Nothing but net with Nick

Each week, Managing Editor Nick Erickson will write about hot teams and players in college basketball

Coming into the season, the storyline was the fabulous three freshmen out to rule the college basketball world: Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kentucky’s Julius Randle.

While all three have had their moments, the storylines of the first half of the 2013-2014 season have extended far beyond the play of these three future NBA superstars.

It is pretty remarkable that we have gone through the first three months of this season with Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State unbeaten.

Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State win because they don’t rely on one or two guys to score. They all play  with a balanced attack on offense and with intensity on the defensive end, a lost art in the run-and-gun systems of the newer brand of college basketball.

Arizona has been ranked No. 1 since the fourth week of the season, and they have given up more than 70 points just twice in 18 games. While freshman Aaron Gordon gets a lot of the attention down low for the Wildcats, they shoot almost 50 percent from the floor, one of the top rates in the country.

Syracuse is basically a mirror-image of Arizona. The Orange are able to win with a smothering 2-3 zone defense that has also held its opponents to under 70 points in all but two games. While none of their offensive statistics stand out, their efficiency is outstanding, only turning the ball over 10 times per game.

Syracuse also pounds teams on the offensive glass, a Jim Boeheim specialty. Tyler Ennis is a phenomenal freshman point guard, but veterans CJ Fair, Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas are the leaders of the Orange squad that advanced to the Final Four a year ago, a key that could go a long way during the pressures of March.

But the most national championship buzz might be coming from classic mid-majors Wichita State and Creighton.

The Shockers of Wichita State literally shocked the nation last year when they emerged out of the West Region and advanced to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed. While they don’t have the quality of wins others have, they have proven they can take down the big boys, just ask Ohio State last season.

Four seniors lead Wichita State, a true rarity in today’s one-and-done mentality. That could pay off in come tournament time. Other than the 2011 Kentucky team, there hasn’t been a team that’s won it all with an entire freshmen lineup.

To me, there’s no better sleeper than Creighton. They boast senior Doug McDermott, who is running away with the National Player of the Year race. He is second in the country in scoring at 26.7 points per game through Tuesday, but he’s not the only Blue Jay who can score.

Monday they knocked down 21 3-pointers in a route of No. 4 Villanova on the road. Senior forward Ethan Wragge rattled home nine of those in the contest, and Creighton ran a top-five team out of its own building.

As Kemba Walker and UConn in 2010 and Steph Curry and Davidson proved in 2008, once you get in the tournament, a hot hand can lead you all the way to a national championship, no matter what seed you might have. I believe the Blue Jays have that type of team that could be lethal if they shoot like they did at Villanova.

There are a lot of possibilities in the making. This is college basketball, and nothing is guaranteed. But one thing is for sure, it is going to be one fun ride to the Final Four.