Top-10 biggest upsets of the college basketball season

6 Comments

The 2012-2013 college basketball season has been scrutinized by many for its lack of great teams and NBA superstar-potential. And while us college basketball aficionados are quick to point out that this season has been one of the most exciting in recent memory, it has come with some baggage.

For every remarkable finish, like Illinois’ come-from-behind, buzzer-beating victory over No. 1 Indiana on Thursday night, there is an ugly upset, perhaps none uglier than No. 5 Kansas’ 62-55 loss to TCU.

It makes perfect sense that during the first week in which college basketball has had the stage to itself, upsets have dominated the discussion. Ten teams inside the top-25 lost, including three teams inside the top-5.

But for those of you just making the switch to college hoops, this is not a new development. The fact of the matter is that bizarre, puzzling upsets have taken place all season. Upsets that us pundits could have not predicted “from seven galaxies away”, as ESPNU play-by-play announcer Mitch Holthus so eloquently stated during the late stages of TCU’s shocking victory over the Jayhawks.
 
 
10. South Alabama 76, @ Florida State 71 – 11/9/12
Records: South Alabama (0-0), Florida State (0-0)
KenPom differential: 144 (South Alabama 195, Florida State 51)
Spread differential: -18 (Florida State -13)

Perhaps foreshadowing what would become a season full of head-scratching upsets, the Seminoles dropped their season-opener at home to a South Alabama team that finished with a 8-8 record in the Sun Belt Conference in 2012. The Seminoles had lost a significant amount of production from their 2012 squad that won the ACC tournament, but they returned preseason All-American guard Michael Snaer.

Even with the current knowledge that Florida State is arguably the most fickle team in the country, with as many good wins as bad losses, a home loss to South Alabama is certainly worthy of a top-10 mention.
 
 
9. @ Arkansas 80, No. 3 Florida 69 – 2/5/12
Records: Arkansas (13-8, 4-4), Florida (18-2, 8-0)
KenPom differential: 76 (Arkansas 77, Florida 1)
Spread differential: -22.5 (Florida -11.5)

Shock value is why this upset makes the list. The SEC is the worst BCS-conference this season, and Florida had been destroying conference opposition, winning by an average of 26.5-ppg. In fact, their closest SEC road game was a 64-47 victory over Georgia following the Gator’s 31-point destruction of then-No.17 Missouri.

The Bud Walton Arena is a difficult place to win games on the road, and the Razorbacks have historically played significantly better at home, evident by their 14-1 home record this season. That being said, Florida entered the contest as arguably the most dominant team in the country and was expected to win by double-digits. They offered little resistance to the Hogs’ hot shooting and trailed by as many as 27.
 
 
8. Charleston 63, @ No. 24 Baylor 59 – 11/24/12
Records: Charleston (2-2), Baylor (4-1)
KenPom differential: 115 (Charleston 134, Baylor 19)
Spread differential: -21.5 (Baylor -17.5)

Looking back on it, this was probably not as big of an upset as the numbers indicate.

We now know that Baylor, despite their talent, is one of the most inconsistent teams in the country, routinely failing to show up against teams they should beat with ease.

Charleston is not a pushover or a bad team. They are the second-best team in the Southern Conference, and have a strong history of postseason success. But that doesn’t change the fact that they went in to Waco and defeated a ranked team that was favored to win by more than 17 points.
 
 
7. Southern 53, @ Texas A&M 51 – 12/22/12
Records: Southern (4-6), Texas A&M (8-2)
KenPom differential: 153 (Southern 248, Texas A&M 95)
Spread differential: Off the board

Heading into the contest Texas A&M had lost just twice, both times on a neutral court against top-75 competition (Saint Louis and Oklahoma). In the 2012 meeting between the Aggies and Jaguars, Texas A&M scored a season-high 83 points and beat Southern by 25.

The Jaguars’ 2-point victory was their first road win over a team ranked inside the top-150 in over a decade, and their first win over a BCS-conference team in more than 15 years.
 
 
6. Chaminade 86, Texas (2-0) 73 – 11/19/12
Records: Chaminade (2-1 D-II), Texas (2-0)
KenPom differential: N/A (Chaminade is a D-II school)
Spread differential: -29.5 (Texas -16.5)

Texas traveled to Hawaii to participate in the Maui Invitational with the knowledge that superstar guard Myck Kabongo was unlikely to participate due to the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into his eligibility.

And while Texas faced the Silver Swords on the 30th anniversary of their legendary upset over then-No.1 Virginia, no one could have predicted a loss of this magnitude.

