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Some January struggles are normal for college basketball's elite

The new year has already seen some surprising performances from the best college basketball teams in the country, and recent history shows that we should expect that trend to continue.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Crazy things tend to happen during the opening few weeks of conference play in college basketball. For the country's top teams, the days of overwhelming low majors and only having to really "get up" for a handful of quality opponents are over. Suddenly, these teams are being hunted, and the opponents doing the hunting are familiar with their style, their players and their venues. The results, often, are surprising ... although maybe they shouldn't be.

In the opening week of 2015, we have already seen three teams -- including then-No. 6 Villanova -- taste defeat for the first time. We've also seen a top-ranked Kentucky team that was supposed to role through the SEC be pushed to the brink at home by Ole Miss.

So should fans of these elite teams experiencing this New Year phenomenon be worried? Let's look at the past 15 teams to cut down the nets and the setbacks they experienced (if any) in the month of January.

Connecticut (2014) - At SMU (74-65); vs. No. 18 Louisville (76-64)

Louisville (2013) - vs. No. 6 Syracuse (70-68); at Villanova (73-64); at Georgetown (53-51)

Kentucky (2012) - Did not lose

Connecticut (2011) - At No. 14 Notre Dame (73-70); vs. No. 23 Louisville (79-78)

Duke (2010) - At No. 20 Georgia Tech (71-67); At NC State (88-74); At No. 7 Georgetown (89-77)

North Carolina (2009) - vs. Boston College (85-78); At No. 4 Wake Forest (92-89)

Kansas (2008) - At No. 24 Kansas State (84-75)

Florida (2007) - Did not lose

Florida (2006) - At Tennessee (80-76); At South Carolina (68-62)

North Carolina (2005) - At No. 4 Wake Forest (95-82)

Connecticut (2004) - At No. 11 North Carolina (86-83); vs. Providence (66-56)

Syracuse (2003) - At No. 3 Pittsburgh (73-60); At Rutgers (68-65)

Maryland (2002) - At No. 1 Duke (99-78)

Duke (2001) - Did not lose

In summary, six of the past 15 national champions lost twice in the month of January, three of those teams did not lose at all, three more lost only once, and a pair were beaten three times.

Of the 21 total losses suffered by these champions, 12 came against ranked opponents. Although nine unranked teams were involved in these upsets, only four of those teams ultimately failed to make the NCAA Tournament -- Rutgers in '03, South Carolina in '06, NC State in '10 and SMU last season. Only two of these national champions -- Florida in 2006 and Louisville in 2013 -- lost consecutive games, and those two teams are also the only eventual champs to lose more than once to an unranked squad.

Most of the best college basketball teams in recent memory have experienced a few bumps in the road during the first month of conference play. It's part of the process, and more than likely not cause for panic.