The college basketball season is now in full swing and may I say, what a time it is to be alive. Upsets left and right, athleticism on the floor like you wouldn’t believe and elite competition on a nightly basis. The start to the season has had it all. This being said, there have been some teams who have crept up under the radar and been an early surprise to the 2018-2019 CBB season. In this article, I will highlight five of these early surprises and examine the contributing factors given to their early success. We will start with a team that coming into the season, could well have been non-existent. But thanks to a few notable upsets and great team play, this team has the whole nation buzzing and on notice.
5. Furman (7-0)
That’s right, we’re talking about Furman baby. If you have not yet gotten yourself acclimated with the Paladins I suggest you do so quickly, as this team is absolutely loaded. The Paladins are currently sitting pretty with a 7-0 record, and already have two major upsets to add to their resume after knocking off Loyola Chicago and Villanova, both of which came on the road. If you think these upsets were flukes you would be sadly mistaken, as Furman is one of the deepest teams in the entire country. Led by Sophomore Forward Clay Mounce, who has been shooting the absolute lights out to start the year, the Paladins are poised for a deep cinderella run come March. The thing that attracts me the most to the Furman team is just how suffocating their defense is. They have given up 80 points or more only once this year and held Villanova to just 68 points. Don’t blink twice, because this team is red and hot and are not ready to cool off anytime soon.
4. Gonzaga (7-0)
It was no surprise that Gonzaga was going to be good this year, but I think it is safe to say that no one could have predicted just how special this team is. Gonzaga is the most complete team in the nation and is easily the most talented team Mark Few has ever had. The Zags have started their season with a 7-0 record, that has been highlighted by a Maui Invitational championship, in which they beat former No. 1 Duke. This championship not only gave them a shiny trophy, but also earned them the top spot in the AP Polls. Gonzaga has gotten off to this blazing hot start in thanks to a three-headed monster that is widely considered one of the best big 3’s the nation. Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell Jr. and Josh Perkins have been seemingly unguardable thus far. They know their role, compliment each other nicely and play the type of team basketball coaches dwell over. If these 3 can stay healthy along with a continuous production from the Zags deep bench, I think you are looking at a potential national championship candidate.
3. Michigan (6-0)
Michigan ended their 2017-2018 season in the most devastating of ways. They got blown out in the National Championship game by the Villanova Wildcats and were left to wonder what was next for their program. With some key losses to their roster, Michigan was projected to be a sub par team at best this season, and was even picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Well 6 games in and the Wolverines have completely shut up their haters. Their revenge tour started on November 14th in Philadelphia, where the Wolverines embarrassed the Villanova Wildcats by the score of 73-46. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but this could not have been more false as Michigan was extremely hot from floor the entire night. Michigan has been led thus far by Sophomore Guard Jordan Poole who has been an absolute play making machine. Michigan also has great length which has allowed them to dominate in the post on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines next test will be tonight as they host an ACC powerhouse in the likes of North Carolina. If the Mason Blue can win that game convincingly, I think you have to consider them as one of the best teams in the entire nation.
2. Buffalo (5-0)
If you are a fan of offense, Buffalo is the team for you. The Bulls have one of the most high-octane offenses in the country which is led by three Seniors in the likes of CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris who all averaged between 15.5 and 17.2 points per game last winter. This offense was put into practice on November 9th when the Bulls went into Morgantown, and upset the West Virginia Mountaineers in OT. WVU was ranked in the top 15 nationally at the time so the upset win, really put the Bulls on the map. Fast forward to present day, and Buffalo is now ranked #21 in the country, has blown out seemingly every opponent they have faced, and is finally getting the respect they deserve. This Buffalo team is not going anywhere. Come March, their name will be on your brackets and they may very well be a surprise Final Four group.
1. Ohio State (6-0)
Last year was a magical season for the Ohio State Buckeyes. They finished the season with an overall record of 25-9 and were considered as one of the feel good stories of the 2017-2018 season. A big part of the Buckeyes success in 2017, came from the likes of Keita Bates-Diop who broke onto the scene and became one of the elite ball players in the entire nation. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Bates-Diop is now in the NBA and Ohio State was going to find a way to produce without him. The expectations coming into the year were slight, but head coach Chris Holtmann had a mission to prove the critics wrong. To say this mission has been accomplished thus far, would be an understatement. The Ohio State Buckeyes have seemingly exploded out of the gates, winning their first 6 games in dominating fashion, and have found themselves as the 16th ranked team in the country. I was watching their game vs Cleveland State the other night and I must say, you can’t even tell that Bates-Diop is gone. They are extremely fast, very well-disciplined on the defensive side of the ball, and can flat-out shoot the rock. They also have a player in the likes of Sophomore Forward, Kaleb Wesson who in my eyes, is the most underrated player in the Big Ten Conference. Overall, Ohio States ability to fill in the cracks that Bates-Diop has left in such a short period of time has been absolutely admirable. They are playing some of the best basketball in the nation right now and think the sky is the limit for the team up north.
There you have it guys, the top 5 early surprises of the 2018-2019 NCAAB Season. Did I miss someone? Did I get the list right? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on twitter @Petersnyder23. Until next time, stay humble!