In just their third year at the NCAA Division I level -- and in Dan Majerle's third season as head coach -- the Grand Canyon Antelopes men's basketball team has become a force to be reckoned with.
"We have a long way to go, but we're definitely ahead of schedule," said Majerle, the former Phoenix Suns guard and assistant coach, on his 19-3 Lopes.
Grand Canyon was competitive upon arrival at the D-I level, but the Lopes have taken another major step forward this season: Their 19 victories so far in 2015-16 are tied for the most in the NCAA.
GCU won't be eligible for the NCAA Tournament due to a mandatory four-year "grace period," but when Majerle's Lopes become eligible for the Big Dance in the 2017-18 season, don't bet against them.
"As it gets closer, our recruiting gets easier," Majerle said. "The kids from out of state are starting to understand what GCU is all about."
Here are three reasons why Majerle's Antelopes are flourishing in the desert.
1. Thunder Dan is never satisfied
One of the hallmarks of a terrific college basketball coach is the ability to constantly push yourself and your players harder, regardless of how much success you might experience.
Dan Majerle fits that bill.
"If you would've told me at the beginning of the year we'd be 19-3, I would've jumped at it. But that being said, now that we're here, I'm not satisfied. I want to continue to get better," he said.
Thunder Dan wants his team to be tournament-ready before it's even eligible to make the tournament the season after next. "That's when I want to be playing really good and playing our best basketball," he said.
"I'm very happy with what our guys have done and where we're at. The support we get here and the recognition that we're getting is all really good. But we've got to just keep trying to get better."
2. They play the best of the best
In order to become a top-tier NCAA team, you have to be able to compete with the top-tier crowd.
That's why Majerle has continued to make his Antelopes face some of the country's toughest competition.
This year, the Lopes went on the road to face powerhouses Indiana, Louisville and San Diego State, and they notched a surprising victory against the latter. Next season, Majerle's group will play at defending national champion Duke, and they'll make a trip to Tucson to play the Arizona Wildcats.
"We want to get used to playing the best teams out there," Majerle said. "I think it's really good for recruiting, and it's good for our guys to get that kind of experience of playing at places like that. We'll continue to schedule the hardest teams we can and get that kind of experience."
3. The Havocs
If you have yet to attend a GCU home game, you're missing out on an incredible atmosphere. The Lopes have one of the best home-court advantages in the nation, thanks largely to the 4,000-strong student section known as the Havocs that make an incredible amount of noise every single night.
"They show up every game and they do a great job, and that's one of the reasons why we're having such a great year, because we do have a true home-court advantage, and the Havocs are a big part of what we're doing," Majerle said.
"I believe they're the best student section around. I haven't seen too many better."