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.

Colorado State’s Eustachy says Paul Weir has ‘worst job in the country’ at New Mexico

(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Leave a comment

New Mexico coach Paul Weir just landed his new job in April but Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy already believes that Weir has, “the worst job in the country.”

Speaking to reporters, including the Albuquerque Journal’s Geoff Grammer, at Mountain West preseason media day in Las Vegas on Wednesday, the outspoken Eustachy criticized Weir’s lack of pay at New Mexico for the amount of pressure he is dealing with.

“I think he’s got the worst job in the country,” Eustachy said of Weir. “I just told him that. It doesn’t pay enough. If I got paid $5 million, I’d take all that crap that you get in Albuquerque, but he doesn’t make enough money. But that place is different, as you know. It’s a different beast.”

As noted by Grammer, Eustachy once called the New Mexico job one of the best in the sport before previous head coach, and Eustachy’s friend, Craig “Noodles” Neal took the job. But after Neal’s exit from the Lobos and the way the New Mexico fanbase soured on Craig’s son, Cullen, Eustachy has taken a different course. He believes Weir isn’t making nearly enough money to deal with that kind of potential hostility.

“It’s a great job if you’re making $2 million, what they were going to give Steve Alford, but what they pay (Weir), no,” Eustachy said.

Alford is now at UCLA after leaving New Mexico in the spring of 2013. Before he ultimately went to the Bruins, Alford signed a 10-year term sheet with New Mexico for around $1.8 million per year. Before his recent firing, Neal had elevated his contract to $950,000 annually after making $750,000 in his first season. Weir will only make $625,000 to coach his first season in New Mexico after signing a six-year deal.

Eustachy believes New Mexico has one of the great fanbases in college basketball but the group will also turn quickly if things start to go wrong.

“You might get one mulligan in that town, and that’s before you do the press conference,” Eustachy said of New Mexico fans. “You know how that town works. I think it’s great on one end. Name them? You’ve got Lexington, Kentucky, you’ve got Syracuse, N.Y., you’ve got Duke, and New Mexico is in that 10. … And the jobs you name that are going in that 10, those guys are making $8 million and Noodles was making ($950,000). To succeed there, with the expectations that come with it, it’s rare to survive that thing. You know that.

“Can you imagine Alford, if he was still making $2 million and he had a couple bad years there, what it would do? And it’s neat that they’re that much into it, but there’s got to be something else besides basketball in Albuquerque because it is a religion there.”

Some strong words from Eustachy in this as he takes small jabs at the New Mexico fanbase while criticizing their administration for being cheap. It’s admirable that Eustachy is advocating more pay for one of his colleagues but you have to wonder if doing this in a very public way is the best course of action.

Now when Colorado State travels to New Mexico on Jan. 27, there will be a lot of pressure on Eustachy, and his players, in what could be a hostile road environment. That’s a Saturday night game to keep an eye on later this season.

Rick Pitino maintains he had ‘no knowledge’ of Louisville recruiting scandal in TV interview

(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
1 Comment

Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino continues to publicly maintain his innocence in the FBI probe that has rocked college basketball. The recently fired Pitino, in a televised interview with ESPN’s Jay Bilas on Wednesday night, declared that he had “no knowledge” of any alleged payments that might have gone from Louisville to McDonald’s All-American recruit Brian Bowen, currently a freshman at the school.

In the interview with Bilas, Pitino stated that he passed a voluntary lie detector test in which he was asked about the Bowen situation and the involvement of Adidas. While Pitino told Bilas that he takes “full responsibility” for the hiring and vetting of his staff members, he still finds all of this hard to believe as he is maintaining his full innocence.

“I was asked two questions,” Pitino said of the lie detector test. “And I said, ‘I want you to ask me if any other recruits in my tenure were ever given anything.’ And he [the polygraph examiner] said, ‘That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for: Did you have any knowledge of the Bowen family getting any money? Did you have any knowledge of an Adidas transaction?’

“I answered ‘absolutely not’ on both questions and passed the lie detector test. So I had no knowledge of any of this.”

Louisville was not named directly in the FBI report that led to the arrest of 10, but the university has confirmed that they are a part of the probe. After being placed on unpaid administrative leave in late September, the Louisville athletic board opted to fire Pitino “for cause” earlier this week while athletic director Tom Jurich was also fired on Wednesday.

Pitino said that Louisville rushed to judgment with all of this as he believes the other schools involved in the probe are doing more to collect information before jumping to conclusions. When Pitino was asked to resign by Louisville officials, he told Bilas he refused, in-part because he wanted a full investigation to play out.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not,'” Pitino said of his resignation. “I said, ‘Let’s get the facts out here before we rush anything. We were sitting on a great team. We’re sitting on a great recruiting class. Let’s calm down a little bit here.'”

