As the New Year approaches, the college basketball season will heat up. Let's take a look at what we know about the WIAC as the season is set to resume after the holidays.
No. 1 — UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater are national caliber teams.
This is not earth-shattering news, but both programs have signature performances early in the season to emphasize they standout among the rest of the WIAC.
Stevens Point won the first meeting between these teams, pulling away from the defending NCAA Division III national champs in the second half. More impressively, the Pointers won without the help of leading scorer Tyler Tillema as an injury sidelined him for the entire second half.
Stevens Point also played No. 4 ranked St. Thomas down to the wire in a Dec. 21 matchup. The 68-63 win by the Tommies marks the Pointers' only loss of the season.
The loss to Stevens Point is UW-Whitewater's only loss of the season. Prior that matchup, the Warhawks won their first seven contest — including a 71-65 win over Illinois Wesleyan (a Final Four team who was ranked in the top 10).
Both teams have earned their top 10 national rankings (UW-SP is No. 5 and UW-W is No. 6) early on.
No. 2 — UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater have deep rosters
Both team's have demonstrated excellent team depth.
Point showed it in the win over Whitewater without Tillema, and the Warhawks have shown it with break out performances from newcomers Darnell Harris and K.J. Evans.
Having players to bolster the roster is a luxury most teams in the conference do not have.
This should be the difference that elevates the Pointers and Warhawks over UW-Stout, UW-Platteville and UW-La Crosse, who also are off to quick starts.
No. 3 — Good teams play well on the road
Stevens Point, Whitewater and La Crosse are all mentioned in the latest D3hoops Top 25 poll. Expect to see those teams in the rankings throughout the season because of their ability to travel and play well outside of their home gyms.
Stevens Point is 6-1 on the road —the road loss coming at St. Thomas. Whitewater is 5-0 away from Kachel Gym — claiming a win at Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage. UW-La Crosse is 4-1 when traveling, and has earned votes in the latest poll.
The team's who have not played well on the road during their non-conference schedules and beginning stretch of the WIAC season already seem irrelevant — those being Oshkosh, Superior, River Falls and Eau Claire.
No. 4 — There is a lot of season to be played
UW-Stevens Point has the inside track early following their victory over Whitewater. As the only undefeated team in league play, the Pointers will be the team to beat. But head coach Bob Semling was quick to point out that his team beat the Warhawks twice last season before UW-W went on to win the DIII national title.
Semling said the league championship will be decided at the end of February, and that's what we really know for sure.