Today's a big day.. college basketball reaches the national airwaves as Kentucky heads to North Carolina on CBS. Will be interesting to see how the Heels follow up their big win over Ohio State. The game I'm really looking forward to is Gonzaga vs Texas on ESPN. These are two of the most intriguing teams, due to youth and style of play. I love star power and its fun to watch Kevin Durant (22 & 10) improve on a day by day basis.
North Dakota State got some big time pub last year when they upset Wisconsin in Madison. Though 4 of last year's wins were over non-D1 teams, the Bison's 16 overall wins was very impressive for a first time independent. This year, the team is off to another solid 4-2 start, and one of those losses was by just 4 points at Texas Tech. What's amazing is that outside of senior Andre Smith, no one else on the roster is older than a sophomore. Its too bad this team isnt affiliated with a conference this year, because they could do some serious damage in a league like the Big Sky or the Mid-Con.
Towson's Gary Neal was a big story last year as the La Salle transfer lit up the CAA averaging 26 ppg once becoming eligible. Neal has been a bit more inconsistent this season, though he poured in 29 in last night's Tigers win over Vermont. He also had one of the season's first 40 point efforts when he lit up Samford for 41 in mid-Novemeber. Mixed in though, Neal does have 3 for 13 and 2 for 16 clunkers. Towson's 4-3 now and though they'll probably upset an upper-level CAA team or two, this is still a middle to bottom of the pack team in conference play.
Navy's off to a surprising 6-2 start. Last year, the Midshippmen did win 10 games, but they were worse than their record suggests. 2 of those wins were against non-D1 schools, 1 was against independent Longwood, and 2 were against bad MEAC teams. This year's wins have been of better quality, and they were competitive in a 70-61 loss at Villanova. Junior Greg Spink, averaging 18 points per game, is one of the best players in the Patriot League.
The assists leaderboard features some surprising names. At the top, Marist's Jared Jordan is no surprise, as he was #1 in this category last season. Mustafa Shakur at #2 is a big surprise. The Arizona point guard had never averaged over 4.7 apg despite playing 30 mpg the past three years. Thanks to a higher tempo offense, the addition of Budinger, and the return of Mclellan, Shakur is pouring in 8.4 assists per game.
#3 in the country is freshman Ishmael Smith of Wake Forest. The Deacons really struggled at the point last year as Justin Gray wasn't suited for the job. Smith has been a major reason why Wake has started 5-1, averaging 12 points and 7.8 assists per game.
Smith isn't the only freshman putting up impressive assist totals. Not surprising to see Mike Conley (6.6 per game) and DJ Augustin (7.2 per game) doing the job for Ohio State and Texas respectively. More surprising is ETSU's Dequan Tilley. Tilley's struggled to hit shots of any kind (6 of 22 from the floor, and 2 of 5 from the free throw line), but he is adding 7.8 assists per the Bucs first four games. He's helped the Bucs deal with the loss of everyone's favorite little sparkplug, star Tim Smith.