|UCF HEADLINES LIST OF TEAMS TO WATCH
December 22, 2010
Mike, SCS.com Staff Writer
We’re just over a month into the College Basketball season and there are several teams that are off to great starts that few people know about. There are only nine remaining unbeaten teams, but some of these names are not so familiar. UCF out of Conference USA is ranked in the top 25 giving the conference one more ranked team than the ACC. UCF has in-state wins over both Florida and Miami on neutral courts making the Golden Knights one of the teams to watch throughout the remainder of the year. Here is a list of five teams flying under the radar that we should keep an eye on as we head into 2011.
5. Northwestern (8-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Key Win(s): Creighton, Georgia Tech
What We Know: Northwestern can really shoot the three. Forward John Shurna is a pure shooter and can really score; the junior is averaging 24 points-per-game and is shooting 62 percent from beyond the arc. The Wildcats do not have any real eye-popping victories, but have been solid and have won every game by double-digits. Northwestern has also had little trouble scoring the basketball and have not been held below 65 points and have scored over 70 in seven of its eight games thus far. Guard Michael Thompson at 5’10” may be one of the more underrated point guards in the conference as Thompson had averaged 16 points and just under five assists in his first eight games. Drew Crawford, a 6’5” guard, has been solid as well averaging better than 15 points-per-game. The Wildcats have shot better than 50 percent from the field including 43% from three-point-land and have six players averaging at least 4 points.
Key Games Upcoming: at St. John’s (12/21), at Purdue (12/31), Michigan State (1/3), at Illinois (1/6), at Michigan State (1/15), at Minnesota (1/26), Ohio State (1/29)
4. Belmont (9-2, 2-0 Atlantic Sun)
Key Win(s): None
What We Know: We really do not know that much about Belmont, but we know that they can put the ball in the basket. In 11 games, Belmont has not scored below 66 and have hit the 80-point-plateau seven times. The Bruins have pretty good depth with nine players averaging better than 5 points-per-game. Both of Belmont’s losses came on the road to SEC schools; the Bruins lost by nine at both Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Belmont even led at halftime against Vanderbilt. The Bruins will get another shot at Tennessee this week as they visit Thompson-Boling Arena to battle a Tennessee squad that lost to both Oakland and Charlotte last week.
Key Games Upcoming: at Tennessee (12/23), Jacksonville (1/10), Libscomb (1/13), at Libscomb (1/25)
3. Drexel (8-1, 1-0 CAA)
Key Win(s): at Louisville
What We Know: Drexel proved it could really play last week as the Dragons shocked Louisville in Freedom Hall. Gerald Colds scored 20 points to propel the Drexel upset. Sophomore guard Chris Fouch is averaging just shy of 20-points-per-game to lead the Dragons in scoring while Samme Givens, at just 6’5”, is a double-double waiting to happen. Givens has ripped down 10 rebounds in all, but one of Drexel’s contests. The Dragons have also proved they can win the close games with five of their eight wins coming by six points or less. Drexel will have another shot to shock the world on Wednesday as it visits the Carrier Dome to take on fifth-ranked Syracuse.
Key Games Upcoming: at Syracuse (12/23), at VCU (1/5), at George Mason (1/19)
2. The Mountain West Conference
Key Win(s): San Diego State over Gonzaga, UNLV over Wisconsin, UNLV over Virginia Tech, TCU over USC, San Diego State over California, TCU over Texas Tech, BYU over Arizona
What We Know: If there were ever a year where the Mountain West was deeper and stronger than the ACC, it’s this one. Two schools from the conference are ranked in the top 25 with San Diego State sitting at #7 (BYU is 23rd) and four teams rank in the top 60 in the RPI. Every school in the conference except Wyoming ,who is 6-6, has a winning record. San Diego State, BYU, New Mexico and UNLV are a combined 41-4 while TCU has a victory over a USC team that pushed Kansas to the brink on Saturday in Lawrence. While many say that the Mountain West has been deserving of an automatic BCS-bid in football, the conference has the look of a very strong basketball conference as well.
Key Games Upcoming: UNLV at Kansas State (12/21), Utah at Butler (12/22), New Mexico at Texas Tech (12/29), New Mexico at Dayton (1/1), BYU at UNLV (1/5), UNLV at San Diego State (1/12), San Diego State at New Mexico (1/15), New Mexico at UNLV (1/22), San Diego State at BYU (1/26), BYU at New Mexico (1/29)
1. UCF (10-0, 0-0 C-USA)
Key Win(s): Florida, Miami
What We Know: UCF may very well be the best team in Florida after beating both Florida (who beat Florida State) and Miami on neutral courts. The Golden Knights have won with defense; UCF has allowed just two of its 10 opponents to break 60 points. UCF is ranked third nationally in field goal percentage and is just outside the top 25 in scoring. Forward Keith Clanton is averaging nearly 17 points and nine rebounds a game while shooting nearly 60 percent from beyond the arc for the Golden Knights. Sophomore Marcus Jordan, who happens to have pretty good basketball genes, is averaging 16 points and is second on the team in assists. UCF also found itself ranked in the top 25 this week and appears to have a very good chance of challenging Memphis for the Conference USA crown.
Key Games Upcoming: at UMASS (12/22), at Memphis (1/26)