NBA-DRAFT.com delves into some of this season's surprises and disappointments to see if these teams can keep it up throughout the remainder of the regular-season.
Can they get by with their point guard play? Talk about inconsistencies, Tyshawn Taylor has four games of 5 turnovers or more, while Elijah Johnson, playing a role more off the ball has one game himself with 7 turnovers and the Jayhawks as a team are second-worst in the Big 12 with 15.2 turnovers per game. Luckily, Taylor and Johnson have made up with their poor decision-making with timely playmaking and 3-point shooting. Oh, and Kansas has some double-double waiting to happen every night in Thomas Robinson (17.8 points, 11.4 rebounds per game).
The Jayhawks have lost games to two of the nation's top teams in Kentucky and Duke and have posted notable wins again Georgetown and a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State team at home. We aren't predicting that Kansas will chalk up their 8th straight Big 12 title, especially with Baylor and Missouri being so strong this year, but Kansas should have themselves a nice regular-season with about 25 or so wins, but will fall short yet in the postseason.
Consistency is the question for the Bulldogs. They possess one of the top frontcourt players in all of the land in UTEP-transfer Arnett Moultrie, a 6'11", 230-pound big who is tough on the boards (11.3 rebounds per game) with a soft touch (55 percent from the field) and some range (3-of-4 from 3-point range on the year). He has been remarkable in his first year with the program, while Renardo Sidney, head coach Rick Stansbury's other prized forward, has been inconsistent at best.
Is this the season the potential is finally realized for the Bulldogs? We've been saying that for a few seasons, but with a veteran lead guard like Dee Bost and quality role players like Rodney Hood, Wendell Lewis and Deville Smith. The Bulldogs did lost at home to Akron. And nearly lost to FAU the other night (although two starters, including Moultrie sat out), losing a halftime lead and trailing with 7 minutes to go.
This Mississippi State team is a contender, not just in the SEC, but nationally as well.
After the big win against Kentucky at home, everyone wants to know if the Hoosiers are back. Their second-best win is against an above-average NC State team on the road, much different from playing some of the Big Ten's elite away from home, but Indiana is coming together nicely at this point in the year. Their 9-0 mark is impressive, but at worst, 8-1 was expected this season. The biggest reason why has been highly touted freshman Cody Zeller, one of the top big men prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft at nearly 7-feet tall, mobile and athletic; he is averaging 15 points on a very impressive 66 percent from the field, 7.4 rebounds and has been a defensively terror with 2.4 steals per game and 1.6 blocks per game.
But the Hoosiers also have athletic slasher Victor Oladipo who is good for double-digit points nearly every night, a handful of rebounds and a couple of steals. And as the nation saw against Kentucky, Christian Watford, a 6'8" small forward with long arms, quick off the dribble and a solid perimeter shooter. Although his scoring is down this season due to more touches for Zeller, his 3-point shooting is way up to 48 percent, again, due to the post touches of Zeller.
Indiana lacks a true point guard, the team's one real weakness, but should be able to overcome if they can get the ball to Oladipo and Watford breaking down defenses and Zeller in the post; Zeller is key and could lead this team back to the top two or three in the Big Ten.
Are they a top 25 team? A year after losing point guard Demetri McCamey and three forwards Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond, no one, not even coach Bruce Weber expected his young Fighting Illini 10-0 at this point. But then again, Illinois has played one of the weaker schedules for ranked teams, its toughest test coming at the hands of Gonzaga at home in Assembly Hall. The schedule gets much tougher from here on out with UNLV and Missouri and then the start of Big Ten play before New Year's.
The guard play of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson is good, but not great. Neither is consistent enough shooting the ball (40.1 percent from the field combined) and neither is a true-playmaker. Fifth-year Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco has been the heart and soul and the leader they needed him to be thus far. His hard-nosed play will fit right in in the Big Ten, but he'll need help. And more help than young center Meyers Leonard can offer. Illinois will fade, likely finishing as the sixth best team in the conference behind Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana, but still has hopes for the postseason as a double-digit seed.
San Diego State
The Aztecs have undoubtedly surpassed expectations after losing their top four scorers from last season. The lone returning starter guard Chase Tapley has been fantastic thus far, more than doubling his scoring from last season to 17.7 points per game as a lights out shooter, 51 percent from behind the arc; he has made multiple 3-pointers in 8 of the Aztecs' 11 games this season.
San Diego State has now has wins against Arizona, California and UCSB, losing only to Baylor (on the road) and Creighton. Although the Mountain West is no rollover with UNLV and New Mexico, with some hard-nosed defense, the Aztecs could be looking for their fourth straight 25-win season.
What kind of team are the Tigers? No one knows for the second year in a row. They were nearly swept out of Maui, narrowly beating a Tennessee team that just lost to Austin Peay (Memphis previously beat them by 31) and needed double overtime to do so. And most recently, Memphis lost to Murray State, falling out of the Top 25 and sits 5-3 overall.
If we told you that Will Barton is playing the best basketball of his young career, averaging team-highs in scoring (20.4 points) and rebounds (7.6); that turnover-prone point guard Joe Jackson was playing more in control and cut his turnovers down from 3.3 per game as a freshman to 2.1 as a sophomore and is shooting better across the board; that Josh Pastner brought in a high-school All-American to the frontcourt, while returning Tarik Black and Wesley Witherspoon. If we told you those facts, it would seem that Memphis would avoid the same early-season struggles that plagued them last year, but we'd be wrong.
Adonis Thomas, a highly touted, super-athletic and versatile forward is averaging 3.3 points in Memphis' loses, shooting 4-of-18 during this span (22.2 percent), but in wins, the freshman is averaging 12.6 points, on 53.3 percent from the floor. The senior Witherspoon was fantastic on opening night against Belmont, recording 22 points, but has failed to hit double-digit scoring a second time this season.
If Pastner can get Thomas and Witherspoon going, there is no doubt that Memphis will remain the team to beat in the C-USA, not UCF or Marshall.