College Basketball’s Most Surprising Teams

College basketball's most surprising teams

The college basketball season and some teams are among college basketball’s most surprising as the season is still in its infancy. There is no reason to overreact, but it is always interesting to see which teams live up to their preseason rankings and which teams clearly need some work.

Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes have been dominant to start the season. They are one of the few teams that have played at least two good teams. Coach Holtmann and crew opened the season by beating Cincinnati in a hard-fought game. The Buckeyes were down at halftime but had a huge second half to run away with the game.

They followed that game up with a dominating performance over Villanova. This game was never in doubt from the tip. Ohio State was able to control the game and coast to a victory. It is always eye-opening to see a Jay Wright led team be manhandled.

Reasons for the Buckeyes Success

Ohio State checks off every box. They are loaded with guards, including impressive freshman DJ Carton. Carton put up a monster stat line of 11 points, five boards, and five assists against Villanova.

The Buckeyes also have the services of Kaleb Wesson, one of the best big men in the country. Wesson has shown improvements every year, and this seems to be the year he can put it all together.

Ultimately, Ohio State is playing so well because they are a complete team. They have athletic guards that can defend, score, and distribute. They have physical big men to compete in the Big Ten. They a phenomenal coach in Chris Holtmann. All-in-all, Ohio State has the depth and the talent to make noise and find themselves in Atlanta in April.

Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers lost Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone, and Kyle Alexander from a top-five team last year. For most teams, that would be impossible to overcome, especially with the lack of a big recruiting class. Well, not for Tennessee.

Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner, two valuable players from last year’s team, have taken the next step in their development and become fantastic players. Turner is coming off a 16 point, eight-rebound, and seven assist game against Washington.

Yves Pons, one of the highest-rated recruits in Tennessee history, did not play much last year but is coming into his own this season. He will be the key to Tennessee’s success as the third scoring option.

Reasons for the Volunteers Success

Turner and Bowden are as good as it gets. They both are electric scorers, especially Bowden, and are well-rounded players. Rick Barnes has utilized a short bench, typically playing seven guys in close games, so Bowden and Turner will play big minutes and have plenty of shots.

Tennessee is also freakishly athletic. They all are quick and intelligent players, making them elite defenders. The Vols just held a very talented Washington team to 62 points. If they can continue to compete defensively, there is no reason they cannot be a top-five seed in March. That would be a remarkable feat for Rick Barnes.

Arizona Wildcats

The Wildcats have played a weak schedule to this point. Their best win is a 21-point drubbing of an average Illinois team at home. However, Arizona was very poor for the first time in several years last year, so this 3-0 start with exciting basketball is a welcome site for Wildcat fans.

Arizona was projected to finish atop the Pac-12 and make it back to the NCAA Tournament. So far, they are off to an impressive start and are earning all that preseason hype.

Reasons for the Wildcats Success

Sean Miller put together one of the best recruiting classes of the year and has a freshman led team. Most notably, Josh Green and Nico Mannion, two projected first-round picks, have played great. They are a dynamic backcourt that seems to create a new highlight reel with every game.

Zeke Nnaji, another freshman, has been extremely impressive. He has great scoring ability and has been dominating. Nnaji was an afterthought with this freshmen class, so for him to be just as good as Mannion and Green so far means Arizona is very deep.

Miller was able to land two transfers, Max Hazzard and Jemarl Baker, to add some shooting and scoring off the bench. Hazzard is an electric scorer and a true microwave. Baker is a great shooter and will fit nicely next to Mannion.

Arizona’s first true test will not come until December against Baylor, but for now, they have been quite impressive.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Red Raiders lost a ton of talent, much like Tennessee. Chris Beard brought the team to the National Championship game and was as close as it gets to cutting down the nets. From that excellent team, he lost Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Brandone Francis, Tariq Owens, and Norense Odiase, all of whom played major minutes.

To be back in the national conversation after losing that much is impressive. Chris Beard is easily one of the best coaches in the nation and has solidified that these last two years.

Admittedly, Texas Tech has played no one yet. They have blowout wins over the bottom of the barrel in college hoops. Their first test will come from Iowa on Thanksgiving.

Reasons for the Red Raiders Success

When talking about Texas Tech, it has to start with Davide Moretti. He got better with each game last year and has taken over the playmaking role this year. He is extremely crafty and very creative with the ball.

The Red Raiders also have seen phenomenal play from Kyler Edwards, TJ Holyfield, and freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey. These three will be the key scorers all season and will benefit greatly from Moretti’s playmaking.

The most underrated transfer of the year is without a doubt, Chris Clarke. Clarke was phenomenal at Virginia Tech and now lands at Texas Tech where he will make a huge impact. Clarke has his hands on every aspect of the game always. He is one of the true triple-double threats in college hoops. Clarke is crucial to the Red Raiders’ success.

Florida Gators

The Gators were a very trendy Final Four pick to start the season, after being ranked sixth in the preseason polls.  So far, they have not lived up to expectations. They opened the season with a safe victory over North Florida. In game two, the Gators were dominated from tip to buzzer by Florida State.

The response to the Florida State loss was a half-hearted six-point victory over Towson. All-in-all, Florida has not impressed anyone. There is a ton of talent on the roster, albeit relatively young talent, but they do not have any excuses for this poor start.

Reasons for the Gators Slow Start

Florida landed the top grad transfer in Kerry Blackshear which put them over the top. They returned Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson, both of which were breakout freshmen last year. Surrounding them are Noah Locke, and freshmen Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis.

The Gators are struggling because they cannot score the ball. Blackshear has been a consistent double-double threat, but the rest of the team has been very inconsistent. Making the situation worse, the Gators’ best shooter, Noah Locke, has been ice cold to start.

Florida still has plenty of time to turn it around. Early losses in the college basketball season are nothing more than a blip on the radar. However, there is a reason to be concerned in Gainesville.

College Basketball Parity

The college basketball season is off to an exciting start. There is as much parity this year as ever before. It is possible that there will be a new number one team weekly and plenty of fluctuation in the Top 25. Regardless, it will be an entertaining season. Buckle up!

Main Photo
Embed from Getty Images