Teams earning respect for early play
As the season began, it was easy to pinpoint a few teams that were clearly deserving of respect. Teams like Ohio State, North Carolina and Kentucky all flaunted top-tier rosters that served as neon marquees, announcing their status as prime-time contenders. But that's not the case with all schools, and now, with most teams at least eight games into the season, some previously unheralded squads are grabbing the spotlight by claiming some noteworthy wins.
Here's a look at some of the top wave-makers of the early season and whether they can continue their winning ways into the spring.
Marquette Golden Eagles
I have said many times since Buzz Williams became the head coach at Marquette that some teams may play as hard as the Golden Eagles, but no team plays harder. This team rarely looks past the next possession of a game and treats each and every one like it's the most important of the season. It has been the key to their success, in my opinion, and the reason they are off to another strong start.
Darius Johnson-Odom is still one of the best and most underrated guards in college basketball, and Jae Crowder -- whose clutch 3-pointer won Tuesday night's tilt against Washington -- is a quality inside-outside forward who has many of the same characteristics that NBA first-round selections Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler possess. And Williams' early-season schedule has allowed him to grow his depth, as 10 players are receiving 11 minutes of playing time or more. Junior Cadougan has been a more consistent playmaker as a junior, although he missed Marquette's win at in-state rival Wisconsin because of a violation of team rules.
In Williams' first couple of seasons, Marquette's spot in the top half of the 16-team Big East seemed to surprise many. That's no longer the case. If there is buzz about Buzz's team, it's that the Golden Eagles are very good again and don't seem to be going anywhere.
A September trip to Spain, a healthy Josh Owens and the maturation of coach Johnny Dawkins' 2010 recruiting class have been huge reasons the Cardinal are off to an 8-1 start. And, after watching them take Syracuse to the wire in the NIT Tip-off Final, I see no reason they can't maintain the early buzz and the level of play we've seen so far.
To see which other under-the-radar teams are making names for themselves in the early season, and whether they can keep up their winning ways, become an ESPN Insider.