Kansas’ hot streak is rewarded with a big boost, revisiting the greatness of Florida’s back-to-back national champion squads and two American Athletic Conference teams crash the Top Freking 10 — including one making its rankings debut.
1. ARIZONA (last week: 1)
The Wildcats own top-five national rankings in scoring defense, scoring margin, field-goal percentage defense and rebound margin, which is a good way of knowing your team is pretty darn good. What’s something 18-0 Arizona is ranked near the bottom of the country in? Three-point attempts and 3-point makes. Zona is ranked 247th in 3s made per game (5.5) and 297th in 3-point attempts. What does that mean? Precisely nothing.
2. SYRACUSE (LW: 2)
While Arizona has been busy blowing people out, Syracuse has been playing close games, topping Boston College by 10 and Pittsburgh by five in its last two games. Still undefeated, the Orange suffered a roster loss Tuesday when big man DaJuan Coleman decided to have season-ending surgery on his left leg. Coleman started the first 12 games of the season, but had only seen three minutes of action in the team’s last six games.
3. WICHITA STATE (LW: 4)
Nick Wiggins is only averaging five points per game for the Shockers, but his impact on college basketball is much larger than that. Nick’s younger brother, Andrew, is one of the nation’s top freshmen for the Kansas Jayhawks. Prior to selecting KU last May, Andrew, a favorite to be taken No. 1 overall in the June draft, was also considering Florida State (his parent’s alma mater), Kentucky and North Carolina. It’s believed that having his older brother in the same state — the Wiggins brothers grew up in Canada — was a heavy contributing factor in Andrew’s decision.
4. MICHIGAN STATE (LW: 5)
The Spartans overcame the absence of Adreian Payne (right foot sprain) to hold off Indiana Tuesday night. MSU swingman Branden Dawson picked up some of the slack with 13 points and nine rebounds, including a game-high five offensive boards.
5. KANSAS (LW: 10)
The Jayhawks have been on the warpath ever since Big 12 play started, so it’s time to reward them with a big jump. Last week, I referenced Kansas’ tough wins over Kansas State and Iowa State. Saturday and Monday, the Jayhawks scored a two-point home win over Oklahoma State and a 10-point home victory over Baylor, respectively. KU is 5-0 in conference play, with all five wins against probable NCAA tournament teams.
6. FLORIDA (LW: 6)
The 2005-06 and 2006-07 Florida Gators were the first team since Duke in 1990-91 and 1991-92 to claim back-to-back national championships partly because of a ridiculously talented starting five that was intact for the team’s championship run. Three players from that era — Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah — were top-10 draft picks in 2007. Two other starters from that group, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey, have enjoyed long careers overseas. All five starters racked up over 1,000 points in Gainesville.
7. SAN DIEGO STATE (LW: 8)
Aztec forward Josh Davis has taken quite the circuitous route to San Diego State, where he’s the nation’s third-leading rebounder at 11.5 boards per game. After attending high school in Raleigh, N.C., Davis began his career at NC State in 2009. After a season with the Wolfpack, Davis decided to transfer to Tulane, and thus had to sit out the 2010-11 season. Davis spent two seasons with the Green Wave, earning first team All-Conference USA honors last season after averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds. After the 2012-13 season, Davis was able to transfer to SDSU and play immediately this year as a fifth-year graduate student.
8. IOWA (LW: NR)
The Hawkeyes have run roughshod through the Big Ten recently. Beginning on Jan. 9, Iowa has won three straight conference games over Northwestern, Ohio State and Minnesota by double digits, scoring at least 84 points in each contest. At 86.8 points per game, the Hawkeyes are the fifth-best scoring team in the country. Led by Roy Devyn Marble (16.3 ppg) and Aaron White (14.0 ppg), 10 Iowa players are averaging at least 5.4 ppg.
9. LOUISVILLE (LW: NR)
Following a six-point home loss to Memphis Jan. 9, the defending champs seem to have gotten their you-know-what together, ripping off three straight American Athletic Conference triumphs by an average of nearly 20 points per victory. Russ Smith, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2013 Midwest Regional held at Lucas Oil Stadium, has picked up his game, scoring 64 points in the three wins while getting to the free-throw line 28 times. It was time to bring the Cardinals back into the rankings — and it’s also time the rest of the country takes Louisville seriously again.
10. CINCINNATI (LW: NR)
The Bearcats have ripped off 10 straight wins since back-to-back losses to New Mexico and cross-town rival Xavier in December. No one will confuse UC’s 209th-ranked scoring offense with the Showtime Lakers, but coach Mike Cronin’s teams will always defend (nation’s third-ranked scoring defense). Guard Sean Kilpatrick is well on his way to increasing his scoring average — the senior is sitting at 18.6 ppg — for the third straight year.
Dropped out: Wisconsin (3), Villanova (7), Ohio State (9)
Grant Freking is a sportswriter for the Daily Reporter. Contact him at (317) 477-3230 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.