“This is your life,” Pitino said. “This is your passion and you don’t want your life taken and pulled away from you. I think all these other people reacted the right way, whether it’s at Auburn, Arizona, USC and Oklahoma [State]. … They’re collecting all the facts, seeing what’s going on. There’s only been one school that rushed to judgment and took the coach away from these players and that’s Louisville.”

Pitino also took the interesting stance of publicly defending Bowen, the recruit who has been at the center of Louisville’s involvement in the FBI investigation. It was alleged that Bowen’s family was funneled $100,000 to help facilitate his move to Louisville.

“I have no factual information on the statement I’m going to make right now: I don’t believe Brian Bowen knew a single thing about this,” Pitino said to Bilas. “I’m totally of the belief that the mom knew nothing about this because of the text message she sent me. Brian Bowen is a terrific young man.

“He fell into our lap in recruiting. Obviously, now with the circumstances behind it, there’s more to it than meets the eye. But I believe Brian Bowen chose the University of Louisville because he loved the visit, he loved his future teammates and he wanted to play for me. I don’t think he’s involved in this in any way. Now, am I being naive? I don’t know. I just believe in that young man.”

Obviously, there is a lot to take in with this interview, especially since Pitino continues to publicly state his case while nearly everyone else involved has stayed quiet. It’s hard to say if any of these statements will come back to haunt him but speaking up for Bowen’s innocence is another risky move that might have been better left unsaid.

(H/t: ESPN)

Big Ten approves 20-game conference schedule for men’s basketball

(Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Wink Public Relations)
Leave a comment

The Big Ten approved changes to the future of conference basketball scheduling on Thursday morning as men’s basketball will now feature 20 conference games per season.

Beginning with the 2018-19 season, the Big Ten will now have 20 league games instead of 18 in men’s basketball as the format means that more in-state rivalries will be played twice a season.

According to a release from the conference, the new format for men’s basketball will feature teams playing seven opponents twice and six teams once (three home, three away) during each conference season. The Big Ten’s three in-state rivalries (Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue and Michigan/Michigan State) will all be guaranteed two matchups every year while the new 20-game format also allows for a “regional component” that should increase the frequency of games among teams in similar areas.

After the Big Ten scheduled all three of their in-state rivalries to play only one time each during the 2017-18 season, this is probably the right move in terms of conference scheduling. While playing more than half of your season games against conference opponents isn’t entirely ideal, with a 14-team league, the Big Ten had to make a tough decision and they chose to protect their internal rivalries. I’m sure the fanbases of those programs would prefer a home-and-home with a heated rival as opposed to another non-conference clash that could be underwhelming.

The Big Ten also made changes to the women’s basketball schedule on Thursday as that conference schedule will be bumped up to 18 games per season.

College Hoops Contender Series: Duke is the most talented team in the country … sound familiar?

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

Who are the favorites to win a national title? Who can legitimately be called a contender? Who has the pieces to make a run to the Final Four? We’ll break that all down for you over the next three weeks in our Contender Series.

Last week, we gave you our Final Four sleepers and talked about six different Final Four contenders – Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova, Wichita State, USC and Miami – that are just flawed enough that we can’t call them contenders.

There is a pretty clear-cut delineation between the four or five best teams, the clear national title challengers, and the rest of the country this season.

This week, we will be taking a deeper dive into five of those teams.

What makes them good enough to win a national title?

But why won’t they win a national title?

After deep dives into Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona and Michigan State, we finish it up with the Duke Blue Devils.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

Grayson Allen (Chet Strange/Getty Images)

WHY THEY WILL WIN

Duke is the most talented team in college basketball.

Forget, for a second, how old these kids are, the way that the roster fits together or whether or not there is enough shooting on this team to keep the floor spaced.

When talking purely about talent, Duke is step above anyone else in the sport.

It starts with Marvin Bagley III, who may just end up being the National Player of the Year and the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

And then there is Grayson Allen. Love him or hate him, these three things are facts:

  1. Allen was a second-team all-american as a sophomore.
  2. Prior to his junior season, a year that Allen spent battling foot and ankle injuries, he was picked by the majority of the outlets that do these things as the Preseason National Player of the Year.
  3. He’s healthy now.

There’s more.

Trevon Duval, a projected lottery pick, is the top-ranked point guard in the Class of 2017. Wendell Carter, who is also projected to go in the lottery, was the top power forward in the class until Bagley joined the class. Gary Trent Jr., another potential first round pick, was the second-best shooting guard in the class. Off the bench, there is former five-star recruit Marques Bolden along with a trio of former four-star prospects.

Mike Krzyzewski has won national titles with less.

And if games were played on paper, he would probably win a national title this season.

But, as we learned last season with this very same Duke team, the games are not played on paper.

Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Atlantic 10 PreviewMountain West Preview

Marvin Bagley III (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

WHY THEY WON’T WIN

The biggest question mark, the one that has made it so difficult for so many teams in the one-and-done era to win with a roster based entirely on freshmen, is just how much youth is on this roster.

