15 NCAA Basketball Teams on Upset Alert in Week 15

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2013

15 NCAA Basketball Teams on Upset Alert in Week 15

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    Last week’s theme in NCAA basketball was ranked teams getting knocked off by unranked opponents, and the upsets aren’t going to stop in Week 15. A wealth of highly-regarded (and highly-ranked) teams are in serious jeopardy of being this week’s answer to Florida or Kansas.

    One of the most successful teams at risk for a fall this week is the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Although Kelly Olynyk and his mates haven’t lost in West Coast Conference action, they’ll face their toughest opponent yet when they visit St. Mary’s on Valentine’s night.

    Herein, a closer look at the challenge facing the Zags and 14 more high-powered teams that could be in for an upsetting week.

    Note: for purposes of this list, only games against teams unranked in the Week 14 polls were considered as prospective upsets. Any ranked team beating another barely counts as a surprise in this wide-open season.

15. UCLA Bruins

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    Sitting in first place in the Pac-12 entering the week, UCLA has largely shaken off its early-season growing pains. Even so, the Bruins are in for a pair of tough games on this weekend’s NoCal road trip.

    Valentine’s Day brings a visit to Cal, where the Golden Bears’ veteran backcourt (Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe) is coming off a huge road win over Arizona.

    That’s followed by a Saturday trip to Stanford, a team that already routed Oregon in Palo Alto behind paired double-doubles from forwards Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell.

14. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

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    Three straight wins have VCU in a three-way tie atop the Atlantic 10, but the Rams’ hold on the top spot is far from secure. Underrated UMass comes to Richmond on Valentine’s Day, and the Minutemen will give Shaka Smart’s squad all it can handle.

    UMass star Chaz Williams (16.1 points, 7.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game) has a great case for being the conference’s best point guard, and he’ll be a great antidote to VCU’s suffocating full-court press.

    The Minutemen have some size to go with their perimeter game, with 6’10” Cady Lalanne and 6’9” Raphiael Putney combining for 11.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a night.

13. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Whatever the outcome of Kentucky’s Tuesday-night visit to Gainesville, 40 minutes of Florida’s full-court press will take a lot out of the thin Wildcat bench.

    Add in the likely emotional letdown after UK’s biggest game in months, and the young ‘Cats will be vulnerable as they head into Knoxville on Saturday.

    Tennessee has struggled badly in the SEC, but Cuonzo Martin’s team is more dangerous than its 11-10 record suggests.

    The physical frontcourt of Jarnell Stokes and Kenny Hall won’t back down against the bigger Kentucky forwards, and Trae Golden will be a tough matchup for John Calipari’s rotating point guards.

12. San Diego State Aztecs

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    Though they’re ranked 25th in the coaches’ poll, the Aztecs could easily be the underdog on the books when they visit unranked Colorado State on Wednesday night.

    CSU is half a game up on Steve Fisher’s squad in the Mountain West standings, and the altitude in Fort Collins gives the Rams a potent home-court advantage.

    The Aztecs needed overtime to outlast Colorado State in their first meeting, and Jamaal Franklin and company have been in a 4-3 slump since that game.

    The versatile Franklin could still carry his team to the win, but don’t be surprised if Colton Iverson and the rebound-happy Rams (No. 2 in the country at 42.4 boards a night) win handily at home.

11. Missouri Tigers

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    Since the start of the SEC schedule, No. 21 Missouri is 6-0 at home and 0-4 on the road.

    The Tigers will likely get their first road win in their new conference against woeful Mississippi State on Wednesday, but Saturday’s visit to Arkansas is another matter entirely.

    As Florida learned to its chagrin, beating the Hogs in Fayetteville is a daunting task for any opponent.

    Unless Phil Pressey can lock down Razorback star B.J. Young (16.1 points and 4.0 assists per game), the Tigers are in for a long night against one of the few opponents who can outrun them.

10. Oregon Ducks

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    No. 19 Oregon has been a lot more vulnerable since freshman PG Dominic Artis went down with a foot injury, with the team losing three of its last four in Pac-12 action in Artis' absence.

    The Ducks are in serious danger of seeing that slump extend to four out of five when they visit Washington on Friday night.

    In Eugene, where the Ducks are usually invincible, the Huskies lost by just five points in Oregon's first game without Artis. Holding high-scoring C.J. Wilcox to 14 points again on his home floor is likely beyond Oregon’s powers.

    As such, the Ducks will need another scorching shooting night themselves—they hit 57.8 percent from the field in the first meeting—if they want to earn a road victory.

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    No. 18 Minnesota is in a brutal 2-6 slump in the Big Ten, so it may not even be ranked come Monday afternoon. Either way, the Gophers face a pair of potential upsets before the week is out.

    Wisconsin won’t be as dangerous in Minneapolis as it has been on its home floor, but the defensive-minded Badgers are still going to be a stingy date for Valentine’s Day.