The Longhorns not only lost, but were run out of the gym. As -16.5 favorites losing by 13 points, the Longhorns suffered the largest betting line differential of any losing favorite this season.
 
 
5. Columbia 75, @ Villanova 57 – 11/20/12
Records: Columbia (2-1), Villanova (3-1)
KenPom differential: 68 (Columbia 131, Villanova 68)
Spread differential: -28 (Villanova -10)

Villanova lost to a marginal Ivy League team by 18 points at home in unquestionably the ugliest home upset loss of the season.

Columbia has not made the postseason since 1968.

A loss to the Lions in any fashion would be considered a massive upset, but losing at home by 18 points to a team that does not provide athletic scholarships should be grounds for removal from the Big East.

Hindsight is 20-20, but this is the same Villanova team that beat No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse in back-to-back games.
 
 
4. Winthrop 50, @ Ohio 49 – 12/15/12
Records: Winthrop (3-4), Ohio (7-2)
KenPom differential: 185 (Winthrop 233, Ohio 48)
Spread differential: Off the board

You may have not even been aware that this game took place, but not all upsets feature legendary programs and top-25 teams.

The Bobcats entered the game having lost just twice, both times on the road, and faced a Winthrop team that had yet to defeat a D-I opponent.

Heading in to the contest Winthrop had lost by an average margin of victory of 18 points. Ohio had lost just once at home in the previous season and despite losing their head coach Jim Groce to Illinois, returned their top three scorers, including 2012 MAC tournament MVP and Cousey Award finalist D.J. Cooper.
 
 
3. Cal Poly 70, @ UCLA 68 – 11/25/12
Records: Cal Poly (1-2), UCLA (4-1)
KenPom differential: 167 (Cal Poly 217, UCLA 50)
Spread differential: -20.5 (UCLA -18.5)

Until Kansas’ loss to TCU, there was not a more embarrassing loss this season than UCLA’s home defeat at the hands of Cal Poly. The Bruins led 51-33 with 12:21 remaining, but made just four field goals the rest of the way.

Cal Poly was picked to finish 7th in the Big West heading in to the season, and were 18.5-point underdogs heading into this contest. It was also the highest-ranked team ever defeated by Cal Poly, a team that joined the Division-I ranks in 1994.
 
 
2. Old Dominion 63, Virginia 61 – 12/22/12
Records: ODU (1-10, 0-1), Virginia (9-2)
KenPom differential: 195 (Old Dominion 237, Virginia 42)
Spread differential: -16 (Virginia -14)

Old Dominion is the worst team in a very bad Colonial Athletic Association. The Monarchs were so bad that the school fired head coach Blaine Taylor, the schools all-time winningest coach, with nine games remaining in the season.

It’s true, both of Virginia’s losses heading into the contest with the Monarchs were to CAA competition. And yes, it’s true, Virginia is not a potent offensive team. But that does not excuse the fact that the Cavaliers lost to a team ranked 284th in defensive efficiency and 318th in effective field goal percentage.

At the time it was an ugly loss and huge upset, and the Monarchs continued struggles have only magnified just how big of an upset this was.
 
 
1. @ TCU 62, No. 5 Kansas 55 – 2/6/13
Records at the time: TCU (9-12, 0-8), Kansas (19-2, 7-1)
KenPom Ranking differential: 265 (TCU 278, Kansas 13)
Spread differntial: -24 (Kansas -17 favorites)

You don’t need to look at the stats to know that this was the ugliest, most shocking upset of the season. TCU, a school with almost zero basketball pulse or identity, defeated one of the nation’s top teams and most legendary programs.

Kansas had not lost back-to-back games in 264 contests dating back to the 2005-2006 season. On the flip side, the Horned Frogs have mustered just two winning seasons in the past decade.

Kansas scored just 13 points in the first half, their lowest single half total of the season, and finished with 55 points, another team low for the season.

Prior to Wednesday night’s game, TCU had lost eight consecutive games and had not won since beating 3-18 SWAC bottom-feeder Mississippi Valley State by just three points on the same court.

This was not just the biggest, ugliest and most shocking upset of the season, but one of historic proportions.

VIDEO: Luke Maye gets standing ovation in class after game-winning shot

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

You want to talk dedication to ones studies?

How about this: Luke Maye, just 13 hours after hitting a game-winning shot to beat Kentucky in the Elite 8, got a standing ovation in his Business 101 class at 8 a.m. on Monday morning.

Check out the video:

Luke, you’re a celebrity now. Going to an 8 a.m. class after your weekend heroics is iffy at best, but if you’re going to do it, we need you to start dressing a little better than this.

