One month into the college basketball season, we have found out a lot more about the 22 New England teams that compete at the highest level of college basketball. UMass Lowell, as expected, is struggling mightily after its transition from DII. Derek Kellogg finally has his alma mater, UMass, back in the Top 25 for the first time since 1998, and Shabazz Napier has restored UConn to college basketball royalty following the Huskies NCAA sanctions last season. Here is a breakdown of some of the best (and worst) New England squads one month into the 2013-14 college basketball campaign.
The Bottom 3:
22. UMass Lowell (1-6)
In the program’s first game as a Division I member, UMass Lowell hung tough at Michigan’s Crisler Center, even leading early in the second half. Michigan woke up and won by 27, and the River Hawks have tasted little success since then.
UML won its first contest of the season yesterday over Division III Mount Ida, but still lacks a victory over a DI opponent. The River Hawks lost all six of their games prior to yesterday’s win by double digits, including a 30 point loss to Cincinnati and a 26 point beatdown at the hands of Boston University.
21. Sacred Heart (1-6)
The Pioneers opened up their season with a 13 point loss to Fairfield, and then proceeded to drop contests to Holy Cross, Brown and Yale before finally picking up their only win of the season on November 23rd at Fordham.
Making matters worse, their athletic director is Bobby Valentine.
20. Fairfield (1-6)
The Stags rank 348th out of 351 DI squads with a meager 56.3 points per game, and 339th overall with a .380 field goal percentage. Fairfield earned its lone win this season on November 9th against Sacred Heart before losing six in a row.
The Top 10:
10. Boston College (3-4)
The Eagles struggled early on (losses to Providence, UMass, and Toledo), but have shown signs of life lately, beating Washington and coming within a desperation three pointer of upsetting UConn.
Last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year Olivier Hanlan leads the Eagles with 21.7 PPG and 3.3 APG, while junior Ryan Anderson ranks second on the team with 19.0 PPG and first with 7.1 RPG.
9. Rhode Island (6-3)
URI has posted a couple of really bad losses this season (by 31 points at SMU and 28 at Arizona), with some mediocre wins mixed in. The Rams will have several opportunities to bolster their resume, as they play in-state rival Providence this Thursday, and at LSU on January 4th.
Senior guard Xavier Munford leads the team with 14.9 PPG, and highly-touted freshman guard E.C. Matthews is contributing 10.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 2.2 APG.
8. Holy Cross (4-3)
The Crusaders' most impressive result this season was a 62-54 loss at North Carolina on November 15th, a game that Holy Cross led by two at the break before Carolina pulled away in the second half.
Senior forward Dave Dudzinski is averaging team-highs in both PPG (17.0) and RPG (7.7), and he is also shooting .462 from three-point territory.
7. Quinnipiac (4-2)
While the Bobcats haven’t turned many heads this season with their wins over Hartford, Albany, Hampton and Maine, their only losses so far were a six point defeat to La Salle, a 2013 Sweet 16 squad, and a narrow loss to BU.
Junior guard Zaid Hearst leads Quinnipiac with 16.0 PPG and 10.8 RPG, and he has posted a double-double in each of his last three outings.
6. Bryant (5-2)
The Bulldogs lack any quality wins, but also have not suffered any terrible defeats—their only two losses this season came at Gonzaga in their season opener and at Harvard on November 20th. Bryant has defeated Vermont, UNH, Dartmouth and Brown, and it still has major road tests remaining at Notre Dame on December 9th and Ohio State on December 11th.
Junior guard Dyami Starks has been an offensive machine this season, averaging a team-best 23.2 PPG. Starks opened up his season with consecutive 35-point efforts against Gonzaga and Dartmouth, and followed those up by dropping 30 on Vermont.
5. Boston University (6-2)
BU’s only true test this season came on November 17th at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion, a game that the Terriers led two and a half minutes into the second half before UConn pulled away.
Sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr. leads BU in both PPG (14.6) and APG (5.4) while also grabbing 4.0 RPG. The Terriers are set to take on cross-town rival Harvard this Saturday, and also play at Maryland and St. Joes before opening up Patriot League play on January 2nd.
4. Providence (7-2)
Providence squandered a major opportunity to make a statement last night, as the Friars suffered a 14 point setback to third-ranked Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ed Cooley’s squad has already defeated BC, Vermont, Vanderbilt and La Salle, however, and still has contests remaining at No. 21 UMass on December 28th and No. 14 Villanova on January 5th.
Senior guard Bryce Cotton is a gifted scorer, as he is leading the Friars with 19.0 PPG and has posted consecutive outings of 20+ points and 5+ assists.
3. Harvard (7-1)
Harvard has beaten up on some weak teams so far this season (Howard, Green Bay, TCU), and the Crimson’s only difficult remaining non-conference game is a New England clash at No. 12 UConn on January 8th.
Junior Wesley Saunders is averaging a team-best 14.9 PPG to go with 6.4 RPG, and junior forward Steve Moundou-Missi is contributing 11.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG for the Ivy League’s most talented squad.
2. UMass (6-0) No. 21/22
UMass made its first appearance in the AP Poll in 15 years following its 6-0 start, including wins over BC, LSU, Nebraska, Clemson, and then-19th ranked New Mexico. The Minutemen currently boast the #1 RPI in all of college basketball (according to www.live-rpi.com), and all five of their starters average over 10 PPG.
Junior forward Cady Lalanne has been unstoppable this season, as he is leading the team in PPG (17.8) and RPG (11.3), while also shooting .643 from the field and making over 72% of his free throws. Lalanne currently leads the nation with 6.2 offensive rebounds per contest, and he should be even stronger by the time A-10 play rolls around.
1. UConn (8-0) No. 12/14
UConn maintains its top spot from the preseason power rankings by virtue of its perfect 8-0 mark, including wins over Maryland, BU, BC, Indiana and most recently #15 Florida.
Shabazz Napier has played like a top candidate for the Wooden Award, as he currently leads UConn in points (15.0), rebounds (7.7), assists (6.1), and steals (1.7), while shooting .588 from long range and .486 overall. The senior guard posted a triple-double (14 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) in UConn’s 80-62 win over Yale on November 11th, and his balanced play has the Huskies ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll one month into the season.