College Basketball Handicapping: Potential Upcoming Upsets
by Trevor Whenham - 12/3/2013
As this young college basketball season has gotten underway, a theme that has emerged has been upsets of ranked teams by upstart squads. That’s usually the case in college basketball — winning games is never easy — but it seems to be even more common now than usual. Looking forward over the next week of action, here’s a look at six upstart teams that have a chance to beat their ranked (or higher-ranked) opponents:
Virginia vs. Wisconsin, Dec.4, 7 p.m. ET
Wisconsin is ranked eighth in the country and is off to a strong 8-0 start highlighted by a nice win over Florida. Virginia could be a big test for them, though. The Cavaliers are 7-1, and their lone loss was a game effort against a very challenging VCU squad. They are a reasonably strong shooting team, and they should be able to win the rebounding contest here. The biggest advantage Virginia has over Wisconsin here, though, is that they are playing at home. The crowd will be fired up for this one, and that could make an upset possible.
Baylor vs. Kentucky, Dec. 6, 10 p.m. ET
Kentucky is a very strong team and a public darling that will draw a lot of betting attention in this one. For those casual fans, it will be very easy to underestimate 20th-ranked Baylor, which has the same 7-1 record as Kentucky and has the big advantage of playing at home. Baylor has had some tests already this year, and their lone loss against Syracuse was far from embarrassing. Kentucky is a rebounding machine, but the Bears are no slouches on that front, and the Wildcats won’t be able to gain the edge on the boards here that they have in some games. This game takes place in what was formerly known as Cowboys Stadium, so the crowd will be large and likely leaning towards Baylor. I’d be happier if the game was on a neutral court, but this is second best.
UNLV at Arizona, Dec. 7, 5:15 p.m. ET
Arizona is ranked second in the country, and this is far from the UNLV team we have seen in recent years, so this could have the look of a mismatch. There is at least a chance, though, that the Rebels could make this one interesting. They are a young team, but they are forging their identity, and they have already been seasoned by a reasonably challenging schedule. What stands out most is their ability to rebound. They will need to control the tempo and steal some opportunities against this very good Arizona squad, and a strong performance on the glass could be their best chance to do just that. A cover seems more likely than a win, but anything is possible.
Colorado vs. Kansas, Dec. 7, 3:15 p.m. ET
Kansas is an immensely-talented team, but relying so heavily as they do on key freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, they are obviously a work in progress. Wiggins has yet to find his full consistency, though he has reportedly struggled with some health issues along the way. Colorado lost to Baylor in their opener but has been increasingly strong since then. They aren’t spectacular in any one area, but they are well-rounded and reasonably deep. Kansas will be playing their first true road game — previous away games have been on neutral courts — so the crowd could be a factor for the young team as well.
BYU at UMass, Dec. 7, 1:30 p.m. ET
UMass is off to a very impressive start and will likely be 7-0 when this game begins. They absolutely destroyed New Mexico and have four wins against major-conference squads already. They could have their hands full with this BYU team, though. The Cougars have already played two ranked teams — Iowa State and Wichita State. They lost both games, but they will have gained a lot from those experiences. BYU dictates a swift pace, they play very well as a team, and they are strong on the boards. UMass has been exerting a big rebounding edge in their wins, so they could lose that advantage here.
Drake at Iowa, Dec. 7, 8:30 p.m. ET
This is a bloodfest for Iowa supremacy taking place on a neutral(ish) court in Iowa City. Iowa is 7-1 and will have a tough game against Notre Dame to tune up before this one. They are ranked 23rd in the country, and they have rebounded and shared the ball extremely well while piling up the points. They haven’t played a particularly tough schedule, though, and we know that Drake will be playing with tremendous intensity here since they have nothing to lose. The Bulldogs shoot well, and if they can get hot they could do some real damage to this upstart Iowa team.
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