Top-10 biggest upsets of the college basketball season

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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.

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

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Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

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David Cruz/USA TODAY Sports
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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.