|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
The start of the college basketball season has been awesome with a capital A! There has been excitement galore, great games, fabulous finishes and diaper dandies making headlines. It's barely December and we've already seen upset city performances and great individual efforts. The sport has created such a buzz.
Along with all the excitement, there have been some big surprises. Who would have thought a good Michigan team would have three losses at this point? How many people believed Syracuse would be in the top five after losing Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland?
Here are six programs that have shot out of the gate this season. Some may not be total surprises, but they deserve credit for having unblemished records so far. Others were unranked at the start of the campaign but have made major noise.
Villanova: Jay Wright's team gets major props for winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. The upset of Kansas was monumental, and there was no letdown against a ranked Iowa team in the final. Tournament MVP James Bell has been a difference-maker for the Wildcats.
Iowa State: Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones won 20-plus games each of the past two seasons but were not expected to finish among the elite in the Big 12. The preseason prognosticators may have to think again, as Melvin Ejim & Co. have earned wins over Michigan and BYU. I cannot wait to see the Iowa-Iowa State showdown. It should be intense.
Wisconsin: Bo Ryan's Badgers have been productive offensively and scored wins over Florida and St. John's. Sam Dekker has developed into a special player, and Frank Kaminsky has had several surprising performances, including 43 points against North Dakota.
Connecticut: Kevin Ollie's Huskies were expected to be good, but they have crafted the art of winning close calls. Victories over Maryland, Boston College, Indiana and Florida have been nail-biters, all going down to the wire. Against the Gators, Shabazz Napier hit a buzzer-beater to get the Huskies to the winner's circle.
UCLA: Another team that was expected to have a solid season, the Bruins have won a number of blowouts and survived a tough challenge from UC Santa Barbara. Jordan Adams has returned from a serious injury to provide a spark as Steve Alford's team is unbeaten so far.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers schedule so far has been criticized, but so far they've handled everyone they've played. That includes a better-than-expected Penn State team that gave the Panthers all they could handle. Jamie Dixon is happy to have Barry Rohrssen back as an assistant on his coaching staff.