The Western Athletic Conference appears to be off to a flying start with no losing teams and a combined 53-20 non-conference mark (72.6 percent) through Thursday night.
The most impressive WAC victory of the year - by far - was UTEP's 71-60 win over No. 5 Georgetown last week. The fact that it was on the road made it even bigger. The Miners would be unbeaten if it wasn't for pesky neighbor New Mexico State, which has beaten the Miners twice already this year.New Mexico's 83-80 win over a 5-1 Tennessee team Thursday night ranks as the second-best victory in the WAC thus far. The preseason favorite Lobos are 8-2.
Colorado State and Wyoming are both doing well with identical 7-1 marks.
The most surprising record belongs to Utah (9-1), which is off to its best start in a decade. The mark is tempered somewhat by the Utes' easiest schedule in years, including three non-Division I opponents. But the Utes aren't the only WAC school feasting on patsies.
Three of Air Force's four wins have come against non-Division I teams, while Wyoming and San Diego State both have a pair of wins against non-Division I competition. In all, the WAC has a 13-0 mark against non-Division I teams. The only WAC team that doesn't play a non-Division I team this season is BYU.
SLOW START: The Big West Conference has only five of 10 teams with winning records and until four wins Thursday night had a sub-.500 overall record. Only UNLV, New Mexico State, Fullerton, Santa Barbara and Fresno State have winning records thus far.
One thing in its favor: The Big West has played just one game against a non-Division I team - New Mexico State's win over New Mexico Highlands.
STATS DEPT: The leading scorer in the WAC is likely no one you've ever heard of.
Hawaii's Ray Reed, a transfer from Seminole JC in Oklahoma, is averaging 23.5 points per game, nearly four points a game more than Wyoming's Reggie Slater.
Among the locals, three players lead different categories. Utah's Josh Grant leads the WAC in 3-point shooting (55.1 percent) followed by teammate Phil Dixon and BYU's Mark Heslop. Utah's Tyrone Tate leads the league in assists with 5.6 per game. And (surprise) BYU's Shawn Bradley leads in blocked shots with 6.5, nearly twice as many as runner-up Luc Longley.
Bradley is also 6th in the league in scoring at 18.25, just ahead of Grant at 17.75. In rebounding, Bradley is 4th, Grant is 6th. In free throw shooting, Grant is 4th and BYU's Scott Moon is 7th.
In the Big West, Utah State's Rich Jardine and Jay Goodman rank 1-2 in free throw percentage and Goodman is 1st in steals.
NOT-SO CLASSIC: Before his top-ranked Rebels played 25th-ranked, unbeaten Princeton Wednesday, UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian said "It's really a classic game."
As it turned out, it was anything but classic as the Rebels romped 69-35.
NO RUSH: As early as a year ago, some folks were saying that LSU's Shaquille O'Neal was good enough to be the No. 1 draft choice in the NBA. Just a month into this season, there seems to be little doubt about that.
The 18-year-old sophomore, who stands 7-1 and weighs 285, followed up his 29-point, 14-rebound performance against Arizona with an astounding 53-point, 19-rebound outing in a win over Arkansas State. Then Thursday he scored 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, the same numbers he had against Arizona, in a win over Loyola Marymount.
At this point, O'Neal insists that he will remain in college and pursue a degree. His father, Philip, an Army sergeant, has said, "We've been poor for a while, so a couple years shouldn't matter."
Don't bet on it. With the lure of big bucks, O'Neal will most likely turn pro before he graduates, if not this year, then after next season.
HOT SHOT FIZZLES: Remember Tony Ross, the sometimes-sensational freshman guard for San Diego State four years ago?
His collegiate career apparently ended this week, finishing with barely a whimper.
After averaging 16.3 points with 104 3-pointers in 1986-87, Ross's scoring average gradually went down after Jim Brandenburg came aboard. He became a part-time starter and lost the green light to shoot. He left after his junior season.
After sitting out a year, Ross walked on at Oregon State this year. But after averaging 1.5 points, 0.3 assists and 6.3 minutes through five games, the 6-2 Ross decided to leave the team by mutual agreement with Coach Jim Anderson. The decision was made after Anderson told Ross he planned to use younger players.