10 College Basketball Teams on Upset Alert in Week 18

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2013

10 College Basketball Teams on Upset Alert in Week 18

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    Upsets have been the rule rather than the exception in college basketball this year, and that trend isn’t about to change in the regular season’s final week. Some of the highest-profile teams in the country are in serious danger of falling to opponents who can’t even crack the Top 25.

    The once-invincible Florida Gators have started to stumble in SEC road games, and they’ve got a brutal one to close the regular season. Even in what’s obviously a down year for Kentucky, Rupp Arena is a ferociously tough place to win for the Wildcats’ conference foes.

    Read on for more on the task facing Florida, along with nine more high-powered teams that could be brought low heading into their respective conference tournaments.

    Note: For purposes of this list, only upsets by teams unranked in the latest AP poll have been considered. The way this season has gone, any ranked team beating any other hardly qualifies as a surprise.

10. UCLA

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    A Pac-12 title is well within the UCLA Bruins’ reach, but they need two more road wins to stay in first place in the conference. Last-place Washington State isn’t exactly a daunting challenge, but the season finale at Washington could be another story.

    When the Huskies visited Pauley Pavilion, it took a buzzer-beater by Larry Drew II for UCLA to escape with the victory.

    The Wear twins struggled to contain Aziz N’Diaye in that meeting (11 points, 18 boards), and another big game from the seven-footer on senior night in Seattle could be just what Washington needs to stun the visitors.

9. Louisiana Tech

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    Louisiana Tech holds the nation’s longest active winning streak at 18 games and counting. That “and counting” could come to a very sudden stop, though, with two road games to close the regular season.

    Both New Mexico State and Denver (currently in third and second place in the WAC, respectively) avoided getting blown out by the Bulldogs in Ruston—a feat few other conference foes have achieved this year.

    Neither the Aggies nor the Pioneers are particularly overpowering teams, but Denver is the likelier upset pick, as it gets to face Louisiana Tech at altitude less than 48 hours after what should be a hard-fought game at NMSU.

8. Virginia Commonwealth

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    Ordinarily, the biggest threat to Virginia Commonwealth right now would be a letdown after Saturday’s monumental 32-point annihilation of Butler.

    Fortunately for the Rams, their next game (against unimpressive Richmond) is also at home, which should help them survive a flat start if they are still celebrating the win over the Bulldogs.

    However, the regular-season finale is a different story, as it sends VCU on the road to dangerous Temple.

    The Owls are bigger and stronger than Treveon Graham and Co., they have a top-drawer scoring threat in Khalif Wyatt to counter the Rams’ three-point shooters and they’re desperate for a statement win to flaunt to the selection committee. 

7. Oregon

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    Facing the Pac-12’s toughest defenses has already been a source of multiple defeats for E.J. Singler and the Oregon Ducks.

    Even with freshman point guard Dominic Artis finally back on the floor after a foot injury, Oregon is in for another serious battle Thursday night when it visits Colorado.

    In the first meeting in Eugene, Andre Roberson and the Buffaloes grounded out a 48-47 win, holding UO to 3-of-15 three-point shooting and 36.2 percent overall. Expect more of the same in Boulder, where the altitude won’t do Oregon any favors, either.

6. Butler

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    Already reeling from back-to-back losses, Butler may be in for another painful week.

    The Bulldogs’ second-straight road game sends them on a Thursday night trip to UMass, where the Minutemen’s wealth of three-point shooters will challenge Brad Stevens’ stout defense.

    More dangerous yet is Butler’s return home, where it’ll face a team that strongly resembles itself.

    Xavier has a physical 'D' and an offense led by a high-scoring combo guard (Semaj Christon), making the Musketeers a serious threat to beat Butler at its own game.

5. St. Louis

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    Scorching-hot St. Louis has beaten Butler and VCU in an 11-game winning streak, but the Billikens’ run is in danger of ending thanks to a pair of much-less-heralded foes.

    St. Louis’ season ends with a visit to Xavier on Wednesday, followed by a home showdown with La Salle.

    The erratic Musketeers have been tough to handle on their home floor, beating the likes of Memphis and Temple behind outstanding performances from power forward Travis Taylor.

    La Salle has some impressive wins of its own (including both Butler and VCU) behind an underrated defense and scoring star Ramon Galloway.

4. Oklahoma State

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    Marcus Smart and the Oklahoma State Cowboys have a huge game with Kansas State for their season finale, but they’d better not start looking ahead to the Wildcats yet.

    If they do, they’ll trip over Wednesday night’s visit to high-scoring Iowa State and fall right on their No. 15 ranking.

    The Cyclones always have a big-time home-court advantage in Ames, and this year’s squad—heavy as it is on three-point gunners—gets an extra benefit from the familiar rims.

    OK State barely escaped with a 78-76 win when the two teams met in Stillwater, and another nail-biter is a good bet for the rematch.

3. Florida

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    After roaring through January with a string of double-digit wins, Florida sputtered badly last month. Four February road games left the Gators with a 1-3 record, including a terrible upset loss at Tennessee in their last trip out of Gainesville.

    Now, with Florida’s banged-up roster finally getting healthy again, the Gators face the road trip that gets circled in red on every SEC calendar: Kentucky at Rupp Arena.

    The Saturday showdown would be a different game if Nerlens Noel were still in the Wildcat lineup, but even without their defensive stopper, expect John Calipari’s charges to defend their home court with a vengeance (and with a supply of athletes that even Florida can’t outrun).

2. Georgetown

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    The Hoyas’ 11-game winning streak has lifted them to first place in the Big East and made them a bona fide contender for a No. 1 seed. It has also put them in prime position to get upended by the conference’s designated giant killers: the Villanova Wildcats.

    On their home floor in Philadelphia, the ‘Cats have already beaten Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette.

    Georgetown, with an offense that doesn’t necessarily light up scoreboards, could easily become victim No. 4 if ‘Nova freshman Ryan Arcidiacono gets hot from beyond the arc again.

1. Duke

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    There’s certainly no danger Duke will overlook its final opponent of the regular season. Just because the Blue Devils are ready for North Carolina, though, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win the ballgame.

    There have been far worse mismatches in the legendary Tar Heel-Blue Devil rivalry that have ended in upsets, and even Duke doesn’t win all that often on UNC’s home floor.

    Even with Ryan Kelly back in the lineup after his triumphant return against Miami, Duke will need all its seniors to stand tall against what’s sure to be a rabid Chapel Hill crowd—and a fired-up set of Tar Heel scorers.