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Last of the Unbeatens: Wichita State enters crucial stretch

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

Welcome back to our feature, “Last of the Unbeatens,” where we run through each of the undefeated teams remaining in the country – as well as where they might suffer their first loss.

And then there were two.

After going a few weeks with the same three unbeatens, Arizona lost on Saturday night to California – and also lost power forward Brandon Ashley to a season-ending ankle injury. So while the Wildcats could still be one of the favorites for a national championship, they are no longer on this list.

Only two unbeatens remain: Syracuse and Wichita State. The Orange survived Duke in overtime in one of their stiffest tests yet this season, while the Shockers continued to steamroll the Missouri Valley.

Will we see the same teams on this list next week? Will there even be a list next week?

Syracuse (22-0)

What they've done recently: The Orange have won three games since last week's post, a road win over Wake Forest and then a couple of home victories against Duke and Notre Dame. All three games were within 10 points, but the Orange made plays down the stretch to get wins. Against Wake, it was Tyler Ennis; against Duke, it was C.J. Fair; and against Notre Dame, it was Trevor Cooney.

Feb. 9 vs. Clemson: The Tigers have been one of the surprises of the ACC so far this season, getting off to a 6-3 start in conference play, and 15-6 overall. They have already defeated Duke this season, and also beat Florida State on the road over the weekend. Clemson plays some of the best defense in college basketball, and its ability to slow down the pace of the game could keep it close.

Feb. 12 at Pittsburgh: This might be where Syracuse falls. Pittsburgh is in the midst of a slump, losing back-to-back home games to Duke and Virginia after getting off to an 18-2 start. The Panthers took Syracuse to the wire up at the Carrier Dome just three weeks ago, and Jamie Dixon has plenty of experience going against the 2-3 zone, and has had success in the past.

Feb. 15 vs. North Carolina State: Mark Gottfried's troops have had their moments this season, beating Tennessee and Florida State, but the Wolfpack are prone to struggling on the road. T.J. Warren has the ability to carry NC State, but will he get open against the zone? The biggest issue for the Wolfpack could be their inconsistency when it comes to defending in transition.

Wichita State (23-0)

What they've done recently: Wichita State hasn't really been tested in weeks. The last single-digit game was against Missouri State on January 11, and the Shockers took down Loyola Chicago and Evansville this past week. In Saturday's game against the Purple Aces, the Shockers got down early – but a big run midway through the game put it out of reach.

Feb. 5 at Indiana State: Well, here we go. The game many people have had circled as the first game the Shockers will lose. Indiana State lost the first meeting by 20 points, but that was in Wichita and star point guard Jake Odum was coming off a concussion. The biggest keys for the Sycamores will be protecting the defensive glass and staying out of foul trouble.

Feb. 8 at Northern Iowa: If Wichita State gets by Indiana State, another difficult test is up for the Shockers. Northern Iowa lost its first home game of the season on Saturday, falling to Indiana State. Prior to that, the Panthers had won 11 straight MVC games at home. The first meeting went Wichita's way, by 14 points. Northern Iowa will have to be hot from 3-point range.

Feb. 11 vs. Southern Illinois: And this is where it gets easier. If Wichita State gets out of this week without a blemish, it's more likely than not that the Shockers end the regular season with an undefeated record. Southern Illinois lost by 15 at home in the first meeting, but the Salukis have won three in a row and are playing well heading down the stretch.

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