The Top Freking 10 is ready to tackle the past week in college basketball — predictions gone wrong, a Big Ten power tumbles after two losses and the Big 12’s bell cow makes a return to the rankings. Unless, of course, tackling involves trying to stop LeGarrette Blount.
1. ARIZONA (last week: 1)
In the Christmas edition of the TF10, I predicted Arizona would lose at Southern Cal on Jan. 12. Well, the Cats won by 20 Sunday. And wouldn’t you know it, but Red Forman from ‘That 70s Show’ walked past my desk yesterday and called me the not-so-nice name he loves to bestow upon his son, Eric. (Hint: it stars with a ‘D’ and ends with an ‘S.’) My next prediction for Zona’s first loss is Feb. 1 at California.
2. SYRACUSE (LW: 2)
The really good teams often look like they’re bored, which is an adjective that could’ve been applied to the Orange Monday night at Boston College. Syracuse went up by five points early in the second half, then watched the Eagles embark on a 17-4 run. The visitors woke up in a big way eventually, unleashing a storm of 3-pointers and dunks before icing a game-ending 30-12 rush from the free-throw line.
3. WISCONSIN (LW: 4)
Unbeaten Wisconsin ventured into Assembly Hall Tuesday night with a school-record 16-0 start to the season and a 12-game winning streak against Indiana. Most of those wins came against overmatched Hoosier teams in the first few years of Tom Crean’s reclamation project, but it still feels weird typing out that strange but true tidbit. Alas, IU ended that drought Tuesday, but it’s an acceptable Big Ten road loss for the Badgers by TF10 standards. These aren’t your older brother’s lull-you-to-sleep Badgers either — Wisconsin put up 50 points in the first half against Illinois last week, the fourth time this season it has tallied 50 points or more in a half. Per ESPN, coach Bo Ryan’s squad only had three such halves in the past five years combined.
4. WICHITA STATE (LW: 5)
This is me attempting to save face: in the Christmas edition of the TF10, I also said Wichita State would be “challenged” by Missouri State this past Saturday. Missouri State nearly pulled off a Shocker — sorry, had to — leading by 19 with less than 12 minutes to play before WSU closed to within five with under four minutes to go. The Shockers wound up winning 72-69 in overtime, with sophomore guard Fred VanFleet scoring 12 of Wichita State’s last 13 points.
5. MICHIGAN STATE (LW: 6)
Four days after it needed overtime to defeat visiting Ohio State, Michigan State required an extra five minutes to dispatch Minnesota Saturday evening. For the second straight game, the Spartans blew a late lead — MSU was up five with 22 seconds left against the Gophers, and against the Buckeyes, Sparty led by 17 with just over eight minutes remaining in the regulation. Maybe Mark Dantonio, the coach of the Rose Bowl-champion Spartan football team, can dole out some advice about finishing games to his basketball counterparts.
6. FLORIDA (LW: 8)
Entering Tuesday night’s contest opposite visiting Georgia, the Gators were one of four teams atop the SEC standings with a 2-0 conference mark. It’s a good thing Florida went out and played a tough nonconference schedule — it beat Kansas and Memphis and lost to Wisconsin and Connecticut — because it won’t get much help playing in the mediocre SEC. The gold standard in college football, the SEC is seventh in the latest conference RPI ratings, ranking behind the Atlantic 10 and just ahead of the American Athletic Conference. Against teams from the Big Ten and the Big 12, the top two conferences in the RPI rankings, the SEC is 7-14.
7. VILLANOVA (LW: 9)
The Big East Game of the Year (at least so far) is slated for Jan. 20 when Creighton and Villanova, the lone teams still unbeaten at conference play at 4-0, square off at Villanova. Both teams have games prior to that showdown — the Wildcats welcome DePaul Saturday, while the Blue Jays hosted Butler Tuesday evening and travel to Providence Saturday — but odds are college basketball junkies like myself will get their mega-matchup Monday night without any luster lost.
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (LW: 10)
Coach Steve Fisher has quietly built the Aztecs into a western basketball power. When Fisher — better known for leading Michigan to the 1989 national title, recruiting the Fab Five and the Ed Martin scandal that led to his ouster in Ann Arbor — took the SDSU job in March of 1999, the program had suffered 13 losing seasons in 14 years. Since his hiring, Fisher has nine 20-win campaigns in 14 years, including four seasons of 25 or more victories in the past five years.
9. OHIO STATE (LW: 3)
Yes, the Buckeyes lost twice last week, and yes, they didn’t play particularly well in either game. But, the two defeats were at Michigan State and at home to Iowa, the latter of which has quickly established itself as the fourth or fifth-best team in the Big Ten. Ohio State typically endures a bit of a lull in conference season — last February, it dropped three of four conference games in a 12-day span; the year before it alternated wins and losses over a six-game stretch near the end of Big Ten play — so, this rough stretch is par for the course.
10. KANSAS (LW: NR)
The precocious Jayhawks are beginning to round into form. They’ve opened Big 12 play with wins at Oklahoma, home vs. Kansas State and most impressively, a 77-70 win at Iowa State Monday night. Freshman sensations Andrew Wiggins (17 points, 19 rebounds) and Joel Embiid (16 points, 9 rebound, 5 blocks) were mostly wonderful and occasionally frustrating (the Wiggins-Embiid duo recorded 13 of the team’s 24 turnovers) opposite the Hawkeyes Monday.
Dropped out: Iowa State (7)
Grant Freking is a sportswriter for the Daily Reporter. Contact him at (317) 477-3230 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.