The college basketball season is underway, and the standings are proving turbulent in accordance with the usual less-than-perfect preseason rankings.

The top three teams—Kentucky, Villanova, and UNC—have solidified themselves at the top of the league with exciting returning veterans and freshman talent. But there are several teams lingering lower in the rankings that are likely  to improve.

The Baylor Bears have gotten off to a tremendous start to the season. The Bears won the Battle for Atlantis tournament, crushing their competition up until the finals, in which 10th-ranked Louisville put up a fight. The Bears have three ranked victories, two of which were won by over 15 points, against then-ranked #23 Michigan State, #10 Louisville, and then-ranked #4 Oregon.

Their average margin of victory is a whopping 14 points, manifesting the utter dominance Baylor has displayed early on in the season. Junior forward Johnathan Motley has proven himself as a strong inside presence, averaging 16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, both team highs. Following the tournament win, Baylor jumped up 11 spots to the #9 position, and is a heavy contender for a Final Four as of right now.

UCLA has also started off strong, with eight wins. The Bruins are ranked #11 and will face their biggest competition of the year on Saturday against the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky and the struggling Oregon Ducks are the only ranked teams UCLA is scheduled to play against in December, so UCLA needs to split those two games at the very least to prove their true talent against strong competition.

The team is led by freshman star point guard Lonzo Ball, averaging 14.6 points and 9.6 assists per game. Ball is an athletic, classic point guard who makes plays on offense. His matchup with Kentucky’s star freshman point guard Malik Monk will be very telling of his NBA potential.

The Big East is proving  one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball this year. The conference features four ranked teams, three of which are top-ten, which will provide for very entertaining conference play.

The returning national champion Villanova Wildcats are off to a great start, boasting a win at #15 Purdue. Senior guard Josh Hart is averaging 17.3 points per game. Villanova is a legitimate contender for a second consecutive season under coach Jay Wright. The team has higher expectations than last year, and Wright is under intense scrutiny.

The Xavier Musketeers have also started off strong, ranked in the seventh spot. The team has three players averaging at least 15 points per game (Trevor Bluitte, J.P. Macura and Edmond Sumner), reflecting on their great ball movement and offensive talent.

In addition, the Creighton Bluejays, led by junior guard Marcus Foster, are ranked #10 after winning their first seven games. Foster is averaging 18.3 points per game while shooting an impressive 46.7 percent from deep. The Bluejays beat ninth-ranked Wisconsin, their biggest win of the year so far.

The Butler Bulldogs are the last undefeated team in the Big East. Forward Kelan Martin leads the team with 16.4 points per game. Butler beat eighth-ranked Arizona, marking their third straight season with a top–ten victory. The Bulldogs’ ranking at #18 is too low for getting off to such an impressive start, so look to see Butler keep winning games and competing well to move to the top-ten as the season progresses.



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