4 Teams Running Toward the Final Four
Louisville – No team has been more impacted by early-season injuries, and yet, no team has been less impacted by early-season injuries. Make sense? Probably not. Despite losing junior guard Mike Marra (knee) and freshman swingman Wayne Blackshear (shoulder) to season-ending injuries, and not having star point guard Peyton Siva (ankle) on the court this weekend, Louisville continues to win with suffocating defense and balanced offense. The Cardinals are giving up 49.6 points a night, and on Saturday went on the road and held Butler to 39 percent shooting from the field on a court where the Bulldogs had been 57-5 during the Brad Stevens era.
North Carolina – Still no reason to believe the Tar Heels won’t be the team to beat in March and April, as they smacked around Mississippi Valley State 101-75 on Sunday. UNC is struggling from the free-throw line (63 percent) and behind the three-point line (29 percent), and yet nobody has come close to beating them.
Connecticut – The Huskies found out that freshman point guard Ryan Boatright would be suspended six games by the NCAA, but also found out that they don’t really need him right now. Shabazz Napier posted a triple-double (22 pts, 12 rebs, 13 asts) against Coppin State and Jeremy Lamb (22.7 ppg) continues playing like a National Player of the Year candidate. The backcourt duo is carrying UConn and allowing star freshman big man Andre Drummond to develop at a reasonable pace.
Syracuse – Distractions off the court can be particularly, um, distracting to college players. Which makes it even more impressive that the Orange were able to play as intensely and efficiently as ever in Saturday’s 92-47 win over Colgate despite all that’s going on with assistant coach Bernie Fine facing child-molestation accusations and head coach Jim Boeheim trying to avoid being lumped into a public-opinion group with Joe Paterno.