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Catching up with college basketball's unbeatens

Three undefeated teams remain in college basketball, all with the potential to cut down the nets in Dallas.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We are a few weeks into conference play and the unbeatens are falling fast. With Wisconsin and Iowa State both dropping from the ranks in the past five days, just three undefeated teams remain. They all have their strengths and they all have potential road blocks ahead (yes, even Wichita State), so what stands in their way of glory in early April?

Arizona:

What they've done so far: With a stunning comeback against Drexel and a hard-fought road win at San Diego State, the Wildcats have earned their No. 1 ranking. Throw in wins in Ann Arbor and at Pauley Pavilion, and Arizona has proven as much as anybody in the country. Sean Miller's crew is 4-0 against KenPom's top 50 teams with a 4-0 mark in the Pac-12 so far.

Toughest stretch ahead: No stretch is easy in the Pac-12. Obviously. The Wildcats, however, will have an especially tough time navigating the middle of February. Starting with a Valentine's Day game at Arizona State, Arizona gets three straight on the road with games at Utah and No. 21 Colorado to follow. After that, they're greeted at home with California, which is off to a 3-0 start in conference play.

Why they can win it all: Arizona is no stranger to adversity and has handled every test so far. The Wildcats rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat Drexel at Madison Square Garden and held off a furious run by UCLA to stay perfect in front of a national TV audience. Aaron Gordon is proving to be one of the best freshmen in the country, averaging over 12 points and nearly eight rebounds per contest. He also had an 18-and-11 showing on Jan. 4 to help Arizona hand Washington its only loss since mid-December.

Syracuse:

What they've done so far: We all knew the Orange would be good this year. But few could have predicted their unbeaten start, which includes a Maui Invitational title, a win over then-No. 8 Villanova and four-straight wins to start play in the ACC. They've won close games (over St. Francis (N.Y.), St. John's and Miami), blowouts (surprisingly over Villanova and Indiana) and have pulled off thrilling comebacks (this week over Boston College).

Toughest stretch ahead: Syracuse and Pitt are the only two ACC schools to have really impressed this year and they meet in what should be a great one Saturday afternoon. After that, the Orange hit the road to face a Miami team that almost shocked them at home, then they face a vastly-improved Wake Forest.

Why they can win it all: Preseason ACC player of the year C.J. Fair has played at least 35 minutes in eight of the Orange's last nine games, and there's a good reason why. Few opponents have figured out how to stop the 45 percent shooter who is putting up 17 points per game and averaging around seven rebounds per ACC contest. Oh, and Jerami Grant is averaging nearly 13-and-7 himself, giving Syracuse a front line that can contend with any. Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis are also double-figure scorers and Cooney is shooting 42 percent from three.

Wichita State:

What they've done so far: The Shockers haven't lost yet, but tough seasons from some of their opponents make their resume sound a little less impressive. On the other hand, their win over Saint Louis is starting to look pretty good; the Billikens have stormed into the Top 25 behind nine straight wins. But Saint Louis might be the only team Wichita State faces all year that finishes the season in either national poll.

Toughest stretch ahead: The Missouri Valley won't be mistaken for the Big Ten, or even the Missouri Valley Conferences of the past. But the Shockers do have to play Indiana State twice, starting with a home game on Saturday. The Sycamores have won at Notre Dame and split a pair of games against pesky Belmont.

Why they can win it all: Remember all those times you thought mid-majors wouldn't be able to compete with the big boys in March? Then remember when Butler made back-to-back national title games and these same Shockers went to the Final Four? Exactly. It could happen. Fred VanVleet is one of the most dangerously overlooked players in the country on the wing, and Cleanthony Early has posted three double-doubles this season and leads the team in scoring.

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