ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- As we promised earlier this week, we're going to take one last look at some seasons that may not have resulted in a Dance card or a lot of national headlines, but were breakthroughs or returns to form. Here, then, are eight teams that few saw coming... in alphabetical order.Brown
(19-9, 11-3 Ivy League) -- It'll be forgotten behind Cornell's perfect Ivy season, but the Bears had a stellar year, only losing their two games with the Big Red and the season opener at Yale. (They didn't get a one-and-done chance to even the score with the regular-season champs, but that's not the way the Ancient Eight rolls.) The Bears had a five-game Ivy improvement over last year, won 10 games on the road, and sat just outside the RPI's top 100 at 104. The ninth-best 3-point shooting team in the nation featured great years from senior guards Mark McAndrew and Damon Huffman, who combined for 31.4 ppg.Delaware
(14-17, 9-9 Colonial) -- Monte Ross' first year was a five-win disaster that ended with just six suited-up players. The Blue Hens nearly tripled their win total from 2006-07, and won six more CAA games. A full complement of players certainly helped, but when three of those were Herb Courtney, Marc Egerson and Alphonso Dawson -- an upsize trio that combined for 38.5 points and 17.6 rebounds -- it spelled out a big improvement. Dawson (pictured, left) was a freshman who had a number of solid shooting performances down the stretch, showing a great amount of promise for his next three years.Fairfield
(14-16, 11-7 Metro Atlantic) -- The Stags only made a one-game improvement in the standings over last year, but that hides the strides the team made on offense in Ed Cooley's second year. Fairfield scored nearly four more points per game overall, and made an eight-point improvement at the Arena at Harbor Yard (71.2 ppg vs. 63.9 last year). Jonathan Han, a 6-0 junior, shot 47.5 percent from the floor and dished out 6.2 assists per game. It's a young team that won't lose any seniors from its regular rotation, and could mature in 2007-08 to jump into the MAAC's top division.Georgia Southern
(20-12, 13-7 Southern) -- Few people recognize that the Eagles have been a strong team in the SoCon for years now, winning 20 games three times in the past five years, but there's been that team that starts with the letter "D" that's been getting all the headlines lately. One of those two non-20 win seasons, however, happened in 2006-07, as GSU crashed to a 15-16 record and a 7-11 mark in the SoCon. This year, there was plenty of senior leadership to lead them back to the plateau, and a freshman guard named Willie Powers (11.5 ppg, 40 percent from 3) who could lead them further next season.Jacksonville
(18-13, 12-4 Atlantic Sun) -- The national TV audience on Saturday night saw a green-clad team in the A-Sun finals that was called the Dolphins, but looked like the Washington Generals to Belmont's globetrotting and three-peating in a 79-61 blowout loss. But fans of the conference know that this is a team on the rise: two years ago, they were 1-26, jumped to 15-14 and a quarterfinal exit last season, and were one game away from the Dance in 2008. With five promising freshmen and only one outgoing role-playing senior, 2009 could be Jacksonville's year.Louisiana-Lafayette
(15-15, 11-7 Sun Belt) -- Forget the horrible loss in the 12-5 game to Troy for a second; the Ragin' Cajuns were spicier than they've been in three years. After nine- and 13-win campaigns in the past two seasons, ULL jumped back up to .500 overall, and had its first winning record in the league since 2004-05. A big reason for that was a defense that was one of the Belt's best, allowing opponents just 43.6 percent of its two-point shots. Their three top scorers were underclassmen, so expect some more maturity and poise next year -- maybe even some shoulder chips from the whole Troy thing.Stetson
(16-16, 11-5 Atlantic Sun) -- The Hatters have made fans want to shield their eyes with oversize brims for years now, but Derek Waugh led this year's version to the program's first .500 season since 2000-01. After years of getting beat in its own building, the Hatters defended the Edmunds Center in DeLand, Fla. with an 11-2 record there. The entire core of the team's coming back, including 16.1 ppg-scoring guard Garfield Blair, so hold those hats on high.Tennessee-Martin
(17-16, 11-9 Ohio Valley) -- The Skyhawks had only one season with a .500 record or better in its D-I history (2001-02), so this year was a cause for celebration. With a serious infusion of size and talent, Bret Campbell led his team to the conference semis with the OVC's best two-point shooting (55.1 percent in league games). And bad news for the rest of the league -- sudden superstar and league POY Lester Hudson (25.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) is coming back for his senior year in 2008-09.
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