By Jesse Kramer
1. Even without C.J. McCollum, Lehigh is a favorite for the Patriot League title. The Mountain Hawks were clearly the second-best Patriot League team without their star, but many college basketball analysts had essentially given the regular season title to Bucknell. On Wednesday, that changed as Lehigh upset Bucknell in Lewisburg, 65-62. Everyone has stepped up in McCollum’s absence to make Lehigh the first-place team in the Patriot League more than a third of the way into the season.
2. Miami (FL) is a legit Top-25 team. The Hurricanes’ dominance over No. 1 Duke left many speechless, especially considering that they barely beat Boston College in their previous game. Miami entered the game undefeated in the ACC, but it was only No. 25 in the AP Top 25 and unranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll because it had only one good non-conference win and losses to Indiana State and Florida Gulf Coast. But both of those losses came with either Reggie Johnson or Durand Scott injured. With both of their stars playing, the Hurricanes are undefeated. With Duke’s Ryan Kelly injured and NC State struggling due to inconsistency, Miami is now the clear-cut favorite in the ACC.
3. Washington is not actually a Pac-12 contender.The Huskies struggled in non-conference play but then won its first four Pac-12 games, including three on the road. Since then, they have dropped games to Utah and Oregon State, quite possibly the two worst teams in the conference. The Huskies have now fallen back to what we thought they would be—a middle of the pack team.
4. This is La Salle’s season to break a 20-year tournament drought. The Explorers have not been to the Big Dance since 1992, when they won the MAAC conference tournament. Since then, they have only had five winning seasons and one postseason appearance in the NIT. Led by a core of upperclassmen, La Salle is 3-2 in the Atlantic 10 after defeating No. 9 Butler last night. A non-conference loss to Central Connecticut State hurts their resume, but if the Explorers continue their strong play in the Atlantic 10 they should be guaranteed a low seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
5. Illinois State is resurging. The Redbirds were a borderline at-large team entering conference play with a 9-3 record. (Their only losses were to Northwestern, Louisville and Wyoming, all in close games.) Then, they dropped their first six Missouri Valley games and immediately fell out of NCAA tournament talk. In its last two games, Illinois State has beaten Southern Illinois and third-place Indiana State to get back on its first. Any hope for an at-large bid is lost, but Jackie Carmichael and Tyler Brown provide enough talent for the Redbirds to make a run for the MVC’s automatic bid.