5 Positive Surprises in College Basketball

Zach GreubelCorrespondent IIJanuary 3, 2012

5 Positive Surprises in College Basketball

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    College basketball is in full swing and there has been no shortage of surprising teams and dramatic finishes. 

    Most of these teams had dismal 2010-'11 seasons and have done a 180-degree turn.

    Obviously there are plenty of other teams that have surprised this season, so feel free to share who some of your surprises are and whether you agree or disagree with these five surprises.

No. 5: Saint Louis Billikens

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    2010-11 Record: 6-10, 12-19; 11th in Atlantic 10

    2011-12 Record: 12-2, 1st in Atlantic 10

    Firstly, what kind of a name is Billikens? Who would name their college team the Billikens? It looks like a mix between a bat and a teletubby, but I digress. The Billikens, like it or not, are off to one of the best starts in school history. 

    It took Saint Louis 14 games to reach 12 wins this season. Guess how many games it took them to reach 12 wins last season—that's right, 31.

    Notable victories include wins over Washington and Oklahoma.

No. 4: UNLV Rebels

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    2010-11 Record: 11-5, 24-9; 3rd in MWC

    2011-12 Record: 15-2; 1st in MWC

    It's not like UNLV had a bad season last year, they made the NCAA Tournament, but who would have thought they would beat North Carolina and then Illinois. That's pretty surprising in my opinion.

    The Runnin' Rebels really caught the nation's attention when they beat then top-ranked North Carolina by double digits in late November. They've kept on rolling.

    UNLV has also beaten Illinois, a revenge game of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, along with California and looks primed to win the Mountain West Conference.

No. 3: Virginia Cavaliers

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    2010-11 Record: 7-9, 16-15; 8th in ACC

    2011-12 Record: 13-1; 1st in ACC

    Senior forward Mike Scott has put the Cavaliers on his back and is carrying them straight to the NCAA Tournament, averaging over 16 points and nine rebounds per game.

    Virginia finished 16-15 overall last season and already has 12 wins under its belt. Their biggest win of the season was a big 12-point win against No. 15 Michigan in late November.

    Right now, the Cavaliers hold first place in the ACC ahead of stalwarts Duke and North Carolina. We'll see if their surprising season continues in 10 days at No. 5 Duke.

No. 2: Baylor Bears

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    2010-11 Record: 7-9, 18-13; 8th in Big 12

    2011-12 Record: 1-0, 14-0; 1st in Big 12

    Shouldn't the loss of Baylor's all-time leading scorer, LaceDarius Dunn, have slowed down the Bears? Apparently the team didn't get the memo. Baylor hasn't missed a beat en route to an undefeated start.

    Forward/center Perry Jones III has shown his dominance in the paint and why he's slated to be one of the first players selected in the 2012 NBA draft.

    Notable victories include wins against the San Diego State, West Virginia and No. 15 Mississippi State.

No. 1: Indiana Hoosiers

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    2010-11 Record: 3-15, 12-20; Last in Big Ten

    2011-12 Record: 1-1, 13-1; 4th in Big Ten

    The Hoosiers have arguably the most dramatic game-winning finish of the season so far. Junior forward Christian Watford swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give then top-ranked Kentucky its first loss.

    Freshman center Cody Zeller leads the team in points and rebounds per game and has the Hoosiers primed for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

    Indiana also beat No. 6 Ohio State last week.