In the game of sports cliché bingo, the phrase "'there is no I in team" is usually found in the center square — a popular mantra repeated by most coaches and players. However, as the college basketball season winds toward Selection Sunday — the equivalent of Christmas for a hoops fanatic — the one certainty this season is that the top teams are just that … teams. Syracuse, Arizona, Florida and Wichita State all lack a leading actor — there are no Jabari Parkers or Andrew Wiggins or even Doug McDermotts stealing scenes. No, these teams all rely heavily on an ensemble cast. It's one of the common threads found throughout the elite teams. Along with their balanced lineups, college basketball's top squads boast a strong defensive presence that hae them on pace to earn top seeds when the NCAA Tournament field is announced on March 16. Syracuse, Arizona, Florida and Wichita State are ranked among the top 10 in scoring defense and among the top teams when it comes to slowing down their opponents. Let's take a closer look at each team: Syracuse Orange Conference: ACC Top 25 players in Miami Heat history The Buzz: Heading into the weekend, Syracuse and Wichita State are the only remaining undefeated teams in the nation. The Orange rank eighth in the country in scoring defense by limiting the opposition to 59.1 points per game. The team also ranks fifth in the nation in turnovers per game (9.4) and eighth in turnover margin (4.8). Syracuse has four players averaging double-digits with the team's leading scorer — C.J. Fair — chipping in 16.7 points per game. He ranks the highest among these team's top scorers at No. 155. Arizona Wildcats Conference: Pac-12 The Buzz: If not for giving up a last-second shot against Cal on Feb. 1, the Wildcats would be sitting with Syracuse and Wichita State among the undefeated teams. Arizona holds teams to a little more than 57 points per game this season — good enough for fifth in the nation — and limits foes to less than 40 percent field-goal shooting. Three players average double figure scoring, with the team's leading scorer — Nick Johnson- averaging 16.2 points per game. He is ranked No. 188 in the country in points per contest. Florida Gators Conference: SEC The Buzz: No team better embodies the team-first mentality than the Florida Gators. The team has four starters averaging double digits in points, with Casey Prather leading the team (15.7 points per game.) His average ranks him No. 225 in the nation. Billy Donovan's squad leads the SEC in scoring defense (57.4 points per game,) which is good enough for sixth in the country. The Gators also rank first in the league in field-goal percentage defense. UF limits opponents to 38-percent field-goal shooting. Wichita State Shockers Conference: Missouri Valley The Buzz: Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has done an amazing job parlaying the program's Final Four appearance last season into a strong 2013-14 campaign. Since last season, the Shockers have gone 55-9 and appear to have the inside track on becoming the first team to finish with an undefeated season since the 1979 Indiana Hoosiers. Marshall's team ranks No. 11 in the country in scoring defense — allowing less than 60 points per game — while holding foes to just under 40 percent shooting. The team has three players averaging double-figure scoring, but its top threat — Cleanthony Early — is only averaging 16.3 points per game.
Syracuse, Arizona, Florida and Wichita State hoops thrive thanks to team-first mentality
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel | Feb 12