Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4.

Tomorrow, the calendar flips to 2020 and the real college basketball action begins! It’s been a great nonconference season, with plenty of big upsets, but now it’s time to compete for conference titles.

It should be a fun couple of months coming up, so we’ll see which teams emerge from the pack and separate themselves as national title contenders.

For now, though, here’s today’s Starting 5:

1. The Opening Tip

Is Louisville-Kentucky even a rivalry? No, the 2 teams don’t care for each other in any sport, but doesn’t a rivalry have to be competitive?

That’s a question worth asking. We’ll let college basketball expert Mark Titus break things down a bit for us here:

Yeah, that’s not very close. Louisville entered Saturday’s game in Lexington ranked No. 3 in the country, with the Wildcats ranked No. 19. They battled to overtime, but Kentucky emerged with a 78-70 victory, snapping a 2-game losing streak.

That had Kentucky big man Nick Richards fired up, as he showed the crowd the “L’s Down” hand gesture, mocking the Cardinals:

Richards finished with his 5th double-double of the season, recording 13 points and 10 rebounds, but the Cardinals might have stood a chance if they could have slowed down Tyrese Maxey.

The freshman guard scored 27 points, to go with 7 rebounds and 4 3-pointers. Here’s one of those 3s, which Maxey buried just before halftime:

Oh, and just for fun, here’s Ashton Hagans (who had 8 points and 8 assists) finishing things off in overtime with a slam:

The “rivalry” will shift to Louisville next year. It may not be a close matchup historically, but these 2 schools certainly don’t like each other.

2. Home-court Advantage

All year, I’ve been cautious about where I rank Arkansas in my weekly SEC basketball power rankings. Yes, the Hogs have put up a good record, but going to overtime at Georgia Tech and barely winning doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence.

However, the Razorbacks picked up their signature nonconference win Sunday, beating a talented Indiana team 71-64 in Bloomington. That’s a huge road win for coach Eric Musselman in his first year with the Hogs.

The Razorbacks continued to ride their star backcourt of Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones, who combined for 45 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists in the win. Joe was particularly deadly from long range. With the Hoosiers leading by 10 in the second half, Joe hit 2 long-range 3s to help the Hogs complete the comeback. This second shot is from way downtown:

He made 6 3s in the game and is hot as we enter SEC play. Watch out for the Hogs, folks!

Now, for some other news around the SEC:

  • The Tennessee Volunteers really miss Lamonte Turner. Without the senior guard (who had season-ending shoulder surgery), not a single Vol scored 10 points in a 68-48 blowout loss at home to Wisconsin. Yikes. Jordan Bowden, the other talented scoring guard, finished 2-for-13 with 7 points. That’s rough. This was the first game without Turner, though, so perhaps things will improve as they enter SEC play?
  • In its past 4 games, South Carolina lost at home to Houston, won at Clemson, took down No. 9 Virginia on the road and then, on Monday, lost at home to Stetson. I’m sorry … what? What is going on with Frank Martin’s squad? That’s just an incredibly bizarre stretch of basketball. I have no idea what to expect from this team in SEC play.
  • Then there’s LSU. The Tigers have been up and down all year but managed to hand Liberty its first loss in 15 games over the weekend. It wasn’t a particularly close game, either, as LSU won 74-57 with 4 players scoring in double figures. We’ll see if they can keep that momentum going into Saturday’s SEC opener at Tennessee. As I mentioned above, they’re catching the Vols at the right time.

Now, let’s talk about some top stories from the rest of the country.

3. Road Game

Ohio State was the No. 2 team in the country (just like the football team) entering this weekend’s game against No. 22 West Virginia. And, just like the football team, the basketball Buckeyes lost. Now, they’re down to No. 5 in the AP Poll.

After the football team lost to Clemson on Saturday night, the Buckeyes fell to the Mountaineers on Sunday afternoon, 67-59. OSU led 37-31 at halftime but West Virginia outscored them 36-22 in the 2nd half.

