If your favorite college basketball team has Radford on its schedule this season, take note.
The Highlanders are going to make some noise this season, err, well, going to make more noise this season
Already the small, less than 10,000 students enrolled, school from Radford, Va., has gathered two Power 5 victories this season. The first shocking upset came in a road win at Notre Dame. The second against the 17th ranked team in the country, Texas, also on the road.
The season has started with a 6-1 record, a year removed from its third NCAA Tournament bid and a Big South Championship. The three top scorers from that title team returned, including Big South First Team selection Ed Polite Jr. and Big South Rookie of the Year Carlik Jones.
So far this season the two have developed into a dynamic duo on the court. Polite is averaging a double-double (12.0 ppg and 10.4 rpg), while Jones is far from suffering a sophomore slump, leading the team with 16 points per game. Jones' latest heroics included the and-one basket to put his team ahead of Texas in the closing seconds.
Neither of them though are what carried their team in both of their upset victories. Their defense completely shut down both the Fighting Irish and the Longhorns to below 37 percent from the field. Two teams that are expected to compete for NCAA Tournament spots, unable to score at home.
There is only one blemish on the Highlanders' season thus far and that was an obscure loss to Duquesne.
This is a team built to make it back to the NCAA Tournament this season, and perhaps not as a No. 16 seed. Mike Jones, the 2018 Big South Coach of the Year, has this team in 30th in the new NET Rankings, that are supposed to be a new and improved version of the RPI.
The team also received votes in the AP poll for the first time in Radford's 43-year history.
That's not only the resume of a team to win their conference, that's borderline at-large territory. Sure they're not in the same category as Gonzaga, Nevada or Buffalo this season, but that next mid-major tier should have Radford included.
And they might not be done with their early-season success to build on that. Still on the horizon for the Highlanders are a date at Clemson, a road game against the Maryland Terrapins and a sneaky good matchup against Georgia Southern. Beating Texas marked the program's first ever win over a ranked opponent. The second and third one may not be far behind.
If the Highlanders are to grab another Power 5 victory or two, without a questionable loss, some may think highly of this Highlander team come March.
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