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Spencer Parlier | | December 15, 2020

10 surprising college basketball teams in 2020, ranked

College basketball rankings: Creighton, West Virginia climb in latest Power 36

It wouldn't be college basketball without some surprises. We are three weeks into the season and there have been more than a handful of teams that have shown-out and surprised college basketball fans across the country. 

On this week's episode of March Madness 365, Andy Katz ranked his top 10 teams that have surprised him this season. Katz was also joined by CBS Sports' Seth Davis, San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher, and Notre Dame's Mike Brey on this podcast. 

Here are Katz's 10 teams that have surprised him so far this season (in a good way!). 

10. Drake

Drake basketball

Drake is off to a 6-0 start which includes a win against Kansas State to begin the year. The Bulldogs have beaten their opponents by an average of 23.8 points. Katz thinks they'll compete for a Missouri Valley Conference crown once conference play tips-off. They'll play their first conference game Dec. 27 when they take on Indiana State. 

9. Penn State

Penn State Basketball

Penn State has lost two games and has started the season 3-2 but Katz is still impressed. They knocked off VCU on a last-second shot and crushed Virginia Tech by 20 points. This all becomes more impressive when you learn that the Nittany Lions made a coaching change right before the season tipped-off. They'll face their toughest test next when they play No. 13 Illinois on Dec. 23. 

BEST OF THE WEEK: Predictions for Gonzaga vs. Iowa and 10 more top college basketball games this week

8. Marquette 

Marquette basketball

Marquette entered Big East play 4-2 when they traveled to Omaha to take on No. 9 Creighton. The emerged 5-2 with a huge resume builder and a hot start to Big East play. The Golden Eagles also have a big win over No. 12 Wisconsin thanks to Justin Lewis' buzzer-beater. They'll take on Seton Hall on Dec. 17 to continue Big East play. 

7. SMU 

SMU basketball

Katz thinks SMU will be the one team that can challenge No. 6 Houston for the American Athletic Conference crown. The Mustangs are 4-0 with a big 66-64 win over Dayton on the road. They start AAC play next when they face East Carolina on Dec. 16. Mark your calendars for Jan. 3 though as the Mustangs face No. 6 Houston at home. 

6. Minnesota

Minnesota basketball

The Golden Gophers have their eyes set on competing for one of the top seeds in the Big Ten come conference tournament time. Katz thinks they'll be in the thick of things in the Big Ten. They've started the season strong with a 6-0 record. Minnesota will get their first big in-conference test on Dec. 15 when they travel to Champaign and play No. 13 Illinois. 

5. Xavier 

Xavier basketball

Xavier is currently on a program pause due to COVID-19 issues. Before the pause, the Musketeers were slicing and dicing through opponents to start the season 7-0. They've knocked off the likes of Cincinnati and Oklahoma during that stretch. Xavier is led by one of this season's breakout stars so far — Zach Freemantle. Freemantle averages 18.7 points and eight boards per game. 

BREAKOUTS: 10 rising stars in college basketball you should keep an eye on, ranked

4. Clemson

Clemson basketball's Aamir Simms

Clemson has waylaid teams all over the country. They are 2-0 versus the Big Ten and 2-0 against the SEC with wins over Mississippi State, Purdue, Maryland and Alabama. Aamir Simms has also broken out like he was expected to this season. The Tigers forward averages 11.6 points per game and shoots more than 57 percent from the field. 

3. Oklahoma State 

Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham

If you've been paying attention to Oklahoma State this season you have probably heard the name Cade Cunningham. Cunningham is the Cowboys' freshman phenom who averages 18.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Oklahoma State is getting contributions from other guys too. Isaac Likekele almost averages a double-double with 10.8 points and eight rebounds per game. 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL RANKINGS: Creighton, West Virginia, Tennessee climb in Power 36 for Dec. 14

2. San Diego State

San Diego State basketball's Jordan Schakel

The Aztecs are turning heads all across the country. San Diego State is off to a 5--0 start with wins over Pac-12 contenders UCLA and Arizona State. Their guard Jordan Schakel was this past week's player of the week with 25 points and six rebounds against the Sun Devils. Keep an eye on SDSU as they are now Katz's favorite to win the Mountain West. 

1. Missouri 

Missouri basketball

If you thought Missouri would be one of the best teams in the SEC in mid-December then you should take a bow. The Tigers are off to a 5-0 start and are now the No. 16 team in the country after taking it to Oregon, Wichita State and No. 13 Illinois in the early weeks of the season. Mizzou will face No. 10 Tennessee on Dec. 30 to see who really is the team to beat in the SEC. 

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