The undefeated column remains the same in college basketball; three teams: The Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12, Syracuse Orange in the ACC and Wichita State Shockers in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Unlike the #1 (‘Zona) and #2 (Syracuse), Wichita State have 0 wins against ranked teams so far this season (a weak conference does that to you), so even making the Final Four last season doesn’t make too many people believe in them as real threats to more than anything than some conference glory this season.
The #1 team in the nation overcame a tough Stanford rival in Palo Alto, coming away with the 60-57 win. ‘Zona got a big night from Nick Johnson with 16 points. He made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 51 seconds remaining and two free throws with 5.8 seconds left as the Wildcats improved to 21-0. The win included a nine-minute stretch in which Stanford couldn’t make a single field goal. They held the Cardinal to just 1-of-13 from the field in the final 9:30 of the game. So why are they so good? Defense, and that’s something that can run a long way in the NCAA Tournament as well. They’re allowing only 22.7 points in the paint (fewest in the Pac-12), 7.2 second-chance points per game, fewest among major conference teams and allows 87.3 points per 100 possessions, fewest in the Pac-12 and third best in the nation.
How are Syraucse doing so well? Defense and rebounding, more or less. They rebound 40% of its missed shots, the best offensive-rebounding percentage in the ACC and 13th best in the nation. They also allow only 20 points per game in the paint, second best in the nation. They beat Wake Forest 67-57 with the usual combination of offensive talent sparks from Tyler Ennis (18 points) and C.J. Fair (16 points) while grabbing 19 offensive rebounds, 55 overall and limiting the Demon Deacons to only 34% from the field. They are now 20-0 to start with including 7-0 in the ACC. This group has now tied the school’s best 20 game start from the 2011-2012 season.
Wichita State Shockers
Wichita State, unlike the #1 and #2 teams in the nation, are still raising some doubt. It’s only natural that despite their 22-0 record, playing in the Missouri Valley conference doesn’t have everyone convinced. They are #4 in the nation and remain undefeated after a 57-45 win over Loyola (Illinois). Cleanthony Early was the only player in double figures, as the Shockers’ leading scorer (16.3 points per game) finished with 23 against the Ramblers. Rebounding was a big issue once again for their opponents: Wichita State grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and won under the boards 44-28. They are 20th in the nation with 39.8 boards per game.