Each season there are teams that stumble over their feet in non-conference play and get off to sluggish starts, only to find their groove in league play.

There are a number of factors playing into why teams may begin the season with their sea legs. Some may face daunting non-conference schedules, while others may be learning to play as a unit after turning over the roster.

Whatever the case, no team is immune to slow starts -- and as evidenced early in this list -- slow starts can be judged relative to preseason expectations. So let's break down seven teams that have struggled early on but could turn it around as league play kicks into gear.

Teams who started slow but will heat up

Current record: 10-2

Projected record: 25-6

It's hard to say 10-2 is a slow start, but such is the standard for a team that entered 2017 with Final Four expectations. 

The Jayhawks came out of the gate firing on all cylinders with a 7-0 record and a win over Kentucky to boot, but have slumped to 3-2 in the five games since with two surprising losses -- one in a complete stunner to Washington, and another to third-ranked Arizona State.

Not to fear if you're a Kansas fan, though. You've got a Hall of Fame coach, the best home court advantage in the Big 12, and potential frontcourt help coming soon. Buy stock in the Jayhawks now.


Current record: 11-3

Projected record: 22-9

Like Kansas, Minnesota roared out to a 7-0 start before hitting the mud. The Golden Gophers are 4-3 since and have struggled on the road against Power Five foes, falling to Nebraska and Arkansas in early December before reeling off three straight.

Unlike other teams in similar situations as Minnesota, though, Richard Pitino's got a stellar veteran-laden roster headlined by double-double machine Jordan Murphy and complemented by Nate Mason and Amir Coffey. Our own Jerry Palm is already pegging Minnesota as a 7-seed in the NCAAs, and I think it has the talent to jump as high as a 5 if Murphy continues to play like the best player in the Big Ten.


Current record: 9-4

Projected record: 23-8

Southern California entered 2017 as a chic pick to win the Pac-12, but the FBI's probe into corruption and bribery has thrown a wrench into the Trojans program as associate head coach Tony Bland was implicated and the school recently ruled De'Anthony Melton -- one of USC's most promising talents -- ineligible for an indefinite amount of time.

Still yet, USC has plenty of talent and its trio of upperclassmen -- Chimezie Metu, Bennie Boatwright, and Jordan McLaughlin -- that are primed to get things back on track entering Pac-12 play. With a win over New Mexico State and Middle Tennessee in the Diamond Head Classic this week, the Trojans have momentum and a very favorable six-game stretch to open league play.


Current record: 8-4

Projected record: 23-8

The Blue Raiders are 8-4 this season, but don't let the record fool you: Middle is still the heavy favorite to win the C-USA.

Kermit Davis' team has played the 14th toughest non-conference schedule this season, according to KenPom.com, and have remained ultra-competitive against the likes of Miami, Auburn and USC despite losses. Against C-USA competition, Nick King and Giddy Potts will steamroll through league play right into the postseason.


Current record: 6-7

Projected record: 17-14

The Badgers' 4-7 start to this season is the worst since a 3-6 start they jumped out to ... in 2002.

Part of the early struggles can be attributed to a tricky non-league slate, part of it can be breaking in a new backcourt, and part of it is simply due to an inevitable drop-off after losing three senior starters from a year ago. 

In any case, the Badgers have a system that have allowed them to win big for years with an incredible level of consistency. So while 2017-18 might be a rebuilding year as Greg Gard breaks in new bodies almost across the board, I expect Bucky to bounce back on a positive note even if the season doesn't end with an NCAA Tournament appearance.


Current record: 9-4

Projected record: 24-7

Scott Cross has built a monster in Arlington, and the Mavericks' 9-4 record is proof of his willingness to schedule at a high level. Disregard the below average record thus far. They'll be the favorite to come out on top in the Sun Belt with a solid chance to win 24+ games for a third consecutive season.


Current record: 8-4

Projected record: 19-12

The Crimson Tide have rightful NCAA Tournament aspirations behind Collin Sexton, one of the sport's most tantalizing point guard talents. And while 8-4 isn't where Avery Johnson pictured his team entering league play, Tide fans can take solace in two things.

1. Collin Sexton will win you a bunch of games — heck, he dropped 40 points and nearly won a game with a 3-on-5 disadvantage against Minnesota.

2. Braxton Key is back — One of the foundations of Alabama's team last season, Key is just easing his way back into the lineup after injury sidelined him to start the season. That means the Tide are gaining their health and, most importantly, it gives Sexton more pieces to work with in SEC play.

The non-conference slate didn't go as planned, but Alabama can -- and likely will -- be dancing into March, if for no other reason than that Collin Sexton will drag them there.