College Basketball’s Most Surprising Teams This Season


cody zeller iu

Yesterday I looked at the most disappointing teams of the 2011-2012 college basketball season thus far, now it is time to analyze which teams have exceeded expectations and the reason for their surprising success.  At the top of that list, the resurrection of the Indiana Hoosiers.

The Hoosiers were expected to take a step this season but NOBODY thought they would make such a drastic leap like they have.  IU has already knocked off #1 Kentucky and #2 Ohio State en route to a 15-1 record.  Freshman center Cody Zeller has provided Indiana with a polished low post scorer and an overall feel for the game that is mature beyond his years.  Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo have elevated their play which has also contributed to the renaissance of the Hoosiers basketball program.

Picked to finish 10th in the Big East preseason predictions, the Hoyas have emerged as a top ten team in the nation already scoring wins at Alabama and Louisville, a pair of victories versus Memphis, and a gusty come from behind victory against Marquette.  A big reason for Georgetown’s success has been the breakout season from senior Henry Sims.  The big man averaged just 3.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists as a junior whereas this year those numbers are 12.1, 5.4, and 3.8.  Getting immediate impacts from freshmen Otto Porter, Jabril Trawick, and Greg Whittington has also given JT3 versatility and options off his bench.

Seton Hall
Maybe it was addition by subtraction for the Pirates this season as they have gotten off to a 14-2 start despite only returning four rotation guys from last year.  A healthy Herb Pope has made all the difference in the world while Jordan Theodore is easily one of the most underrated point guards in the country.  I figured the Hall would fall off once conference play began but they already have home wins against West Virginia and UConn, their first victory versus the Huskies since 2001.  I am not ready to rank them up there with the Big East big boys quite yet, but if they keep winning it will be hard to exclude them from the conversation.

Yes, Mizzou suffered their first loss of the season Saturday at Kansas State, but a 14-0 start was rather unexpected under first year head coach Frank Haith especially since the Tigers lost senior forward Laurence Bowers with an ACL injury prior to the start of the season.  That left Missouri with just eight scholarship players and that number has dipped to seven with the recent transfer of freshman Kadeem Green.  Mizzou has done it with suffocating defensive pressure on the perimeter, getting out in transition, and unselfish play.  As a team they are shooting an incredible 52% from the field and rank second in the nation in points per game.  It will be interesting to see if they can sustain their success throughout Big 12 play.

Iowa State
Transfer U is off to a 12-3 start, winning both of their Big 12 games thus far over Texas and blowing out Texas A&M by 24 on the Aggies’ home floor.  Royce White, Chris Allen, Scott Christopherson, and Chris Babb are their top four scorers and all are transfers with White, Allen, and Babb only in their first year of eligibility at Iowa State.  We knew Fred Hoiberg would have the Cyclones heading in the right direction but it is a bit surprising that he already has ISU as a legit NCAA Tournament caliber team.

San Diego State
Despite losing their top four scorers from last season, the Aztecs are off to a terrific start heading into Mountain West Conference play.  Their only losses have come at Baylor and by two points to Creighton, and SDSU already has wins over three Pac-12 teams; USC, Arizona, and Cal.  Their backcourt quartet of Chase Tapley, Jamaal Franklin, Xavier Thames, and James Rahon has led the way as the Aztecs don’t have a ton of talent in their frontcourt.  None of those four players are seniors meaning they will all return next season.  With the addition of transfer forwards J.J. O’Brien and Dwayne Polee, the future remains bright for Steve Fisher’s squad.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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