Syracuse is the clear-cut better of the two, but Wichita State will be the only undefeated team come tournament time. While Syracuse has been immensely impressive this year, they have been living on the edge recently, surviving on nail-biter finishes against Duke, Pittsburgh and North Carolina State. This is not to say that the Orange are not better, because they unequivocally are, but that Syracuse will enter the tournament with a loss or two. With an impending trip to Durham to take on Duke again this Saturday and the ACC tournament in their future, I think it’s reasonable to peg Syracuse as a team that will suffer a loss before we reach the NCAA tournament.
The Shockers of Wichita State, on the other hand, should remain undefeated as we progress through the season. Having twice beaten their only challenging Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) opponent, Indiana State, there seems to be no remaining challenges in the Wichita State schedule for the rest of the regular season. Expect them to cruise through the MVC conference tournament, challenged only by Indiana State in the finals. I expect the Shockers to head to the NCAA tournament undefeated.
That is not to say that Wichita State will fare better in March Madness than Syracuse. I expect Wichita State to fall in the Sweet 16. The Shockers have not played a ranked opponent this year, so this game should be a “shock” to them and their National Championship aspirations.
Syracuse, on the other hand, should be the favorite to be cutting down the nets in Dallas as the national champions, due to their balance, poise and cutthroat two-three zone defense.
By Dan Martucci
Assistant Photo Editor
Syracuse University (25-0) and Wichita State University (27-0) are both having unbelievable seasons; one of them might even pull off a perfect regular season. I am skeptical, however, that Syracuse will remain undefeated in the regular season given their tough remaining schedule – they played two very difficult away games at Duke University (20-5), and then UVA (21-5). Also, considering that Syracuse has won its past two games with
buzzer-beaters, I think that their luck is going to run out in their remaining games. Wichita State has a much better chance of staying undefeated because the rest of their regular season schedule is not very difficult. This is not to say that the Orange are the worse of the two teams; in fact, I think that they are much better than the Shockers and the tournament will definitely show Syracuse’s superiority. The Orange are ranked first in the latest AP rankings, while Wichita State is ranked third. Though anything can happen during the dance, I am confident that while Wichita State might go in with an undefeated regular season, they will not live up to their record because they will be playing ranked teams.
As the hype for March Madness continues to build, I am looking forward to watching the end of the regular season to see if Syracuse or Wichita State can really pull off a perfect season.
By Pete Koehler
Wichita State. But seriously, hats off to Syracuse. Sure, the fact that they’re still undefeated is part luck and part statistical aberration, but it’s even more thanks to their remarkable consistency. While ‘Cuse has found itself on the right side of more than their fair share of nail biters, it’s a tall task to compete at a high level every single night against tough ACC competition, especially on the road. While Syracuse’s good fortune is bound to run out in one of these upcoming games, their consistency and late-game performance bodes well for March, when they’ll have to beat six good teams in succession. Their contest Saturday at Duke looms as the obvious party-crasher, but fans should watch out for a week later when they play a long, defensively stout Virginia team that allows the fewest points per game in the country.
Just like Syracuse, Wichita State has faced serious tests multiple times, including games such as the January 11 overtime thriller at Missouri State. The Shockers were down 18 at the half, but displayed complete composure and clawed their way back in. Wichita State has some sizable advantages over Syracuse down the stretch, including playing two fewer games on the road. Furthermore, they only face one team in the upper half of the Missouri Valley Conference: pesky Missouri State. It seems some have also forgotten that this is largely the same roster that made a Final Four last year and rightfully sees itself among the upper echelon of college basketball. That experience will no doubt help Wichita State in these last four games, when all eyes will be on them.
Don’t overestimate their motivation to show up the legions of haters who still aren’t convinced they’re the real deal. People already are predicting an early exit for them in March, but you have to like that the Shockers’ No. 14 defense can keep them in games even if their shots aren’t falling. I see Wichita State at least making the Regional Final, especially with the easier path of a one seed.
By Matt Washuta
Two teams remain undefeated in a whirlwind college basketball season: Syracuse and Wichita State. The last undefeated team to remain undefeated throughout the regular season was St. Joseph’s in the 2003-2004 season. The season, however, is far from over for these two hot teams as both continue to face conference foes.
Syracuse is in its first season in the ACC and has proven to be one of the conference’s best teams in years. The Orange have won tough tests against five ranked opponents thus far and will continue to face ranked opponents in the next several weeks. The last undefeated ACC team to win a national championship was the 1957 UNC Tar Heels. The Basketball Power Index currently gives Syracuse a 4.7 percent chance of finishing the regular season undefeated. The odds are stacked against the Orange to complete this sensational run, but with some of the magic the team has pulled in the last few games, maybe Syracuse has a date with destiny.
Wichita State’s undefeated run is also impressive, but has not garnered the same type of hype as Syracuse’s has had lately. This is in large part due to its lack of competition against ranked opponents – only one game against a ranked opponent this season – and its membership in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Some seem to forget, however, that this is the same team that marched its way into the Final Four last season beating Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State along the way. Some may call that a Cinderella run, but perhaps it was a message. Perhaps Wichita State is not a pretender or a one-time deal, but a contender for the coveted national championship.