Every November we see them or hear about them. Then as Christmas comes and we ring in the New Year, these giant-killers seem to go into hibernation (playing conference games). Some wilt in their conference schedule and prove their eary season serendipity to be nothing but luck and happenstance. However, some survive their conference marathon and the final sprint in the conference tourney. Then on Selection Sunday, we hear their name and it sounds oh so familiar. Like a classmate from 9th Grade English, we know we have heard the name before. Of these early season shockers, which teams are likely to use them as springboards to solid seasons and which are likely to fade back into the same obscurity from which they recently emerged?
Hawaii: They routed Michigan State by 22 on Saturday. However, as Ken Pomeroy (the Bill James of college hoops) points out, Hawaii has one of, if not the largest homefield advantage in the nation. Case in point: The Rainbows lost on the road to a UNLV team that is mediocre at best. Until they start winning consistently on the mainland, they will fade from our collective memory faster than Bob Patterson.
Winthrop: Over the weekend, the Eagles stormed into Milwaukee and won the tourney hosted by Marquette (highlighted by a 7 point win over the host in the final). Historically, the Big South winner has gotten no higher than a 13 seed, and is typically given the kiss of death 15 or 16 seed. However, if Winthrop can roll through the Big South rather easily, they could be in line for perhaps a 12 or maybe even an 11 seed if they catch some breaks. Should they lose in the conference tourney, an at-large bid is an almost impossibility, but Winthrop will have their chance to impress the selection committee with remaining non-conference games at Alabama, South Carolina, Auburn, and Memphis.
CS Northridge: The Matadors upset Southern Cal in OT on Sunday and kept their momentum going by squeaking by Tulsa last night. The Trojans may not be the class of the Pac 10, but a win on the road against a school from a big time conference is nothing to dismiss. With Utah State out of the Big West, and with Pacific hit by graduation, perhaps the Matadors will step up and take the conference crown.
UC Irvine: Another Big West school that pulled off a Pac 10 shocker over the weekend. The Anteaters won at Stanford on Saturday. They already have one loss (their first game against George Mason), but they have to be mentioned with CS Northridge when discussing the Big West's early season favorites.
Sam Houston State: In what was likely simply an early season slip-up, the Missouri Tigers lost a home game to a low-major school on November 14th. Sam Houston could not continue their momentum as they lost on the road to a solid Drexel team 3 days later. However, even in the loss, they acquitted themselves quite well. Garnering an at-large bid or even a decent seed out of their conference is a monumental task. Although they could very well pull a General Sherman and dominate the Southland.
Colorado State: On Monday, the Rams butted their way to a one-point home upset of in-state rival Colorado. This is probably the least impressive of the early season shockers since it was at home to an in-state rival. I have nothing more to say. Stay tuned.
Bucknell: 2nd verse, same as the first. The Bison, last seen shocking 3rd seeded Kansas 8 months ago, shocked Syracuse in the Dome last night. While the Patriot Act is intrusive and downright un-American, the Patriot League is something Washington, Lincoln, and maybe even Jefferson could get behind.