Miles McBride was unstoppable, scoring 21 points in 25 minutes off the bench. He also made this shot, which I have no idea why he even wanted to attempt:

Looks like he was just as confused as I was.

Anyway, here are some other top stories from around the country:

  • It was supposed to be a great year for Seton Hall and Myles Powell, but that hasn’t played out thus far. Seton Hall entered Monday’s game at 12-1 DePaul with a somewhat disappointing 8-4 record. So, Powell put the team on his back, scoring 27 points, snagging 5 rebounds and grabbing 5 steals to help the Pirates come back from a halftime deficit to win. So there you have it — 27 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals is all Powell has to do to get the Pirates a victory. Piece of cake, right?
  • Kansas had its chance at the No. 1 spot but lost to Villanova a couple of weeks ago. Well, the Jayhawks are back up to No. 3 after a convincing 72-56 win at a tough Stanford squad Sunday. Iowa transfer Isaiah Moss was electric, scoring a team-high 17 points in 21 minutes off the bench. That breakout happened just in time for Big 12 play, and that’s a scary thought for future Kansas opponents.
  • How low is Northwestern basketball right now? Well, the Wildcats just lost to Hartford 67-66 Saturday. Hartford is a team in the America East that has never (never!) made it to the Division I NCAA Tournament. And they lost at the last second, too, on this rattled-home shot:

  • Tough times in Evanston for Chris Collins, who is in his 6th season as coach. Things need to improve or he might not get a 7th year.
  • We’ll end with another brutal UCLA loss. This time, the Bruins fell to in-state powerhouse (just kidding) Cal State Fullerton. That win improved CSU-Fullerton to an impressive record of … 4-10. Ouch. Not a good look for Mick Cronin’s crew, which is 7-6. It could be a long Pac-12 season for the Bruins.

Now, let’s look ahead to the next few days.

4. Outlet Pass

What are the top 5 games over the course of the next few days? Here are the contests I’m most excited to see:

  1. Illinois at No. 14 Michigan State (Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on FS1) — Illinois has been in a number of close games already this year, losing some heartbreakers. Michigan State will have to be on top of its game.
  2. No. 11 Butler at St. John’s (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — The Red Storm have been solid under new coach Mike Anderson, but Butler has been one of the best teams in the country. Can St. John’s pull off another huge upset?
  3. Marquette at Creighton (Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on CBSSN) — Any chance to watch Markus Howard is a good one. Creighton will provide quite a challenge.
  4. No. 4 Oregon at Colorado (Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) — Oregon is an impressive 11-2, but the Ducks need to get off to a good start in Pac-12 play. Going to Colorado is never an easy task.
  5. Saint Louis at Duquesne (Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+) — SLU is a good team that gave Auburn all it could handle. Meanwhile, Duquesne was one of the last 4 undefeated Division I teams before losing its past 2 games to UAB and Marshall.

Should be some exciting action to watch as we flip the calendar from 2019 to 2020!

5. Buzzer Beaters

In this section, I’ll answer a couple of random questions. For today’s column, those questions are:

Which team not in the AP Poll top 25 as we enter 2020 do you think will finish the year ranked?

I absolutely think that Saint Mary’s will be in the Top 25 before long and stay there through the end of the year. The Gaels only have 2 losses — an inexplicable one against Winthrop and a more-explainable one against a ranked Dayton team.

They play in the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga, so there should be plenty of wins out there for both the Gaels and Bulldogs. In a year like this, that should be enough to be a mainstay in the Top 25.

Which New Year’s Day bowl game would make the best basketball matchup?

So, our options are Alabama-Michigan, Auburn-Minnesota, Wisconsin-Oregon and Georgia-Baylor? I’ll take Georgia-Baylor this year. The Bulldogs might not be the best team, but they have the potential No. 1 overall pick in Anthony Edwards. Meanwhile, the Bears are a very good team and are ranked No. 6 in the country. That’d be a fun one to watch, though all of the above matchups would be pretty interesting.

Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.