VIDEO: De’Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo inconsolable after Elite 8 loss

Leave a comment

Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, the two freshmen on Kentucky’s roster that aren’t Malik Monk, were sitting next to each other in the locker room following Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina on Sunday night, and the Wildcat stars were inconsolable.

As weird as this may sound, and as tough as that video is to watch at times, I love it. The problem with one-and-done kids is that it, at times, feels like they’re mercenaries, that they are players that are strictly in college because they have to be, because they can’t make millions in the NBA yet.

Fox and Adebayo certainly do fall into that category, but it doesn’t come with the typical shortcomings.

They clearly care about their school, about their teammates and about that loss.

I’ve grown cynical, I guess, and while I’ll readily admit that video was too tough for me to watch in its entirety, it is refreshing to see just how much they care.

Even if they are only making a seven month stop over in Lexington.

VIDEO: Kentucky, UNC fans react to insane finish to Elite 8 game

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The finish last night between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky was one of the greatest and most exhilarating endings to a basketball that we’ve seen in the NCAA tournament.

It was capped by Luke Maye answering Malik Monk’s jumper with a jumper of his own, sending the Tar Heels to the Final Four for the second straight season.

That’s a roller coaster of emotions to go through in 10 seconds, and perhaps no one embodies that more than the dude in the No. 11 jersey here:

(Does anyone know him? Can we confirm he’s OK?)

Anyway, that emotion was nothing compared to what the Kentucky team went through. De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo were inconsolable in the locker room after the game:

North Carolina fans, however, were just a little bit happier:

Like his career, Frank Martin has built South Carolina from the ground up

1 Comment

NEW YORK — It was after he finished watching South Carolina cut down the Madison Square Garden nets, after he had spent the better part of 30 minutes giving interviews on the court, after he was spotted by the CBS cameras, with a fist raised and tears pooling under his eyes, that the enormity of what he had just witnessed hit Darius Rucker.

“Gosh,” he said to everyone and no one in particular as he left the arena floor and made his way through the bowels of the Garden, “I can’t believe that just happened.”

The ‘that’ that Rucker, South Carolina’s most famous and, quite possibly, biggest fan, was referring to was a 77-70, come-from behind win over No. 4 seed Florida that jettisoned the seventh-seeded Gamecocks through the Elite 8 and into the Final Four. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years. They had been to four NCAA tournaments in the previous 43 seasons, and they had never won back-to-back tournament game.

As in not ever.

“We’re in the Garden, watching the Gamecocks play to go to the Final Four,” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that ten years ago I’d have told you that you were on crack.”

That’s the program that Frank Martin inherited in 2012, when he left Kansas State following a falling out with his athletic director, John Currie. Like South Carolina, Kansas State was hardly considered a destination job when Martin was at the helm, but he was able to build off of a foundation created by Bob Huggins. Martin had been to four NCAA tournaments in five years with Kansas State when he made the decision to leave. Nothing is more important to Martin than loyalty. “He’s always had a core group of people that he’s counted on,” his agent, Bret Just, said, and Currie was not one of those people.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Kansas State was a No. 8 seed, squaring off with No. 1 seed Syracuse when Martin was informed by Currie that Jamar Samuels, one of his best players, would not be allowed to suit up. The school had stumbled upon information that Samuels had received a wire transfer for $200 from his AAU coach, and he was going to be suspended.

And that was that.

Martin was off to South Carolina.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was a situation where we had to go,” associate head coach Matt Figger, who has been with Martin for the last decade, said, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest or smartest decision to leave. Most understood why Martin had to make the change that he made — he was offered a hefty raise and he had the chance to leave a place of employment where he did not get along with his boss — but it wasn’t as if Martin was climbing the ladder. If anything, South Carolina was a step backwards, as Martin took over a program with less pedigree and with a significant building job in front of them.

“I didn’t really know until I got into it. It was a much different deal. It looked easier on the surface than what it really was,” Figger said. “The best players transferred. Bruce Ellington, he’s with the 49ers now, he was the one guy that we could trust and he played football half the year. Couple of the guys that were the holdovers, I don’t think they believed in what our vision was. After a year, some of them left.”

“We had to start this from scratch.”

The process was slow in the early stages. Martin replaced Darrin Horn, who had won just 10 games and finished dead last in the SEC in his final season on campus, and didn’t post a .500 record until his third season in Columbia. Even then, that team went just 17-16. He won 15 SEC games in his first three years combined. After a late season swoon cost South Carolina a shot at the 2016 NCAA tournament, there was speculation that another year without a trip to the Big Dance could spell the end of Martin’s time with the Gamecocks.

