And then there were two. Arizona played with fire last Wednesday at Stanford, narrowly escaping with a win against the Cardinal. Then the Wildcats got burned by Justin Cobbs of Cal on Saturday en route to their first loss of the 2013-14 campaign. As such, the only remaining unbeatens are Syracuse and Wichita State. It took the Orange an extra session to take care of a feisty Duke Blue Devils' squad, while the Shockers fell behind early by 15 to Evansville before storming back to remain unblemished. As we head into the dog days of conference play, the pressure will continue to mount. Can the Orange and the Shockers withstand the best opposing teams throw at them? Stay tuned to find out.
Some news, notes and observations in this week's "Four on the Hardwood Floor:"
1. Somehow, the Cincinnati Bearcats are still flying under the radar despite a 14-game winning streak that includes victories over Louisville, Memphis and Pittsburgh. Make sure to watch the Sean Kilpatrick vs. Shabazz Napier matchup in this week's Cincy-UConn clash.
2. The improved play of sophomore Malcolm Brogdon this season, along with a recent resurgence by veteran forward Akil Mitchell, has spurred the Virginia Cavaliers to an 8-1 start in ACC play and allowed them to thrive despite the struggles of star Joe Harris.
3. A shout out to Oakland sharpshooter Travis Bader, who recently broke former Duke star JJ Redick's all-time record for threes made in a collegiate career. Bader eclipsed Redick's mark of 457 treys this past Sunday against Milwaukee. The senior is averaging 19.5 points per game for the Grizzlies.
4. The Texas Longhorns have run the Big 12 gauntlet over the past two weeks, streaking to seven straight wins, including four consecutive victories over ranked opponents. Cameron Ridley has been a load down low; the 6-foot-9, 285, big man has collected double-digit rebounds in four of the last six contests. Freshman Isaiah Taylor has really come on lately, while Jonathan Holmes notched a monstrous double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds at TCU on Tuesday. The Longhorns look to be for real.
Who's up? Who's down? The College Hoops Barometer beckons.
Michael Frazier II, G, Florida - Nobody is talking about the Gators, who are a top-5 squad behind the likes of Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young. However, Frazier has been on a tear lately for UF as well. A three-point bomber, the sophomore guard is hitting an impressive 42.8 percent of his treys this season. He has scored at least 14 points in four of the last five games for the Gators, all of which resulted in victories. Frazier is the second-leading scorer for Florida behind Prather. The current 13-game win streak for the Gators is just as much about their depth and supporting cast, which includes Frazier and Virginia tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith, as it is about the notable names mentioned above.
Rod Odom, F, Vanderbilt - Odom isn't flashy, but he gets the job done. An under the radar performer, the Commodores' senior is averaging 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest. He leads the team in both of those categories. Odom has been even better of late, scoring at least 16 points in five of the last six games for Vandy. He also notched his second double-double of the season on January 29th at Georgia. The Commodores are 4-2 in their last six SEC conference games, and the play of Odom is a big reason why.
Sean Obi, F, Rice - A 6-9 freshman from Nigeria, Obi has not gotten much exposure due to Rice's ghastly 6-15 record on the season. However, he has been one of the few bright spots for the Owls during his first collegiate campaign. Obi has notched three double-doubles in his last five games, including a mammoth 22-point, 17-rebound effort in a loss to Marshall on January 23. He also had a 25-point, 19-rebound outburst earlier in the year in a triple overtime win over South Alabama. Not surprisingly then, Obi's season averages hover around the double-double mark; he is averaging 11.7 points and 9.7 rebounds this year. The Owls may be struggling, but Obi's future appears bright.
Khem Birch, F/C, UNLV - Birch has been hosting block parties for the better part of the 2013-2014 campaign, swatting 3.8 shots per contest in his second season with the Rebels. Birch showed promise while at Pittsburgh earlier in his college career, but was never comfortable with the Panthers and ultimately transferred to Nevada-Las Vegas. He got his feet wet last season, and now teams with fellow transfer and rebound snatcher Roscoe Smith to comprise perhaps the most formidable frontcourt duo in all of college basketball. Birch has 10 double-doubles this season; likewise, he has six games with at least five blocks, including six rejections apiece in each of the last two contests. Winners of four straight contests, UNLV is surging, and much of the thanks should to go to the inspired play of Birch, particularly on the defensive end.
