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College hoops filled with surprises in first month

By John Marshall
AP Basketball Writer / December 2, 2011
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Not even a month old, the college basketball season has already had its share of great games and individual performances.

Kentucky and Ohio State have looked like unstoppable forces. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger of Ohio State have been as good as predicted. Freshmen Austin Rivers at Duke and Kentucky's Anthony Davis have lived up to the hype, too.

As for games, it's hard to imagine anything even in the NCAA tournament being as good as Duke-Kansas at the Maui Invitational.

There have been a few surprises, too, from UNLV's win over the then-top-ranked Tar Heels to Saint Louis' impressive start under coach Rick Majerus.

Here's a few more nuggets that might have caught people off guard:

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UPSETS

The first month has produced some pretty big upsets, starting with Presbyterian's win over Cincinnati.

Ranked No. 20 at the time and playing at home, the Bearcats coughed up a 15-point lead and a go-ahead 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left in a stunning 56-54 loss to the Blue Hose, who have struggled in five Division I seasons. It was so big Presbyterian coach Gregg Nibert was in tears afterward.

Iowa State has lost to mid-majors Drake and Northern Iowa, though neither would be considered a huge upset -- Northern Iowa has beaten the Cyclones five of the past six meetings.

TCU also knocked off Virginia, Southern Cal couldn't get past Cal-Poly and Clemson fell at the hands of Coastal Carolina.

It doesn't count in the standings, but Arizona opened its season with an exhibition loss to Seattle-Pacific, which was ... not good.

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POOR PAC-12

The inaugural season in the reconfigured Pac-12 was supposed to be one of the most competitive in years.

No one figured it'd be because the teams in the conference were going to struggle.

UCLA has been the biggest disappointment. The Bruins were picked as the co-favorites to win the Pac-12 and opened the season with double-digit losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee. UCLA is just 2-4 after notching its first home win against Pepperdine.

Arizona, after its Seattle-Pacific debacle, dropped out of the polls after losses to Mississippi State in New York and San Diego State at home, though coach Sean Miller warned the Wildcats were probably ranked too high at No. 15 in the preseason.

California, the other co-favorite, was crushed by Missouri, Washington was run over by Saint Louis and Oregon lost prized recruit Jabari Brown before the season started. Oh, and USC has been scoring fewer points than its football team.

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GRIFFIN LENTCH

Never heard of Griffin Lentch? Well, he's the Division III version of The Jimmer.

The 6-foot-4 junior guard from Grinnell College in Iowa set the Division III record by scoring 89 points against Principia College on Nov. 19. This from a guy who's averaged just over 18 points per game in his career with a best of 36,

Hitting from long range, on drives and pull-up jumpers, Lentch was 27 of 55 from the field, including 15 for 33 from 3-point range, and made 20 of 22 free throws in the 145-97 win.

The 89 points is third in NCAA history, behind the 112 Clarence "Bevo" Francis of Rio Grande had in 1954 and the 100-point game by Frank Selvy of Furman the same year.

The previous Division III scoring record was held by another Grinnell guard, Jeff Clement, who scored 77 points in 1998.

For some perspective on just how many points Lentch scored, check out the highlight reel of his night that Grinnell put on YouTube. Even the condensed version is nearly four minutes.

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HAITH AT MIZZOU

Plenty of Missouri fans were not exactly thrilled when the Tigers hired former Miami coach Frank Haith.

Haith was hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, who returned to Arkansas after five successful seasons in Columbia. Not long after, Haith was implicated in alleged corruption within Miami's athletics program, making some Tigers fans a little ill at ease.

Haith hasn't said much about the Miami scandal, but his team sure is making a lot of noise -- even without forward Laurence Bowers, out for the season with a knee injury.

Following an 88-59 win over Binghamton on Sunday, the 21st-ranked Tigers are 6-0, their best start since 2006. Missouri beat Notre Dame by 29 points and Cal by 39 to win the CBE Classic, and its closest game was a 15-point win over Southeast Missouri.

The Tigers head to the SEC next season, but might have a chance to take a Big 12 championship with them.

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REVIVED HOOSIERS

Indiana has been in a funk like few times before, on the cusp of its first four-year run of losing seasons since 1911-16.

After the start the Hoosiers have had, they may end the run before it gets to historic proportions.

With depth and plenty of experience, Indiana appears to have finally righted itself in the wake of a recruiting scandal that left the program decimated.

Coach Tom Crean has put together a solid roster and the Hoosiers opened the season by winning their first five games by an average of nearly 26 points. Indiana had a similar start last season before finishing 12-20, but this team has a different look and feel.

That was evident over the past two games, when the Hoosiers knocked off new instate darling Butler 75-59 and followed that with an impressive 86-75 victory over North Carolina State on Wednesday.

Indiana has won its first seven games by double figures and appears to have the type of team that can contend for the long haul, possibly getting back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

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HARVARD

Yes, Harvard. The Crimson earned a share of the Ivy League title last season for the first time, but just missed their first NCAA tournament berth since 1946 after Princeton hit a last-second shot in a one-game tiebreaker.

With nearly everyone back, Harvard has its eyes on an outright championship.

The Crimson appear to be headed in the right direction, off to their best start since 1984-85 at 7-0 following Thursday's win over Vermont.

Harvard opened the season with three easy wins, then had an impressive rout of once-formidable Utah in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.

The Crimson had their look-at-us moment in the semifinals by knocking off then-No. 22 Florida State and followed that up by beating Central Florida, which bumped off defending national champion Connecticut the day before, to win the tournament championship.

With depth, experience and confidence rarely found in Cambridge, Harvard certainly has a chance to keep it going, perhaps back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since Truman was in the White House.

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