Steve Novak has had the magic touch for Marquette in the early part of the season -- a sharp contrast to his performance in 2003-04. Though he shot 43 percent from 3-point range last season, for some reason the mid-range jumper and drive eluded him, as he nailed only 35 percent of his other shots and made only 14-of-33 shots (42.4 percent) in four postseason games in the Conference USA Tournament and NIT.
This season, he has hit from anywhere and everywhere on the court and is a big reason why Marquette is in the Top 25.
Rocking the Rim
We talk a lot about teams having balanced attacks, but there is one squad that is really living up to that term in the early part of the season. While top-15 teams Illinois, Pittsburgh and Texas all have four or more players averaging double figures in scoring, it is the Longhorns who are the most balanced.
Heading into Saturday's clash with Wake Forest, the Longhorns have five players scoring in double figures and eight players averaging at least eight points per game. Texas has yet to identify who its top gun is going to be, as P.J. Tucker, Brad Buckman and Daniel Gibson have all taken turns sharing lead billing, with a host of other contributors looming right behind.
Texas also has been hoisting 3-pointers (and making them) at an impressive rate, and might turn out to be one of the most potent squads in the country
Matchup note of the weekend
In the 35-game history of the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry, Louisville has never won three straight games. The Cardinals have a chance to do so when the two square off Saturday.
Five previous times, the Cardinals have had a two-game win streak. The last chance for three in a row was five years ago, when Tubby Smith's team turned a one-point halftime lead into a 76-46 romp with a dominant defensive performance in the second half.
Louisville won 81-63 and 65-56 in the previous two meetings on the strength of strong second-half performances.
In the Bonus
Niagara senior Juan Mendez could hold an interesting distinction in a few weeks. He may be the leading scorer not only in this nation but also in a neighboring one.
Mendez, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, is averaging an NCAA-best 25.6 ppg through eight games for the 5-3 Purple Eagles. With 1,710 career points, he is just shy of the No. 2 spot in Niagara scoring history, and only 118 points from breaking the scoring record for Canadian-born players, set by Canisius' Michael Meeks.
Mendez, of Dominican descent, is a native of Montreal, and grew up surrounded by skates and hockey pucks, but gravitated toward football and basketball when he joined SunYouth, an organization similar to the Boys & Girls club. On the advice of a family friend, he went to prep school at Florida Air Academy, was first team all-state and went to Niagara with a scholastic teammate, point guard Alvin Cruz. He is the only one in a family comprised of 12 children to play college basketball.
Mendez was the MAAC Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman and has been one of the league's best players the past three seasons, ranking as high as 21st nationally in scoring at 20.5 ppg as a junior. Last summer, he played for the Canadian national team at the 2004 Four Nations Tournament in China. With his teammates in foul trouble, Mendez was asked to guard an opponent's top scorer for a few minutes. That's how he got to meet Yao Ming, who was playing for Team China.
"It wasn't pretty," Mendez said with a laugh. "I scored on him, though. I couldn't go over him, but I did go around him. That was my moment of glory."
There will be a few others this season, with a near-upset of Providence on opening night having already attracted the attention of ESPN.com's Andy Katz. The scoring record and the continued spot atop Division I's leader board should get Mendez some national recognition.
"People have talked about it," said Mendez, listing the names of some of Canada's best players, such as Steve Nash, Jamaal Magliore and Connecticut's Denham Brown. "I've tried to block it out for now, but it has crossed my mind. It will be a great honor. I'm just fortunate to come along and get the opportunity."
Mark Simon is a researcher for ESPN's college basketball coverage and "Baseball Tonight."