Four of the five starters are going to be freshmen. The four bench players that seemed destined to fill out the rotation are either freshmen or sophomores that barely saw any action as freshmen. The only true veteran on the roster is Grayson Allen, and if we’ve learned anything over the course of his collegiate career, it’s that there are valid reasons to wonder whether he is the kind of leader that the Blue Devils will need.

And, as always, there are going to be questions about role allocation, particularly on a roster with this much talent on it. Marques Bolden wasn’t thrilled about coming off the bench last season, contemplated a transfer this offseason and then returned to Duke thinking that he would be the starting center for the Blue Devils this year. Wendell Carter committed to Duke under the pretense that he would be slotted in as the four in Duke’s lineup, allowing him to play away from the basket more than on the block.

Then Marvin Bagley III decided he would be going to Duke.

Suddenly, those plans have changed.

Carter and Bolden are going to be competing for the right to start at center for the Blue Devils, because Bagley will be starting at the four. He is a perfect fit there. Not only can he step out and play on the perimeter, allowing Duke to continue using the four-around-one offense that has been so effective in each of the last four years, but he’ll make them infinitely better defensively than they were with Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram or Jabari Parker in that role.

What that means is that either Bolden or Carter is going to be playing a different role than they expected this season; hell, they both might end up there.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Wendell Carter (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

And that’s before you consider the shots that Bagley is going to get.

There were already going to be players sacrificing shots somewhere on this roster, whether it was Grayson Allen, Gary Trent or Trevon Duval, and I fully expect Bagley to now end up as Duke’s leading scorer.

Someone is going to have to make a sacrifice, and it’s not always easy to get guys to think that is a good idea.

But the biggest question mark facing the Blue Devils this season is the same question mark they’ve dealt with over the course of the last two years: Does Duke have the point guard they need on their roster?

On the one hand, the answer is pretty obvious. Duval is a potential lottery pick. He’s the top point guard in the Class of 2017 and one of the top five prospects in a class that has at least three guys every NBA team is going to be tanking to try and draft. He’s 6-foot-3, he’s incredibly athletic and he’s a talent when he can get going downhill, attacking the rim.

On paper, that’s a tremendous addition.

The problem is that Duval is a score-first slasher with an unreliable jumper on a team that is going to have some issues spacing the floor and is crying out for a facilitator at the point. This team needs Tyus Jones, and what they added is Derrick Rose. That could end up being a good thing — Rose was the No. 1 pick after he averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 boards while shooting 34 percent from three for a Memphis team that would have won the national title if he could make free throws. But that Rose’s team. Chris Douglas-Roberts may have been the leading scorer and Joey Dorsey may have been the heart and soul of the group, but what they did was built around what Rose was able to do with the ball in his hands.

Duval may play like Rose, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be as good as Rose.

And if he doesn’t have an offense suited to his skill set, it’s fair to wonder just how valuable he will be in that position.

What Duke needs from their point guard is a player that can get them into an offense, distribute the ball and make a play when the shot clock is winding down. Frank Jackson wasn’t that guy. Derryck Thornton wasn’t that guy.

Is Duval?


Trevon Duval (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

PREDICTION

Duke is going to be very good, just like they were last season.

I know people don’t want to hear that, but the fact of the matter is that Duke finished last year as the ACC tournament champion, earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament with a valid argument to be the fourth No. 1 seed despite having a roller coaster of a season that involved four of their stars and their Hall of Fame head coach miss significant time with injuries.

At the very least, this season will be a smoother ride because I’m not sure it’s possible for a season to be more difficult than the one Duke had in 2016-17.

So what will that turn into?

I think it’s as simple as this: If Trevon Duval turns into a top 15 point guard in the sport, then I think the Blue Devils win the ACC regular season title and enter the NCAA tournament as one of, if not the favorite to win the whole thing. They’re better defensively than they’ve been in some time, and they should be able to overwhelm teams with their talent.

But if Duval struggles, if Duke spends the season trying to figure out an answer to their point guard situation, then I would not be surprised to see a repeat of last season — questionable losses sprinkled in amongst impressive wins, inconsistency night-to-night and a number of people willing to overlook it and pick Duke to win the national title on Selection Sunday anyway.

Arizona State lands four-star guard Luguentz Dort

Leave a comment

Arizona State landed a huge commitment on Wednesday night as four-star guard Lugentz Dort pledged to the Sun Devils.

The second commitment for Arizona State in the Class of 2018 in less than a week, the 6-foot-3 Dort is a big-time athlete on the perimeter as he selected the Sun Devils over his other finalists of Baylor and Oregon. Dort took official visits to all three schools during the process.

One of the better shooting guards in the 2018 class, Dort is a physically-imposing guard who should be ready to immediately contribute in the Pac-12.

Dort joins Finnish shooting guard Elias Valtonen in the Arizona State Class of 2018 recruiting haul.