Three College Basketball teams to watch

There have already been some wild swings in the fortunes of college basketball teams. UNC was No. 1 in the preseason, brought back stars from a national runner-up team, and appeared to be geared for another strong season.

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But life in Chapel Hill has hit a rough patch. The Tar Heels, who started 5-0, have lost four straight games and fallen out of the Top 25 entirely. With other traditional powers like Gonzaga also struggling, here’s a look at three teams to keep an eye on as the season rolls toward conference play.

Houston, +650

There is a lot to like about the No. 1 Cougars. First off, Houston has shown over the past few seasons it is more than capable of advancing out of the American Athletic Conference and deep into the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars made a run to the Elite 8 in 2021 after making the Final Four the year before.

What Houston can always hang its hat on is excellent defense. The Cougars have the top scoring defense in the country, limiting opponents to less than 45 points per game. Teams are also shooting less than 25 percent from the 3-point line and 31 percent from the field against the Cougars.

While the defense has been excellent, Houston will likely want to get more out of its offense as the season goes along. Marcus Sasser leads the team in scoring by putting up 16.9 points per game. Tramon Mark is the only other player averaging in double figures for Houston, scoring 10.1 points per game.

UConn, +1200

The Huskies are off to an excellent start to the season. What the Big East is likely hoping is that UCONN can once again carry the flag for the league on the national stage. Villanova has taken a major step backward and while there are other candidates, UCONN has the most talent.

The Huskies are led by forward Adama Sanogo, who scores a team-high 18.5 points per game and also pulls down 6.9 rebounds per game. Jordan Hawkins (13.5 points per game) and Tristen Newton (10.8) also average in double figures scoring for UCONN.

The Huskies play well on both ends of the floor. Defensively, UCONN fits the mold of an old-school, physical Big East team. The Huskies limit their opponents to less than 60 points per game, 40 percent shooting from the floor and 30 percent from the 3-point line.

On offense, UCONN averages 82.1 points per game, which ranks 30th nationally. The Huskies are also battle-tested, having picked up wins over Alabama, Oregon and Iowa State.

UCLA, +2000

Bringing in Mick Cronin to lead the program means the Bruins will always be competitive. UCLA has plenty of guys who can score. Jamie Jaquez Jr. (17.3 points per game) leads a group of five players who score more than 10 points per game. UCLA was another team that benefitted from kids coming back to school.

In addition to Jaquez returning, the Bruins also had the benefit of point guard Tyger Campbell returning for another season. UCLA will want to build more confidence before conference play really get underway.

The Bruins have yet to beat another non-conference Power 5 team during their 7-2 start. UCLA still has opportunities to prove itself with games against Maryland and Kentucky ahead.  The Bruins are effective on offense.

UCLA averages 80.7 points per game and shoots over 50 percent from the field. The Bruins are effective at limiting their opponents from the perimeter as well. Teams are shooting less than 30 percent against UCLA from beyond the arc.