Momentum is defined as the strength or force an object gains in motion, and is calculated by multiplying mass times velocity. In sports, momentum isn't so easily calculated, but that doesn't mean it can't be seen or isn't a real and tangible energy.
Within a single game, one 3-point shot can either ignite an entire team when it swishes through the net...or douse a squad's impetus when the ball clangs off the rim. It can shift from one possession to the next, or from game to game.
Is Momentum Slowing For Unbeaten Orange & Shockers?
There's no denying the outstanding seasons that both the Syracuse Orange and Wichita State Shockers are enjoying. Each owns a perfect record to date and appears destined to earn No. 1 seeds for their conference tournaments as well as an NCAA Regional. But is momentum on their sides?
Syracuse's unblemished record has been put to the test with several narrow victories recently, and the Orange have managed to cover just two of their last five contests. It was a last-second bucket that helped them escape a loss at Pittsburgh, then defense sealed a 56-55 home win Saturday vs. North Carolina State. Jim Boeheim's bunch has clearly positioned themselves as the top team in the nation, and the momentum from those two wins will be needed in an upcoming 3-game road trip that begins this Saturday at Duke.
Likewise, Wichita State has cashed just two if its last five, though the Shockers are being asked to cover bigger and bigger spreads against more inferior Missouri Valley opponents than Syracuse faces in the ACC. Currently a 12/1 choice to cut down the nets April 7 in Arlington, Texas, Gregg Marshall's troops might find it more difficult to continue building momentum the next few weeks against the likes of Loyola-Illinois and Drake while the Orange are going up against the Blue Devils and Virginia Cavaliers.
Gators, Billikens Building Momentum
Should Syracuse or Wichita State stumble, the Florida Gators appear poised to move up to the penthouse of the two polls. Florida has a 3-game lead in the SEC after a 69-59 win at Kentucky last Saturday, giving the Gators a 17-game win streak to tie the school's best mark.
In addition to gaining momentum, Florida also has added to its bench with the recent addition of freshman Chris Walker to the rotation. Walker hasn't exploded with a big game yet, but Billy Donovan is bringing the 6-10 forward into the mix slowly in hopes of having Walker adjusted and ready to contribute come tournament time.
Over in Saint Louis, the Billikens have also reeled off 17 consecutive victories since dropping a 70-65 decision to the Shockers on Dec. 1. Ranked No. 12 in both polls last week, six teams ahead of them -- Arizona, San Diego State, Villanova, Kansas, Michigan State and Iowa State -- suffered a loss the past seven days, and that could push Jim Crews' club into the top 10 when the new rankings come out later today.
The Billikens aren't the only team outside the major conferences to have momentum in their favor right now. Bettors need to keep an eye on the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens, winners of 13 consecutive games, Iona Gaels (11-1 last 12), Davidson Wildcats (11-1 last 12) and Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, who have reeled off 21 consecutive victories to climb to No. 3 in the latest mid-major poll behind Wichita State and Gonzaga.
Blue Devils, Cavaliers & Badgers On Rise
The Wisconsin Badgers appeared dead in the water two weeks ago after losing five of six following a 16-0 start to the campaign, but Bo Ryan's squad has bounced back with four straight wins. Sunday's 75-62 decision at Michigan, avenging an earlier defeat in Madison, should give the Badgers momentum heading into a big test at Iowa this weekend.
Virginia was a Wisconsin victim during the Badgers' early run, but the Cavaliers are quietly sitting a half-game behind Syracuse in the ACC ranks thanks to nine straight dubyas, and Tony Bennett's boys have the Orange in Charlottesville on March 1.
Last but certainly not least, the team everyone loves to hate. Duke's only loss in the last nine games was a 91-89 overtime setback at Syracuse a little more than two weeks ago. Due to weather issues last week, the Blue Devils have three games coming up in the next six days, trips to Georgia Tech and North Carolina followed by a visit from the Orange this Saturday. Winning all three could be just what Mike Krzyzewski's team needs to build momentum towards a No. 1 seed this march.