This week’s Top Freking 10 breaks down major challenges for the nation’s best squads, previews one of the game’s top rivalries and explains why Kansas can survive without Joel Embiid.
1. SYRACUSE (last week: 1)
The Orange scraped through January without gaining their first loss, but they won’t be so fortunate this month. Tonight’s road game at Pittsburgh’s Peterson Events Center — where the host Panthers have won 89 percent of their games in the building’s 12 years of existence — presents a sturdy challenge, as does a Feb. 22 trip to resurgent Duke.
2. WICHITA STATE (LW: 2)
Last week, Wichita State led Indiana State by one at halftime in Terre Haute. I thought the Shockers needed to make two adjustments at halftime: find a way to slow down Sycamore guard Manny Arop (13 points) and get the ball to star forward Cleanthony Early in better spots on the floor. WSU did both. Arop was a non-factor (three points) in the second half, while Early scored 15 of his 19 points in the second 20 minutes.
3. FLORIDA (LW: 3)
With a victory over Tennessee Tuesday evening, the Gators won their 15th straight game. Don’t expect that streak to make it through the weekend though, not with a mega matchup looming at Kentucky Saturday. UK coach John Calipari has recently took a few shots at the media, an occasional tactic Cal employs as some sort of reverse motivational tool. In any case, the ‘Cats lone impressive win to date is over Louisville, so they need the game much more than Florida.
4. ARIZONA (LW: 4)
Beginning Friday, the Wildcats have back-to-back-to-back Pac-12 road games at Arizona State, Utah and Colorado. ASU and Colorado are both 7-4 in conference play through Tuesday, and Utah owns zero regulation home losses this season. The stretch is a nice test for a team still trying to sort things out in wake of Brandon Ashley’s season-ending right foot injury.
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