College Basketball Handicapping: Possible Upset Games
by Trevor Whenham - 12/10/2013
Throughout the college basketball season, and especially in nonconference play, upsets of top teams by feisty underdogs are very common. Handicappers who can consistently spot these potential upsets can find some nice profits. Here are six games in the coming week in which the likely underdog is a live one:
West Virginia vs. Gonzaga, Dec.10, 9 p.m. ET
These teams had not played before the 2012 NCAA Tournament, but this is their third meeting since then. Gonzaga has easily won both. This is the first true road game of the season for the Bulldogs, though. Gonzaga is clearly the better team, but they rely on strong shooting for a good portion of their success, and West Virginia has defended the shot well this year. Bob Huggins should be very motivated to make a statement against these Bulldogs on his turf. That means shooting better from the foul line and avoiding turnovers. Both of those things are in their control, so the Mountaineers could make this one interesting.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Wisconsin, Dec. 11, 8 p.m. ET
The Badgers are off to an extremely good start. They are very talented, but they are likely overachieving by a touch — they are a Top 20 team, but I don’t believe they are Top 6. This Milwaukee team will be very motivated to make a statement against the big boys of their state, and they have a talented team off to a 9-2 start. They play the Badgers every year, and though they don’t win, they often play close. The rest of the schedule until conference play starts in the new year is very weak for the Badgers, so they could easily be caught looking forward to a bit of a break.
Michigan vs. Arizona, Dec. 14, noon ET
On the surface this is a mismatch — the No. 1 team in the country playing at an unranked team. Michigan is deceptive, though. Their start has been lousy, but they are young and adapting to life without National Player of the Year Trey Burke. They have shown real signs of life in the last week, and have a very talented roster. The Wildcats are young, too, and this is only their second true road game — and the best opponent they have faced so far. Michigan has a real chance here.
New Mexico at Kansas, Dec. 14, 7 p.m. ET
Kansas is very talented, and they will be ready by March. They are very young right now, though, and that has made them vulnerable. They play this game on a neutral court just four days after a brutal trip to Florida and just a week after a loss at Colorado, so they could be mentally strained. New Mexico has won seven of eight and is getting outstanding play from Cameron Bairstow. They have the habit of getting up for big games, and this certainly qualifies on that front.
Illinois at Oregon, Dec. 14, 9 p.m. ET
Oregon is one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in the Pac-12, but I’m just not that impressed by them. Their schedule hasn’t been great, and though they can certainly score, they are a disaster in their own end. Illinois is much better defensively and should be able to slow down the Ducks a bit. They won at UNLV already, so we know they can perform on the road. Oregon is going to be exposed at some point, and this could be that time.
St. John’s vs. Syracuse, Dec. 15, noon ET
The Orange are off to a great start, and they should have a strong conference season. I’m not overwhelmed by their schedule so far, though, so they may not be quite as strong as their No. 3 ranking suggests. This is also their first true road trip of the season, and they are going to be facing a hostile and enthusiastic crowd. St. John’s has struggled the last two years, but the Red Storm are significantly better than they have been, they have a very talented bench, and they are very tough and disciplined on defense. They will be very hungry, and they could make things interesting.
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