shoot 3s
Duke is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in America. And that's weird. Mike Krzyzewski's 21st-century teams have typically been effective from beyond the arc.
This season's mark of 30.2 percent (No. 322 in Division I) represents one of the worst connection rates for the program over the past 20 years. Shots not falling contributed to Duke encountering some unexpected turbulence in a 66-53 home win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, when the Blue Devils finished 2-for-21 from the 3-point line.
In the new small-ball era, more teams are implementing the 3-ball into their offensive strategies. A balanced offensive profile has fueled past champions, too.
Since the 2001-02 season, 10 of 17 national champions connected on at least 37 percent of their 3-pointers and 51 percent of their shots inside the arc.
The nightmare scenario for any Duke fan is a shootout in March against an elite team with a hot hand that the Blue Devils can't match. In Duke's two losses this season (Gonzaga and Syracuse), its opponents finished 21-for-44 from the 3-point line while Duke finished 14-for-56 from beyond the arc in those games.
Two things will help Duke, however, this season. Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones and RJ Barrett do a great job of denying good looks from the 3-point line, which is why their opponents have made less than 30 percent of their 3-point attempts this season.
Also, the Blue Devils have made nearly 60 percent of their 2-pointers. They're a phenomenal scoring team. They're also blessed with an impressive collection of athletes and four projected first-round picks in this summer's NBA draft.
Plus, seven of the past 17 national champions fell short of the 37/51 club. North Carolina made 35 percent of its 3-pointers two years ago. Louisville made 33 percent its 3-pointers when it won the national title in 2013. The commonality among those seven teams that did not reach 37/51 is that they were all in the top 15 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Still, the 30 percent clip would qualify as the worst mark for a champion since 2001-02, should the Blue Devils manage to win a crown. History is not on their side. There are examples, however, of teams that lacked Duke's talent pool and still overcame their shooting woes to make national title runs.
What's real? John Calipari is doing one of the best coaching jobs of his tenure at Kentucky
Kentucky's head coach is too often ignored in conversations about America's best coaches. John Calipari has won the Associated Press national coach of the year award just once, after his 2014-15 squad won its first 38 games. But he's doing exemplary work this season with a group that has evolved into a national title threat.
That team that lost to Duke by 34 points in the Champions Classic on Nov. 6 was raw. Kentucky's defensive gaps helped the program earn a rating in the 60s on KenPom early in the season. And Calipari didn't have an Anthony Davis or a Karl-Anthony Towns or a Devin Booker who could mask the rest of the team's flaws.
That's why this turn is one of the most remarkable in-season evolutions of Calipari's career. The similarly young 2013-14 team failed to get hot until late in the season.
It's mid-January and a Kentucky team that has lost once since Dec. 8 just beat Auburn, Mississippi State and Kansas in eight days. Nick Richards now looks like one of the SEC's most significant reserves. Kentucky's opponents have made just 44 percent of their shots inside the arc with Ashton Hagans (2.3 SPG) on the floor, per HoopLens.com. Few frontcourts can match Reid Travis and PJ Washington. And Keldon Johnson has made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts.
"We're communicating better," Johnson said after Saturday's win. "I think you can see that."
Yes, Calipari has talent and five top-30 recruits from the 2019 class. But I saw this group before the season in the Blue and White game. And I saw the Wildcats again in the Champions Classic. Once more in the CBS Classic in Chicago, where they beat North Carolina. I watched the team overcome Vanderbilt's 16-4 start two weeks ago. And then I was in Lexington for Saturday's game. Each time, I saw a team that got better.
And Calipari deserves credit for coaching and molding, not just recruiting, this impressive group, especially on defense.
"Well, we're able to guard the ball," Calipari said Saturday. "When we went to the Bahamas, we could not guard the ball, but we were playing teams that we could run through, and when you come back, and you can't guard the ball, and you're getting smushed, you have no confidence, so now your team looks like a team that has no confidence. When you have defensive confidence, that bleeds into your offense. Now all of a sudden you're looking at a team that, you know -- 11 turnovers, 12 turnovers, 10 turnovers -- that plays confident at times."
Fake: Indiana will figure it out
After he lost his fight against Muhammad Ali, George Foreman fought six below-average boxers in one night to regain his confidence. Indiana probably wishes it could take a similar approach to snap a six-game losing streak that was extended by a lopsided home loss to Michigan on Friday.
Archie Miller called his team "soft " after the 69-46 home loss, a game that saw IU fall behind 17-0 and never recover. The Hoosiers might need a trade before the deadline to right the ship. They have Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan and some other guys.
A win over Rutgers this week would help. But Rutgers is riding a two-game win streak and Steve Pikiell's squad is playing top-40 defense. After Rutgers? No games against sub-60 KenPom squads before March 7. This could get much uglier for Miller.
Real: College basketball needs more midseason events
The SEC/Big 12 Challenge didn't offer the best possible pairings with LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State, all top-25 teams, not participating. But the event achieved its mission of presenting a midseason showcase for the two conferences, and college basketball.
We need more midseason events like this in the future.
This part of the season is a fight for a sport that's an obsession to some and a niche to those who show up as March approaches. But the SEC/Big 12 Challenge is the perfect elixir to help the sport stand out in a crowded field of exciting events. Just this weekend, the Australian Open, Tiger Woods, a nationally televised Golden State Warriors-Boston Celtics matchup, the NFL's Pro Bowl and the Winter X Games all competed for attention.
But Saturday's Kansas-Kentucky matchup -- and the SEC/Big 12 Challenge games that preceded it -- offered sports fans an interesting college basketball event in that stacked field.
After Bill Self's team lost at Kentucky, he said he's not a fan of the midseason nonconference matchups, but he also said it's a good thing for the leagues that participated.
"I can appreciate how good it is for the Big 12 and the SEC leagues as wholes," Self said Saturday.
The most hyped event of the season to date was the Champions Classic matchup between Kentucky and Duke. That was three months ago. Three. Months. Ago. Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State -- the four participants -- have all grown since then.
But imagine if we'd had the opportunity to see those games midway through the season? This sport could use some more midseason pop. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge announced a six-year extension Saturday. Perhaps other, newly created nonconference events can join it in the coming months.
Real: There is an avalanche in Spokane, Washington
This is the time of year when Gonzaga usually falls off the national radar. The limited competition in the West Coast Conference is often the culprit. Late-night, one-sided affairs don't help Gonzaga secure the praise it often deserves before the NCAA tournament.
But this season's WCC features four teams that have cracked the top 100 of the NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings. And Gonzaga, which has not lost a game this season at full strength, has bulldozed them. The Bulldogs have won their past 10 games by an average of 36.2 points per game. Sure, they're not playing an ACC- or Big Ten-style gantlet, but they're still ranked first in adjusted offensive efficiency. Rui Hachimura has made 44 percent of his 3-point attempts. Brandon Clarke is a double-double machine.
This is an incredible performance. The Bulldogs won't get another test against an elite opponent until the NCAA tournament, where Mark Few will guide one of his best offensive teams.
They're worth watching now, though.