    The Gophers follow that matchup with a trip to Iowa, where the young Hawkeyes are getting tougher as the year goes on.

    Iowa also boasts a pair of gritty forwards, Melsahn Basabe and Aaron White, who can make life very tough for Gopher stars Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe.

8. Cincinnati Bearcats

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    An awful week with losses to Providence and Pitt may knock 17th-ranked Cincy out of the Top 25, but it’ll still be expected to win at home on Tuesday against a team that comes in at just 15-9 on the year.

    Of course, when that team is Villanova, the record isn’t the only number to consider.

    Two, for example, is the number of top-five teams that have already fallen to the Wildcats. Then there’s 2-3 (the Bearcats’ awful home record in conference) and 23 (the number of points ‘Nova freshman Ryan Arcidiacono hung on DePaul in a road win last week.)

7. Creighton Blue Jays

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    A disastrous pair of losses dropped No. 16 Creighton into a three-way scrum for first place in the Missouri Valley, and the Blue Jays aren’t out of trouble yet.

    Three of their four conference losses have come on the road, and they’ve got two games away from Omaha this week.

    Both Northern Iowa (Wednesday night) and Evansville (Saturday) have already earned home wins over Wichita State, one of Creighton’s competitors for the league lead.

    The Purple Aces will be the more intimidating hosts, thanks to the senior backcourt duo of Troy Taylor and high-scoring Colt Ryan (18.2 points per game).

6. Kansas State Wildcats

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    No, the Wildcats’ place on this list doesn’t refer to Monday’s showdown with flailing Kansas, though the Jayhawks could well be underdogs in that one.

    The real upset threat for Bruce Weber’s 13th-ranked team is the letdown after that rivalry game, accompanied by a Saturday visit from the Baylor Bears.

    Pierre Jackson and company have shown more potential than production in 2012-13, but they can be scary in any given ballgame.

    Freshman standout Isaiah Austin is a 7’1” center who’s learning fast, and forwards Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers won’t shy away from matching K-State’s physicality, even in Manhattan.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Madison, Wis., has been a house of horrors for some of the Big Ten’s toughest teams. Eight days after Michigan’s high-powered offense came up short against the Badgers in OT, the Ohio State Buckeyes will try to solve Bo Ryan’s D on his home court.

    Despite the presence of Big Ten scoring leader Deshaun Thomas, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes’ own offense has sputtered frequently in conference play.

    Aaron Craft and company looked sharp in beating the Badgers in Columbus two weeks ago, but they’ll need an even better effort to earn a road win next Sunday.

4. Arizona Wildcats

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    Of all Arizona’s last-second escapes this season, none has been closer than the Wildcats’ win over Colorado.

    An apparent game-winner by the Buffaloes’ Sabatino Chen was ruled to have come after the regulation buzzer, sending the game to OT and an eventual Wildcat victory.

    The Buffs thought they got robbed, and on Valentine’s Day, they’ll get a chance to take it out on Arizona in Boulder.

    Winning at altitude is still a novel challenge for Colorado’s Pac-12 foes, and especially so for Arizona’s freshman-heavy frontcourt as it squares off with CU’s Josh Scott and Andre Roberson.

3. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    For the first time in recent memory, No. 6 Gonzaga is not the defending champion (regular season or tournament) in the West Coast Conference.

    That honor belongs to the St. Mary’s Gaels, whom the Zags will visit on Thursday night for what could be Valentine’s Day’s most exciting game.

    Gaels star Matthew Dellavedova (15.9 points and 6.6 assists per game) is one of the country’s most talented point guards. Under his direction, St. Mary’s is shooting a blistering .395 from three-point range, enough to threaten even the Zags’ offense.

    Kelly Olynyk and company did win the first meeting between these two teams at the Kennel, but only by a five-point margin.

2. Duke Blue Devils

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    No team in the country has a better chance, year in and year out, of upsetting Duke at Cameron Indoor than the North Carolina Tar Heels.

    The bitter rivalry levels the playing field (here, between the No. 4 Blue Devils and the unranked Heels), and the raucous Duke crowd isn’t as much of an obstacle for UNC as for other foes.

    Mobile James Michael McAdoo will make Mason Plumlee work on defense like few others have, and the Tar Heel three-point shooters can match anyone on a good day.

    Look for Wednesday night’s game to do what so many in the series have: come down to the wire, with either team having a near-even chance to pull out the win.

1. Florida Gators

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    Having suffered their first SEC loss last week, the (temporarily) second-ranked Gators are in imminent danger of taking their first home loss.

    Kentucky comes to town on Tuesday night, and though the Wildcats haven’t re-entered the Top 25 yet, they’re 8-2 and in second place in the conference.

    Nerlens Noel has been one of the best centers in the country since league play began, and the national leader in blocks will make Florida work for every point.

    The Gators’ own defense will cause plenty of problems for Kentucky’s two-man point guard committee, but when UK breaks the Gator press, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin will get their share of points in the half-court.