College Basketball

Ranking the 10 Biggest Upsets in the 2013-14 College Basketball Season So Far

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2014

Ranking the 10 Biggest Upsets in the 2013-14 College Basketball Season So Far

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    KEVIN RIVOLI/Associated Press

    Losing happens. Just ask all but one of the 350-plus Division I men's basketball teams and they'll tell you what it's like.

    You'll probably be able to ask Wichita State sometime between now and April, too, unless you firmly believe the aptly named Shockers are for real and are truly unbeatable.

    And as much as losses are a part of any game, unexpected defeats are as well. Sports wouldn't be fun if everyone who was supposed to win actually did win, because then we could just chart out a season's results at the outset and call it a day.

    Nope. Upsets happen, and as fans, we're all the better because of them.

    Not a week has gone by during the 2013-14 season without an upset of some significance, whether it be at the lower end of Division I or when a blue-chip team gets taken down by a little brother. Each has its own impact on the college landscape, though some more than others.

    Here's our take on the 10 biggest upsets, ranked from least to most shocking, so far in 2013-14.

10. Yale 74, Harvard 67

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    Fred Beckham/Associated Press

    When: Feb. 8

    Where: Cambridge, Mass.

     

    How it happened

    Yale held host Harvard to 39 percent shooting and got a career game (21 points, 11 rebounds) from Justin Sears to hand the Crimson their first (and only) Ivy League loss.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    Harvard had won 20 straight at home and had been the dominant force in the Ivy the past three seasons. The Crimson appeared good enough for an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney early in the season, but a few key losses have made it so winning the Ivy—which doesn't have a conference tournament and thus sends its regular-season champ to the tourney—is their only route to the Big Dance.

    Harvard holds a one-game lead on Yale entering the final two weekends of play, with the teams meeting March 7 at Yale with a likely automatic bid on the line.

9. George Mason 91, Massachusetts 80

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    Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Feb. 12

    Where: Amherst, Mass.

     

    How it happened

    In what's been an otherwise lost season for George Mason, the Patriots came alive on the road behind 22 points from 1,500-point scorer Sherrod Wright and 12 points and 15 rebounds from Erik Copes to stun the Minutemen.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    UMass had struggled on the road in the weeks leading up to this loss, dropping three in a row at one point and barely edging George Mason 88-87 in mid-January. GMU had just won its first league game four days before against lowly Duquesne, but the Minutemen were 10-0 at the Mullins Center before Chaz Williams unleashed a 3-of-15 (including 1-of-8 from long distance) effort.

    The loss essentially eliminated UMass from Atlantic 10 regular-season title consideration and puts it a game behind St. Joseph's for second place with four games remaining. The Minutemen still have to face Saint Louis again, and another loss could drop them as low as seventh place entering the conference tournament.

8. New Mexico State 67, New Mexico 61

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    Eric Draper/Associated Press

    When: Dec. 17

    Where: Albuquerque, N.M.

     

    How it happened

    New Mexico State led by 18 points in the first half but needed a late defensive stop to beat the rival Lobos for the first time in five games and just the second time in the last 11 meetings in The Pit.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    The teams had just played two weeks earlier in Las Cruces, with New Mexico pulling out a 79-70 game. And NMSU was just finishing up a four-games-in-10-days road trip that included losses at Arizona and Gonzaga.

    The game might have ended up as one the Lobos overlooked, having just lost to Kansas in Kansas City three days before and with an upcoming game against Marquette in Las Vegas looming.

7. Louisiana Tech 102, Oklahoma 98 (OT)

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    Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Dec. 30

    Where: Norman, Okla.

     

    How it happened

    Louisiana Tech blew a three-point lead in the final minute of regulation and trailed by four points early in overtime, but sophomore guard Alex Hamilton had 10 of his 31 points in the extra session for the Bulldogs' first-ever win in nine meetings with Oklahoma.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    Besides winning in Norman, which hadn't been done by a nonconference opponent in more than a year, it also helped put an already-solid Louisiana Tech team on the map. The Bulldogs were expected to contend for the Conference USA title in their first season in the league, but this victory helped legitimize their credentials.

    And for Oklahoma, it put a huge blemish on what had been a strong start to the 2013-14 season and was the worst possible way for the Sooners to head into Big 12 play.

6. Washington 76, Arizona State 65

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    When: Jan. 2

    Where: Tempe, Ariz.

