Here’s a look around the world of college basketball.
Top-ranked Syracuse remains number one in the Associated Press’ Top 25 NCAA Division I men’s college basketball poll for a fourth straight week. The Orange are one of four unbeaten teams left in the country, but each school’s conference schedule looms as the teams begin play this week.
Team on the Rise: No. 4 Baylor
After a 61-52 win on Monday night over Texas A&M, who were (along with Kansas) the pre-season favorites to win the Big 12, the undefeated and fourth-ranked Baylor Bears (14-0, 1-0) have shown that the road to the regular-season conference championship may go through Waco this year. Bears forward Perry Jones III recorded his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds against the Aggies on Monday night. Baylor also topped No. 15 Mississippi State 54-52 last Wednesday.
Team on the Decline: No. 11 Louisville
Tough losses to No. 9 Georgetown last Wednesday and No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday have left coach Rick Pitino’s Louisville (12-2) team reeling a bit as it gets into its Big East schedule at St. John’s on Tuesday. The Cardinals will host Notre Dame on Saturday. Louisville must quickly get back to form or risk sliding deeper into the top 25.
Player on the Rise: Russ Smith, Louisville
While the Cardinals dropped two straight games, Russ Smith set a career-high with 30 points against Kentucky. It was the sophomore guard’s sixth straight game in double figures. Eleventh-ranked Louisville will need Smith to stay hot as they enter the Big East conference schedule.
Player on the Decline: Dominic Cheek, Villanova
Dominic Cheek went 2-10 from the floor and 1-7 from three-point range before fouling out in Villanova’s 81-77 loss to No. 14 Marquette on Sunday. Cheek did have 20 points in ‘Nova’s 83-69 loss to West Virginia on Wednesday, but he was part of the defensive effort that allowed Darryl “Truck” Bryant to score 34 for the Mountaineers against the Wildcats, who are a disappointing 7-7 on the year.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Frank Martin, Kansas State
The always-intense Frank Martin must guide No. 23 Kansas State (11-1) through a stretch that will see the Wildcats play at No. 14 Kansas on Jan. 4, and host No. 7 Missouri on Jan. 7 and No. 4 Baylor on Jan. 10. Guard Rodney McGruder must bring his best game for K-State to survive the stretch.
This Week’s Bizarre Stat: University of Wisconsin
Before allowing 71 points in a loss to Iowa on Saturday, Wisconsin had held opponents to 65 or fewer points in 18 consecutive games.