Here are some random thoughts on the world of college basketball, from the struggling SEC West to Cincinnati’s big win to the return of Baylor guard LaceDarius Dunn.
• The strength of the SEC East has been well-documented, but the league’s other division is shaping up to be beyond bad. Auburn, which could be the least-talented team in the league in the past two decades, has already lost at home to UNC Asheville, Samford, Campbell and Jacksonville. Alabama, projected by many to take a step forward in Anthony Grant’s second season, went 0–3 at the Paradise Jam, losing to Seton Hall, Iowa and St. Peter’s. LSU has a home loss to Nicholls State. And Mississippi State, the pick by most to win the division, is 4–0, but the Bulldogs (who are playing without Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney) beat Appalachian State by two points, Detroit by six points and had to go to overtime to beat Troy.
• Watch out for Belmont in the A-Sun. The Bruins opened the season with an 85–76 loss at Tennessee, but have won four straight — by an average of 25.8 points per game. Rick Byrd’s teams are usually known for their 3-point shooting, but the ’10-11 Bruins can score from all over the court. Belmont hosts Mercer Thursday night before making the short trip — short as in a few blocks — to play Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym.
• Cincinnati’s 68–34 win over Dayton has to be one of the most surprising scores of the season to date. The Bearcats jumped out to a 30–11 lead in the first half and cruised home to the surprisingly easy win. Dayton, which had won at Ole Miss one week earlier, converted only 12 field goals and shot .200 from the floor.
• The schedule hasn’t been taxing, but Fred Hoiberg is off to a 6–0 start at his alma mater. Iowa State eked out a 91–88 win over Creighton (coached by former ISU boss Greg McDermott), but the Cyclones’ five other wins have all been by at least 22 points. Iowa State has five players averaging at least 12 points per game and four of the five starters are shooting at least 42 percent from 3-point range. Junior guard Scott Christopherson, who began his career at Marquette, is shooting 64.3 percent (18-of-28) from the arc.
• Memphis is the clear pick to win Conference USA, but Southern Miss should be a factor in the division race. Larry Eustachy’s team opened the season with a solid 60-53 win at South Florida and followed up with three lopsided wins at home. The Golden Eagles have an opportunity for a quality non-conference win this Saturday when they travel to Oxford to play Ole Miss.
• Two of the nation’s top seven scorers are transfers from other four-year schools. One-time Cal Bear Adrian Oliver is averaging 27.8 points for San Jose State, while Northern Illinois guard Xavier Silas, a former Colorado Buffalo and son of former NBA standout James Silas, is averaging 24.8 points.
• It didn’t take LaceDarius Dunn long to get back into the offensive flow. Suspended for Baylor’s first three games, Dunn scored 24 points in his debut against Lipscomb and followed up with 20 points against Prairie View A&M. He has only needed 26 field goal attempts to get his 44 points.
• Ryan Rossiter is putting up monster numbers at Siena. The senior forward leads the nation with 14.5 rebounds per game and is also averaging 20.2 points. His team, however, is struggling. The three-time defending MAAC champs are 2–4 in the first year of the post-Fran McCaffrey era.