With early conference action now underway in college hoops, there are several surprise teams that have stepped up. Here’s a look at five squads that could be worth a look in the weeks to come:
The Missouri Valley Conference squad is ranked 22nd in the nation heading into this week’s action. The Panthers have won 15 in a row since falling to Depaul in the second game of the season. In addition to a perfect 7-0 conference mark, Northern Iowa has also secured wins over Iowa, Iowa State and Boston College in matchups against schools from bigger conferences. Senior forward Adam Koch leads a balanced attack with an average of 13 points per game.
The Bulldogs have taken the early lead in the Western Athletic Conference with a 5-0 mark in league play. The club has recovered from a pair of blowout defeats in non-conference play to New Mexico and Arizona on the road to step up in recent outings. Louisiana Tech has won ten straight contests entering this week’s action. Senior guard Kyle Gibson is eighth in the nation in scoring average at 21.7 points per outing. He scored a season-high 32 points in a January 14th victory over Fresno State.
As usual, the Gaels are an under the radar squad in a West Coast Conference that is dominated by the Gonzaga Bulldogs. St. Mary’s only defeats this season have been to Gonzaga, USC and Vanderbilt. The Gaels were able to gain a solid road win in non-conference action at Oregon last month. Senior center Omar Samhan has emerged to become one of the dominant big men in college hoops this season. He is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Gaels.
The Thundering Herd has already matched its win total from a 15-17 campaign a year ago. The Conference USA squad is 4-0 in league play heading into this week. Marshall will get a huge test in non-conference action on January 20th when 12th-ranked West Virginia comes to town for an intrastate battle. It has been a true team effort for the Thundering Herd this season. While no player on the squad is averaging more than 13 points per game, four players are scoring in double figures for the club.
While George Mason put the Colonial Conference on the map a few years ago with a surprise run to the Final Four, there are some other solid squads in the league. William & Mary has rebounded from an 0-2 start to win 14 of its last 15 contests. The Tribe showed its promise in non-conference play with a pair of road wins against ACC foes Wake Forest and Maryland. Senior guard David Schneider is leading the club in scoring at 18 points per game. At just 6-3, he also is the top rebounder on the squad with six per game.