Unheralded no longer
Ten on-the-come teams that have emerged from the pack
Here’s the current top 10 in college basketball, with one minor proviso. Anyone included in the Associated Press or USA Today preseason poll need not apply. No Arizonas, no Louisvilles, no Dukes. This top 10 is reserved for teams who have emerged from the cloud of the unranked after the first month of the season.
The hard-charging 10:
The Wildcats rebound resolutely, defend stoutly, and score 83 points a game. Yeah, that might explain the record. After upsetting Kansas and going overtime to beat Iowa to win the Battle 4 Atlantis, they came back from the Bahamas with souvenirs and a new ranking. Last weekend, after they thrashed Saint Joseph’s on its home court, beaten coach Phil Martelli told the Philadelphia media, “The Villanova team that just played is better than the Kentucky team.” The Big East has been duly warned.
The Minutemen haven’t seen a start like this since the mid-1990s, when the program had been hotwired by a coach named John Calipari. They have trailed barely 42 minutes all season and are averaging more than 45 points in the second half. Not many box scores this season will match the line of guard Chaz Williams against BYU: 32 points on only 14 shots, 15 assists and one turnover.
IOWA STATE (7-0)
They blow through you like, well, Cyclones. Five different players have had 20-point games, and in all seven wins, Iowa State had at least four players in double figures. Only two opponents have held the Cyclones under 90. Much more of this and coach Fred Hoiberg -- nicknamed the Mayor of Ames -- might run for governor.
The first team from the SEC to beat a ranked opponent this season? Sit down, Kentucky. It’s the Tigers, who put the defense on UCLA last Saturday. The Bruins came in shooting 55.3 percent for the year but managed only 37.7. That happens at lot at Missouri. The Tigers haven’t lost a home non-conference game since George Bush’s second term, 79 consecutive wins ago.
Toto, they’re not losing to Kansas anymore. “This was a hump game,” coach Tad Boyle said after the Buffaloes gunned down the Jayhawks, after losing 19 in a row to them. Colorado has rolled to nine consecutive wins after an opening loss to Baylor, and has not allowed more than 72 points yet.
An overtime loss to Villanova is the only blemish for the Hawkeyes, who sport a potent combination of an 89.3 scoring averaging, while holding opponents to 36.4 percent shooting. Friday will be crunch time for the scoreboard operator at Iowa State, when the Cyclones host Iowa; a matchup of the Nos. 3 and 9 most prolific offenses in the nation. First team to a hundred wins.
SAN DIEGO STATE (7-1)
The Aztecs just won five games in 11 days, including beating Marquette and Creighton. And they can talk all day about impressive winning streaks. Sunday’s win against Washington makes them 12-2 their past 14 games against the Pac-12. They have won 36 in a row against teams from the state of California. And they close out games like Mariano Rivera; the past 99 games in which they’ve led with five minutes left, they’re 99-0.
The schedule hasn’t been much, but the dominance has been. Only one of the nine victories has been by under 17 points. They have to be eager for the showdowns against the big boys in their league in January. Nothing says ACC basketball more than Pitt at Syracuse.
BOISE STATE (8-0)
This ain’t football. The Broncos have never been 8-0 before. Their 91.9 scoring average is second in the nation, but the schedule is about to go up in class just a tad. Last game: Carroll College of Montana. Next game: Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Tuesday.
The only scar is a 70-62 loss at Colorado, and nothing dishonorable about that. They just went on the road for six games in a row and won the last five. Now they’re off two weeks. There’s a rumor that final exams at Harvard require a little extra study time.