First impressions aren't everything

These teams got off to slow starts, but have since figured a few things out

Updated: January 22, 2014, 11:14 AM ET
By C.L. Brown | ESPN.com

So you've lost a few games? Or can't seem to win a big one? Take heart, college basketball fan. It's not too late for your team to turn things around.

I'm looking at you, Ohio State. I see you on the west side, Oregon. Can't forget Colorado, either, despite Spencer Dinwiddie's deflating injury. There is time to rectify what's wrong and redirect the season.

Don't take my word for it. Just look at these nine teams that have changed the outlook of their season:

Michigan

Low point: Things seemed mighty bleak in Ann Arbor when center/forward Mitch McGary was lost to a back injury. But they were struggling to find their rhythm even with McGary in the lineup.
Turning point: The Wolverines nearly knocked off No. 1 Arizona on Dec. 14 before falling 72-70, a game that made them realize the way they needed to play with a depleted roster.
On point: Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. found his comfort zone at point guard and has limited his turnovers. Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III have welcomed bigger roles. And when needed, a third scorer can emerge. Caris LeVert had 20 points against Wisconsin on Jan. 18.
High point: Beating then-No. 3 Wisconsin in Madison 77-70.

Xavier

Low point: The Musketeers went 0-3 during the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving.
Turning point: Xavier squandered an 11-point lead late, but regained its composure to beat Bowling Green 85-73 in overtime Dec. 7. It snapped the three-game losing streak, but more importantly, it showed the team how to win a close game.
On point: The Musketeers have won two other games that were decided by three points or fewer. Semaj Christon is the best player you don't know about. Xavier has won 10 of its past 11 games, its only loss coming against Creighton 95-89.
High point: Beating crosstown rival Cincinnati 64-47.

California

Low point: Credit the Bears for playing a true road game at UC Santa Barbara, but they got rocked by the Thunderdome 72-65. That capped off a stretch of three losses in four games in late November through early December.
Turning point: Opening Pac-12 play with a three-game road swing looked ominous -- until the Bears emerged 3-0 with wins at rival Stanford, at then-No. 17 Oregon and at Oregon State. No other Pac-12 team has recorded three league road wins.
On point: Cal has won six straight. Sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace, after scoring double figures in just three of his first nine games, has averaged 14.8 points in his past nine games.
High point: Beating Oregon 96-83 in Eugene.

Virginia

Low point: The Cavaliers absolutely did not show up in their 87-52 loss at Tennessee in late December.
Turning point: That loss prompted senior Joe Harris to meet with coach Tony Bennett, where he asked what needed to be done to finish strong. The Cavs committed to playing defense and accepting their roles on offense, and it has been working.
On point: This isn't the team that could muster only 38 points against Wisconsin at home. The Cavs share the ball as well as any team in the nation, which has led to more scoring. Since conference play began, they've averaged 71.8 points in their 5-1 start in the ACC.
High point: Winning early this month at Florida State 62-50.

Kansas

Low point: Losing back-to-back games on the road against Colorado and Florida.
Turning point: The Jayhawks learned a lesson in their loss to San Diego State, which snapped a 68-game nonconference home winning streak. They figured out they can't wait before playing hard.
On point: The youngsters have grown up. Center Joel Embiid is playing like a No. 1 draft pick. Wayne Selden Jr. has been a beast in Big 12 play. And Andrew Wiggins is still making opponents fearful, even though he appears to need prompting before he employs his considerable skills. Point guard Naadir Tharpe has brought consistency to the position.
High point: Winning Jan. 13 at Hilton Coliseum 77-70 against then-No. 9 Iowa State.

La Salle

Low point: Back-to-back losses to Providence and Northern Iowa, which dropped the Explorers to 3-4.
Turning point: La Salle, which reached the Sweet 16 last season, was in danger of being one of this season's biggest disappointments. But the Explorers' 76-72 home win Jan. 9 over George Washington helped them regain their traction.
On point: Coach Dr. John Giannini decided to again play smaller with a three-guard lineup. Inserting 6-foot-1 Tyrone Garland in place of 6-5 D.J. Peterson has helped the Explorers become a little more offensive-minded. La Salle has reeled off five straight after the move.
High point: Handing George Washington its only loss in Atlantic 10 play.

Texas

Low point: The Longhorns, during one stretch, dropped three of four games to Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Turning point: Winning at North Carolina in a game in which they made the clutch plays down the stretch was the confidence boost they needed.
On point: It's not the most talented team coach Rick Barnes has fielded during his 15 years in Austin, but it might have the most fight. There's no superstar, but there aren't any ego clashes either. Sophomore Javan Felix is a perfect example of their unselfishness, as he conceded a starting position to freshman Isaiah Taylor but has still come off the bench to average 12.5 points.
High point: Jonathan Holmes' game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Kansas State gave them consecutive wins over ranked teams.

Louisville

Low point: Losing junior forward Chane Behanan to suspension and junior guard Kevin Ware to a likely redshirt. That was in addition to losing to both of its rivals, Kentucky and Memphis. The Cards were beginning to look like they could beat up on only lesser teams.
Turning point: It always seems as if coach Rick Pitino's teams begin clicking in late January. That seems likely again after the Cards topped UConn in Storrs 76-64 without starting guard Chris Jones.
On point: Luke Hancock had another slow start to the season but seems to be back to form; he has scored in double figures in his past six games. Montrezl Harrell has started rebounding to his potential with double-double scoring and rebounding in three of his past four games.
High point: The Cards' win Jan. 18 over UConn, which keeps them one game out of first place in the American behind Cincinnati.

Kentucky

Low point: UK watched its nine-point lead collapse in the final 13 minutes against Baylor and its three Texas-native freshmen had their homecoming spoiled by the Bears 67-62 in Arlington. The Wildcats, like the Jayhawks, looked as if they would never mature.
Turning point: The Wildcats realized they were more than just Julius Randle when they beat Louisville 73-66, with Randle sidelined for most of the second half with cramps.
On point: Andrew Harrison, like all of the Kentucky freshmen not named Randle, is beginning to figure out the college game. (Randle, of course, already has an advanced degree in this game.) The Cats also have shown that they can play lockdown defense, especially when center Willie Cauley-Stein is on his game.
High point: Beating rival Louisville, which was ranked No. 6 when they met Dec. 28. It remains their only win over a ranked team this season.

New Mexico

Low point: Losing to rival New Mexico State at home less than two weeks after handling it on the road followed an 80-63 beatdown by Kansas.
Turning point: New Mexico rallied from a 9-point deficit against Marquette to stave off what could have been its third consecutive defeat. It was the first time the Lobos won when after trailing at halftime.
On point: Cameron Bairstow is on pace to become the first player in program history to average 20 points after averaging single digits the previous season. The Lobos were held without a 3-pointer at home for the first time since 1991 against New Mexico State, but have since averaged making 7.2 per game.
High point: Beating Cincinnati, which was unranked at the time, has proven to be their best victory.

C.L. Brown | email

College Basketball

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