North Carolina and Michigan are among the teams on upset alert this week.
This week is a big one for college basketball, which finally gets to flip the calendar on a lost 2020 year. The current season has been a bit bumpy with numerous COVID-related pauses for teams but the vast majority of programs have been able to get a significant chunk of their schedule in the books.
There is plenty of significant action on tap for this week, including critical conference matchups in the Big Ten and ACC, making it critical for the top teams to avoid getting upset. Let’s spotlight five teams that need to be extra careful, beginning with Florida State.
Florida State needs to be careful at Clemson
It feels like the Seminoles are perennially underrated in the ACC and this year is no exception. The Seminoles have a talented roster with an impact freshman in Scottie Barnes which has played a strong role in their 5-1 start, but the overall team isn’t as strong as last year’s ACC champs.
First up for Florida State this week is a trip to Clemson to take on a 6-1 Tigers team that has played tough competition in the non-conference schedule. Clemson already has wins over Mississippi State, Purdue, Alabama and Maryland while it’s one loss came to Virginia Tech by six in its ACC opener. The Seminoles will need to be on their game in order to avoid getting upset.
North Carolina needs to avoid another upset at Georgia Tech
We warned the Tar Heels last week about a potential upset before they fell at NC State, a loss that knocked North Carolina out of the Top 25. Roy Williams’ team will hit the road again on Wednesday for a tricky game with an inconsistent Georgia Tech team that is capable of scoring points in bunches.
The Yellow Jackets already scored a big win over Kentucky earlier in the season and could get hot offensively, which would be problematic for a North Carolina squad that plays at a slower pace. If the Tar Heels can’t impose their will on this game early it could lead to a second straight upset.
Michigan can’t sleep on Maryland
One thing that we’ve learned in the past week is that there won’t be an easy game in the Big Ten all season long. Northwestern, who most experts pegged as a potential cellar-dweller, is ranked after a 3-0 start to league play while Michigan State is 0-2 after dominating the non-conference portion of its schedule.
Michigan has flown under the radar in the Big Ten, quietly racing off to a 7-0 start, but they hit the road on New Year’s Eve to take on Maryland. The upside isn’t as high for the Terrapins after losing a bunch of key players from last year’s team but Maryland can still defend very well and nearly won at Purdue on Christmas Day. Don’t be shocked if the Terrapins make life very difficult for the Wolverines in a Big Ten where anyone can win on any given day.
Creighton needs to be on upset alert at Providence
Villanova has paused its season after head coach Jay Wright tested positive for the coronavirus, meaning the most interesting Big East team in action this week is Creighton. Gregg McDermott’s Bluejays score nearly 83 points per game and are off to a 3-1 start in conference play, although their past two wins have come by a combined seven points.
Creighton hits the road on Saturday for a tough date with Providence, which is 2-1 in conference play and has a very experienced rotation led by guard David Duke and center Nate Watson. The Friars have proven to be a pest in the Big East the past few years and are more than capable of knocking off the Bluejays if they are taken lightly.
West Virginia should be on upset alert at Oklahoma
Let’s wrap up this week’s warning list with West Virginia, which is ranked inside the Top 10 despite a loss at Kansas last week. The Mountaineers are one of four Big 12 teams ranked that high, a sign of the league’s strength, but they haven’t shown they can win a big road game yet.
That could be a problem with Saturday’s trip to Norman to take on the Sooners, who need a statement victory to begin building their NCAA Tournament resume. Oklahoma nearly got it last week before losing by two to Texas Tech and they should be game for the challenge of taking on the Mountaineers.
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