“It was hard!” Martin’s wife, Anya, said. “You see he’s losing his hair. It’s all turning white. It was tough in the beginning. I had to ask him a couple of times, ‘Why here?’”

The easy answer is that it wasn’t Kansas State, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Martin is not a man that is afraid of a challenge. He’s not intimidated by a job that isn’t easy to do, not when you come from where he’s come from, when you’ve coached on the path that he has coached.

Martin got his first job when he was 12 years old, working at a Dairy Queen to help his mom pay the bills when his dad walked out on them. His coaching career started a year after he graduated high school, when he was just 19 years old.

“I tore my ACL the year before,” Martin said, “and my high school coach asked me to come help him, because the kids in the neighborhood respected me so much.”

He was nothing more than an assistant with the team at Miami Senior High School, helping out when and where he could, when the head coach of the JV team didn’t show up for work one day. Shakey Rodriguez, a legend in the Miami High School basketball community, told Martin he would be coaching that day, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“By his second season,” Martin’s mother, Lourdes, beaming as she held back tears of joy, said, “he was 22-0.”

Even as Martin was coaching, he was still working on the side, most famously as a bouncer in Miami’s nightclub scene. He needed a degree, so he took night classes at Miami-Dade College before enrolling part-time at FIU. His future was capped if he didn’t graduate.

“He made it out,” she added, holding on to her grandson to steady herself as the moment washed over her. “He had many, many jobs, and then God was up there and blessed him.”

Martin would go from the high school ranks to Northeastern, taking a paycut just to get his foot in the door. He spent four years as an assistant and met his wife — “My wife turned me down seven times to go out on a date,” he said. “Seven. Seven. And the day she made the mistake of going out on a date with me, I never let her go.” — before moving on to Cincinnati, where he joined forces with Bob Huggins, spending two seasons with the Bearcats before following Huggins to Kansas State. He replaced Huggins as Kansas State’s head coach a year after joining the program and just seven years after he joined the collegiate coaching ranks. He would take the Wildcats to more NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at the helm than they had been to in the previous two decades combined.

“Frank’s never steered away from a challenge as long as I’ve known him,” Anya said. “He’s overcome any obstacle in his way, just ‘I’m going to make it work.'”

“He’s a builder,” Just said.

And he’s done just that at South Carolina.

“I’m happy as any mom could be,” Lourdes said. “Speechless, but not all the way. I have to talk to him about my air ticket.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin spoke many times about the dream of leading this team to this moment, but he didn’t always believe that the dream of taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four was a realistic possibility.

“When we beat Duke, Frank said ‘Why not us?’” Figgers said, a motto that had become something of a rallying cry for the Gamecocks during the East Regional. “That’s the first time we really talked about [winning a title].”

The team and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones that never really gave this possibility much thought. College basketball at large — the fans, the media, opposing coaches — all had the same thought: “South Carolina in the Final Four? The same team that put up 86 points in four overtimes against Alabama? Lulz.”

They showed us.

Over and over again.

South Carolina’s star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the East Region, mentioned in every press conference this weekend that no one paid attention to or respected the program prior to this run. Martin ranted earlier this year about the lack of local media coverage his team gets, particularly when they play on the road.

At this point in the season, most players get burned out of the media attention they get, answering the same questions over and over and over again.

I don’t blame them.

On Sunday evening, after spending 25 minutes up on the dais for a postgame press conference, Thornwell was finally en route back to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he was pulled aside by a television reporter that needed just a couple more minutes of his time.

Thornwell, decked out in a East Regional Champs shirt and hat with the remnants of a net dangling around his neck, didn’t mind.

“You gotta talk a lot,” Thornwell said, “when you win.”

Drake hires Furman’s Niko Medved to be new head coach

Drake Athletics
Leave a comment

Drake has hired Furman head coach Niko Medved to the same position, the school announced on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Medved has led the Paladins to back-to-back CIT appearances as he’s been the head coach there for four seasons. Also an assistant coach at Minnesota and Colorado State, Medved is a noted recruiter.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be the next men’s basketball coach at Drake University,” Medved said in the release. “Drake University’s tremendous reputation partnered with its strong leadership and the thriving Des Moines community make this a special place.  I was born and raised in the Midwest and have so many strong roots in this part of the country.  My family and I can’t wait to get started.”

Medved was named the Southern Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year for helping lead Furman to the regular-season title in the league.

The Bulldogs are coming off a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference as former head coach Ray Giacoletti was relieved of his duties in January. Drake only has one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 (coming in 2008) as the Bulldogs have struggled to remain relevant in a tough league.