     

    How it happened

    Washington shook off a rather disappointing preseason slate with a commanding performance on the road to open Pac-12 play, leading by 17 points at halftime and then cruising the rest of the way.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    Arizona State had put together a solid nonconference record, including wins over Marquette and UNLV, and was looking to be a solid contender in the league. Then this huge egg of a result was laid, and all of the Sun Devils' momentum was squashed.

    ASU hasn't lost at home since, knocking off Arizona in double overtime on Feb. 14 in the process, but this early setback put the Devils behind the eight ball and set the tone for a conference finish that could be as high as third but might drop to 10th depending on the final two weeks of play.

5. Nebraska 60, Michigan State 51

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    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    When: Feb. 16

    Where: East Lansing, Mich.

     

    How it happened

    Nebraska came into the Breslin Center and played Michigan State's game, slugging it out and relying on defense and rebounding to pull off the upset. It also helped that Terran Petteway went off for 23 points and Walter Pitchford added 18.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    In one of many bizarre results from the Big Ten, the injury-depleted-yet-still-solid Spartans lost at home to a team that used the victory to reach .500 in league play for the first time in school history. Nebraska has since won two more and, at 16-10, is looking like a legitimate NCAA bubble team.

    MSU doesn't lose many at home, yet the Nebraska defeat was the third such setback this season. This was the most puzzling, though, because it came against a team that had only won once in East Lansing in seven previous tries.

4. UAB 63, North Carolina 59

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    Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Dec. 1

    Where: Birmingham, Ala.

     

    How it happened

    UNC found itself playing a rare road game against a mid-level opponent, facing UAB as a nod to Blazers coach (and former Tar Heels assistant) Jerod Haase at the tail end of a home-and-home series. Don't expect it to happen again after the Heels were dominated on the boards.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    North Carolina's early bipolar play is well-chronicled, with the Tar Heels managing to knock off Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State (the last one on the road) yet falling at UAB as well as at home to Belmont and Miami (Fla.). The UAB loss was the most confounding, though, because the Blazers shot poorly yet capitalized on 21 offensive rebounds.

    UNC has bounced back and is almost a lock to make the NCAA tournament, but a month ago when that wasn't such a certainty, it was losses like this one that stood out in glaring fashion.

3. Penn State 71, Ohio State 70 (OT)

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    When: Jan. 29

    Where: Columbus, Ohio

     

    How it happened

    Penn State's D.J. Newbill did his best Aaron Craft impression, sinking a pull-up jumper over the Ohio State guard with two seconds left in overtime for the victory.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    Ohio State doesn't lose many games at Value City Arena, certainly not to teams with .500 or worse records. Yet there was Penn State, whose only previous Big Ten win came six days earlier at home to Nebraska and who had previously fallen at home to the likes of Bucknell and Princeton.

    Combined with another monumental upset that night in the Big Ten (see next slide), the league officially became the most unpredictable place for college basketball, with home-court advantage almost nonexistent.

    PSU, by the way, enters the last two weeks of the regular season tied for last in the league with Illinois, whom it lost at home to on Feb. 9.

2. Northwestern 65, Wisconsin 56

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    When: Jan. 29

    Where: Madison, Wis.

     

    How it happened

    Northwestern didn't just edge out Wisconsin on the road, it ran over the Badgers in the second half, outscoring them by 10 points after trailing by one at the half. Drew Crawford was the architect of the massive upset, scoring 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    It served as one-half of the most surprising pair of results in Big Ten basketball history, as the Big Ten Network reported that Northwestern and Penn State (winner at Ohio State) managed their first tandem road wins on the same night since PSU joined the league in 1993.

    Mind you, Wisconsin was at its most vulnerable when the loss happened, mired in a defense-vacant skid where it dropped five of six after starting 16-0 and moving up to No. 3 in the nation. But no matter how much the Badgers were struggling, losing at home to the Wildcats seemed almost unfathomable coming into the night.

1. Boston College 62, Syracuse 59 (OT)

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    Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Feb. 19

    Where: Syracuse, N.Y.

     

    How it happened

    Top-ranked and unbeaten Syracuse blew an eight-point halftime lead and shot a season-low 32.2 percent, losing at home despite having a chance to win it in regulation.

     

    Why it's a big upset

    Boston College came into the game with an abysmal 6-19 record and a 2-10 mark in the ACC, its only league wins coming against a Virginia Tech team that's just as bad. The Eagles lost their next game (Feb. 22 at Miami, Fla.) by 22 points, making this the fluke of all flukes.

    But Syracuse had been playing with fire for a while, narrowly escaping with wins in the previous week at Pittsburgh and at home to North Carolina State, and followed up the BC loss with a defeat at Duke.

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