The Hot List: Syracuse Looking Ready For The Postseason

Syracuse, in a sense, has become a forgotten team.

With all the hoopla surrounding Kentucky and the way the Wildcats have marched through the SEC while on a 21-game winning streak, Syracuse has been flying under the radar since suffering its only loss of the season on Jan. 21 at Notre Dame.

However, Syracuse has bounced back from that defeat with nine consecutive victories to raise its record to 29-1 going into its regular-season finale on Saturday at home against Louisville. The Orange have been firing on all cylinders since senior center Fab Melo’s return after sitting out three games — starting with the Notre Dame loss, not coincidentally — because of academic issues.

“This team has been in seven, eight games like this this year,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim told reporters after his team eked out a 71-69 victory at Connecticut last Saturday to clinch the Big East regular-season title. “And they find a way to make a play at the end of the game — whether it’s a defensive play, or offensive plays, tip in, drive — they’ve found a way all year long to make something good happen.”

Syracuse moves onto The Hot List this week at No. 9. The Hot List looks at the top 10 teams in the nation in terms of our college basketball last five games ratings. Syracuse is one of three newcomers this week, along with Purdue and fellow Big East foe Marquette.

With the major conference tournaments scheduled for next week, it is interesting to note that some of the teams have been hot all year — say hello to Kentucky — but others are playing well at the biggest time of the college basketball season.

Below we highlight the ten hottest teams, with the overall ranking being where the team stands in our college basketball team overall power rating, key recent performance being a team’s win over the highest-rated opponent according to our overall power rating, and the key upcoming game being the highest-rated opponent in a team’s next three games.

1. Wichita State (27-4, 5-0 last five)

Overall ranking: 11
Key stat: 76.7 defensive rebounding percentage (6th)
Key recent performance: W 91-74 @#74 Davidson (2/18)
Key upcoming game: #115 Illinois State, Missouri Valley Conference semifinals (3/3)

Key information:  Wichita State has won nine straight games and gone 8-1 against the spread in that span. The Shockers have won their last seven games against teams with winning records by an average margin of 14.6 points, including whipping Indiana State 72-48 on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Wichita State went 16-2 while winning the MVC regular-season title as the Shockers became just the fourth team in the 21 years of the conference’s 18-game schedule to win at least 16 games.

2. North Carolina (26-4, 5-0 last five)

Overall ranking: 4
Key stat: 0.932 opponents shooting efficiency (3rd)
Key recent performance: @ 54-51 @#36 Virginia (2/25)
Key upcoming game: @#6 Duke (3/3)

Key information: North Carolina has won six games in a row and gone 5-1 ATS in that span. The Tar Heels have had only one player foul out this season while opponents have had 25 foul outs. North Carolina can win the ACC outright with a win at Duke on Saturday night.

3. Michigan State (24-6, 4-1 last five)

Overall ranking: 5
Key stat: 42.6 opponents effective field goal percentage (3rd)
Key recent performance: W 69-55 #15 Wisconsin (2/16)
Key upcoming game: #8 Ohio State (3/4)

Key information: Senior forward Draymond Green became the fourth player in Michigan State history with 1,000 career rebounds, joining Greg Kelser, Johnny Greene and Antonio Smith. When Michigan State beat Nebraska 62-34 on Feb. 25, it was the fewest points the Spartans had given up in a Big Ten game since beating Northwestern 59-29 during the 1999-2000 season. Michigan State can win the Big Ten title outright with a win over Ohio State on Sunday.

4. Kentucky (29-1, 5-0 last five)

Overall ranking: 1
Key stat: 0.889 opponents shooting efficiency (1st)
Key recent performance: W 83-74 #22 Vanderbilt (2/25)
Key upcoming game: @#20 Florida (3/4)

Key information: Kentucky has won 21 straight games and but has gone just 8-13 ATS in that span. The Wildcats have shot 50 percent or better in 14 of their 30 games. Kentucky has already clinched the SEC title, the 45th in school history.

5. Kansas (25-5, 5-0 last five)

Overall ranking: 3
Key stat: 44.0 opponents effective field goal percentage (15th)
Key recent performance: W 87-86 #7 Missouri (2/25)
Key upcoming game: #38 Texas (3/3)

Key information: Kansas has won seven games in a row, going 4-3 ATS in that span. Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit to beat Missouri, which marked the biggest comeback in the Jayhawks’ stored history. Kansas has clinched its eighth straight Big 12 title.

6. Vanderbilt (21-9, 4-1 last five)

Overall ranking: 22
Key stat: 1.156 shooting efficiency (15th)
Key recent performance: W 77-67 #20 Florida (2/28)
Key upcoming game: @#62 Tennessee (3/3)

Key information: Junior guard John Jenkins has scored in double figures in 62 consecutive games. Vanderbilt’s shooting was blistering in the win over Florida on Tuesday as the Commodores were 12-of-24 from 3-point range for the game and 19-of-23 from the free throw line in the second half.

7. Memphis (22-8, 4-1 last five)

Overall ranking: 24
Key stat: 10.2 block percentage (9th)
Key recent performance: W 84-55 #71 Central Florida (2/28)
Key upcoming game: @#96 Tulsa (3/3)

Key information: Memphis has shot 50 percent or better in 13 of its 30 games this season. Memphis can win the Conference USA championship outright with a win at Tulsa on Saturday.

8. Marquette (24-6, 4-1 last five)

Overall ranking: 13
Key stat: .649 assists/field goals made (6th)
Key recent performance: W 95-78 Cincinnati (2/11)
Key upcoming game: #16 Georgetown (3/3)

Key information: Marquette’s 13 win in Big East play are its most since joining the conference prior to the start of the 2005-06 season. Senior forward Jae Crowder has a steal in 22 consecutive games.

9. Syracuse (29-1, 5-0 last five)

Overall ranking: 2
Key stat: 13.0 block percentage (2nd)
Key recent performance: @#23 Louisville 52-51 (2/13)
Key upcoming game: #23 Louisville (3/3)

Key information: Syracuse has clinched the Big East regular-season title and double bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. The Orange has won nine games in a row but is just 3-6 ATS during the streak.

10. Purdue (20-10, 4-1 last five)

Overall ranking: 27
Key stat: 1.595 assists/turnovers (1st)
Key recent performance: W 75-61 @#12 Michigan (2/25)
Key upcoming game: @#10 Indiana (3/4)

Key information: Senior forward Robbie Hummel has averaged 23.6 points in his last six games and Purdue is 5-1 in that span. Purdue is 16-1 this season when it scores at least 67 points but 4-9 when it doesn’t.