Arizona, Syracuse rise with impressive triumphs

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The post-Thanksgiving edition of the Top Freking 10 college basketball teams sees three of last week’s top seven teams sink after losses, while Arizona and Syracuse’s stock each rise with key victories.

1. MICHIGAN STATE (last week: 1)

The Spartans’ tussle with North Carolina today lost a bit of its luster after the Tar Heels were tripped up by UAB Sunday. UNC coach Roy Williams did Blazers coach Jerod Haase — a former player and assistant under Williams — a solid by even going to Birmingham. The Tar Heels got more than they bargained for though, losing 63-59 and further entrenching North Carolina as one of college basketball’s more mystifying teams (beat Louisville, lost to Belmont).

2. ARIZONA (LW: 4)

Skywalking freshman Aaron Gordon is justifiably grabbing headlines for the Wildcats, but the team’s backcourt has meshed about as well as coach Sean Miller could’ve hoped. Junior guard Nick Johnson has gone from defensive specialist to an all-around impact player, averaging 17 points and 4 rebounds a game. Johnson’s running mate, Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, has been superb, averaging 7 points and 6 assists. In Friday’s 72-66 win over Duke to win the NIT Season Tip-Off, Johnson scored 15 points and McConnell flirted with a triple-double, notching 10 points, eight assists and six boards.


The ‘Cuse earn a big jump by virtue of teams ahead of them falling and their own burgeoning résumé. Unbeaten Syracuse outlasted Baylor to win the Maui Invitational last week, and then topped a 6-1 Indiana team 69-52 Tuesday night as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. In last season’s Sweet 16, the Orange handed the Hoosiers perhaps their most crushing loss since IU fell in the 2002 national title game.


I should’ve had the Buckeyes over Kentucky last week — both teams have played easy schedules to date, but OSU won its lone test so far (Marquette) while the Cats lost to Michigan State. In any case, the good news for Ohio State was that LaQuinton Ross was finally located in its 99-64 win over North Florida. The junior swingman scored a season-high 17 points on nine shots. Next up for OSU is a date with Maryland tonight. The Bucks and Terps will see each other on an annual basis beginning in 2014-15 when Maryland joins the Big Ten.


As pointed out by USA Today, Willie Cauley-Stein is putting up block numbers associated with Wildcat royalty — Anthony Davis had 36 blocks through his first eight games, and Nerlens Noel had 25 redirections. Through the first eight games of his sophomore season, Cauley-Stein has 31 swats. WCS was awfully close to a triple-double in Kentucky’s 79-65 victory over Providence Sunday, tallying 15 points, nine blocks and eight rebounds.

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