College Basketball Handicapping: Potential Upsets
by Trevor Whenham - 11/19/2013
Last weekend we witnessed some big upsets in college basketball. Belmont over North Carolina. Iowa State beating Michigan. Indiana State over Notre Dame. Upsets are a big part of the sport, and a loss in November means very little to the true contenders when things really matter in March. Upsets can be very profitable for bettors, though, because the public backs the ranked teams and ignores live underdogs. Here are seven games in the next two weeks that could have the potential for upsets.
Iowa State (21) at BYU, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 9:30 p.m. ET
The Cyclones are coming off a huge home win over Michigan, and they are now ranked as a result. They now have to get their heads back in the game and get ready for a trip to an unbeaten-and-potentially-dangerous BYU team. The Cyclones are by far the better team, but the chance for a letdown is significant.
VCU (10) vs. Florida State, Thursday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Puerto Rico Tip-Off is shaping up as a tough tournament, and this game is a prime example. VCU is entering the season with much more attention than they are used to. After operating just under the radar for years, they are now ranked and have a target on their collective back. Their Havoc Defense has been challenged by rule changes this year, and the adjustments aren’t complete yet. Florida State has some talent, and they could make things interesting. It’s the second big test VCU has faced this year, and they barely passed the first — beating Virginia on the road by just three points.
Richmond vs. North Carolina (24), Saturday, Nov. 23, noon ET
North Carolina was caught off guard last time out by a feisty underdog. They face another one here, and they have to do it on a neutral court where the crowd can’t lift them. This isn’t as good a Richmond team as we have seen in recent years, but they have already beaten that same Belmont team that shocked the Tar Heels.
Oklahoma State (7) at South Florida, Monday, Nov. 25, 7 p.m. ET
The Cowboys haven’t yet been significantly tested. They likely won’t be here, either, but playing against a decent team on the road is always a cause for some concern. The Bulls have warmed up with four games against outmatched opponents, so they will be confident, and they know they have nothing to lose. If the Cowboys take this one for granted, it could get interesting.
Syracuse (9) vs. Minnesota, Monday, Nov. 25, 5:30 p.m. ET
Syracuse was lucky to escape against St. Francis last time out, so we know they can be vulnerable. Minnesota is a dramatically better team than St. Francis. They have rebounded well, and they will have had five games to work things out before this one. This takes place as part of the Maui Invitational, and crazy things can and do happen in Hawaii at this time of year.
Gonzaga (13) vs. Dayton, Monday, Nov. 25, midnight ET
Here’s another chance for things to be interesting in Maui. Dayton is another feisty A-10 team that could be looking to make an early statement. Gonzaga should be sharpened up for this one after a home game against Washington State, and they tend to fare reasonably well in early tournaments. However, if they take Dayton too lightly they could have issues. The thing about A-10 teams is that league play is so brutal that they are ready for challenges, and pressure doesn’t bother them — which is a big part of the reason they do so well in the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin (12) vs. Saint Louis, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 8:30 p.m. ET
Notice a trend here? Here’s another tough A-10 team up against a talented ranked team. The Billikens have already won two road games, so they aren’t going to be bothered by being away from home — and this one is on a neutral court in Cancun, so the crowd won’t be hostile. Wisconsin has a nice win over Florida already, and they will play Notre Dame before this one, so they are sharp as well as talented. Saint Louis is a faster, higher-tempo team than Wisconsin likes to be, though, so if they can set the tempo it could be interesting.
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