Upset-Filled Start to CBB Season Suggests 2020 NCAA Tournament Will Be Wild

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2019

Early this season, John Calipari and Kentucky lost a stunner to Evansville.
Early this season, John Calipari and Kentucky lost a stunner to Evansville.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When the NCAA men's tournament rolls around, college basketball analysts often comment on the lack of a clear-cut favorite. Although a few teams stand out as top contenders, this year's March Madness is wide open.

Should the 2019-20 season continue at its current pace, that opinion will absolutely be popular once again. The opening month of the campaign has been packed with stunning results and several tighter-than-expected games.

Top-ranked Kentucky fell to Evansville. No. 3 Michigan State lost to Virginia Tech. And No. 1 Duke lost its first nonconference home game in 19 years, surrendering a game-winning buzzer-beating layup to Stephen F. Austin.

Sure, upsets happen. But Kentucky, MSU and Duke are three of the five programs with the best odds to win the national championship, according to Caesars.

That's merely the start, though.

Florida began the year at No. 6, yet quickly lost to Florida State and Connecticut. Second-ranked Louisville trailed South Carolina Upstate—the 345th-rated team out of 353 nationally, per KenPom—in the second half. The next game, Akron trimmed the Cardinals' 22-point second-half lead to four.

On Thanksgiving Day, Michigan derailed sixth-ranked North Carolina before Iowa toppled No. 12 Texas Tech.

The issues extend beyond an upset here and there. Ranked teams are playing poorly against each other.

Michigan State struggled with turnovers—what's new?—when falling to Kentucky and Virginia Tech, and then Georgia nearly pulled off a 28-point second-half comeback. Kansas' 26-turnover showing in a loss to Duke is a blemish not soon forgotten.

Then-No. 16 Ohio State thumped 10th-ranked Villanova by 25 points. Jay Wright's Wildcats have major concerns in the backcourt while waiting for a healthy Bryan Antoine to make an impact.

Throw in Memphis losing James Wiseman for 12 games, and the list of vulnerable top programs is expansive.

While every team has weaknesses, the problems aren't always so obvious within the first four weeks of the season.

"I don't think there's a dominant team this year," Kansas coach Bill Self said, per Aaron Beard of the Associated Press. "You saw that in New York (at the Champions Classic). But there's a lot of good teams and that's going to make it interesting all season."

Yes, a few programs are thriving under the radar while most attention is devoted to these upsets. Reigning national champion Virginia is undefeated and playing suffocating defense. Maryland is off to a hot start with five victories of 18-plus points.

Still, both Virginia and Maryland rank below 250th nationally in three-point percentage. And although Gonzaga, Arizona and Auburn are unbeaten, they're just now hitting the tough portion of their nonconference slates.

Are they likely to struggle against better competition? No. But neither Kentucky nor Duke seemed in much danger of losing to Evansville or Stephen F. Austin, so we shouldn't assume anything.

As every piece of analysis in November should acknowledge, it's November! Things can change. Every shocking result can be used as motivation in the locker rooms of top-ranked teams.

"I'm sure Coach K will get after his team tomorrow and they probably won't have a good Thanksgiving because of this," Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller told reporters after the Lumberjacks' win. "But it will make their team a lot better.

But the flaws of Duke, Kentucky and others are evident.

If you like chaos in the NCAA tourney, hop aboard the "anything can happen" train right away. We'll already be waiting at the station for everyone else to arrive in March.

           

Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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