DeAndre Daniels, F, Connecticut - Daniels has been a vital part of Connecticut's success this season, providing balance in the frontcourt on a mostly guard-laden squad. He is averaging 13.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Huskies, but suffered a high ankle sprain on January 25 against Rutgers and has not played since that time. Daniels is the second-leading scorer and rebounder on the squad behind dynamic point guard Shabazz Napier in both categories. The Huskies are hoping to have Daniels back for the pivotal matchup with surging Cincinnati, but his long-term health may be more important. Monitor his status over the next week or two.
Kenny Chery, G, Baylor - Chery has been battling a nagging turf toe injury. He missed the Bears' impressive win at Oklahoma State on Saturday, then played just 11 minutes in the loss to Kansas on Tuesday. By contrast, Chery had been averaging over 28 minutes played per game prior to the injury. A JUCO transfer, Chery is managing 11.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per contest, doing an admirable job in attempting to fill the huge void left by the graduate Pierre Jackson. Chery should get back to full strength shortly, but he may be limited in the interim.
Jeff Elorriaga, G, Boise State - Elorriaga left Saturday's loss to UNLV due to a back issue, and his status is up in the air. The senior sharpshooter once hit 10 three-pointers in a single game as a junior, but has taken a back seat to Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks during his senior campaign. Still, Elorriaga is shooting a career-high 47.2-percent from three-point land, taking five treys per contest. He is averaging 8.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game for the Broncos, but could find himself on the shelf for the time being. Fellow senior Thomas Bropleh could see an uptick in production if Elorriaga's absence is extended.
Deon Mitchell, G, Northern Iowa - The second-leading scorer for the Panthers, Mitchell hurt his knee in Northern Iowa's last game against Indiana State. He appeared to shrug off the injury, and started Wednesday's game at Illinois State, but struggled with his shot as well as turnovers. Mitchell will likely struggle even more Saturday when the Panthers host undefeated Wichita State. Mitchell isn't one-dimensional, though, as he is also averaging 2.7 boards and 3.5 dimes per tilt, so he may be able to impact the game despite the injury. Still, a balky knee combined with a tough schedule down the stretch makes Mitchell a risky play.
Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona - The above-referenced loss for the Wildcats to Cal was a double-whammy for Arizona, as they also lost the services of an important cog in Ashley. A foot injury will sideline the 6-8 sophomore for the remainder of the season. Ashley was third on the squad in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest. He was also shooting an impressive 52.2-percent from the floor. In his absence, the Wildcats will have to employ more three-guard sets, while also needing even more production from freshman Aaron Gordon and sophomore big man Kaleb Tarczewski.
Cleveland Melvin, F, DePaul - The leading scorer and rebounder for the Demons, Melvin has missed the last three games due to suspension for violating unspecified team rules. The Demons have suffered without Melvin, dropping all three games without their senior leader. Melvin is averaging 16.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest; he has collected three double-doubles this season. Watch out for freshman guard R.J. Curington, though. Since Melvin was benched, the little-used Curington is playing over 27 minutes per game en route to averaging 15.7 points per tilt. He should continue to see heavy minutes as the Demons search for points in the absence of Melvin.
Stevie Clark, G, Oklahoma State - The Cowboys gave Clark multiple chances, but he just didn't seem to take them seriously. The freshman guard was arrested two times in the month of January, with the latest resulting in his dismissal from the Oklahoma State team. He had been suspended for four games even before the two arrests, for violating team rules, then missed one game in January subsequent to the first incident. This latest event was apparently the straw that broke the camel's back, as the Cowboys finally had enough and let Clark go. The 5-11 freshman point guard was averaging 5.3 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.7assists per game for the Cowboys, including shooting over 40-percent from three-point land on the year. The Cowboys have sputtered in conference play and need reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart to step his game up.
Codi Miller-McIntyre, G, Wake Forest - The breakout sophomore for the Demon Deacons has been battling an ankle injury of his own which forced him to miss Tuesday's game against Duke. The loss proved enormous, as the Blue Devils dismantled Wake Forest by a score of 83-63. Unfortunately, even a healthy Miller-McIntyre may not have made a difference at Cameron Indoor on Tuesday, as the sophomore has been struggling in conference play. After compiling seven 20-point outputs in 13 non-conference games, the point guard has just two 20-point outbursts in 10 ACC contests. This included a dismal 1-for-6 effort at No. 1 Syracuse on January 29 which resulted in a season-low four points. He is also averaging just two assists per game over his last three contests, as compared to his 3.8 assist per game average on the year. Miller-McIntyre should come back shortly for the Demon Deacons, but he must play better upon his return.