Upsets always reign supreme in college basketball, but which teams will prove to be giant killers this season? Here’s a look at four mid-major schools that have already – and should continue – to make some noise leading up to tournament time.
St. Mary’s Gaels (WCC, 7-0 SU, 5-1 ATS)
The Gaels may not be the biggest name in the West Coast Conference, but they do own first place following Gonzaga’s loss to Dayton in the Maui Invitational. Junior forward Brad Waldow has been the key, emerging as the team’s leader in scoring (18.6 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg) and blocked shots (2.0 bpg). St. Mary’s could be poised for upset wins at Boise State (MWC, 8-1) and at home to South Carolina (SEC, 2-3) in December.
Charlotte 49ers (C-USA, 7-2 SU, 6-1 ATS)
It’s been a solid start for the Niners, highlighted by an unexpected win over then 14th-ranked Michigan to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off back on Nov. 24. An OT home loss to Davidson last week notwithstanding, Charlotte has benefitted from balanced scoring with no less than five players averaging double-digits per night. Two big games vs. two solid ACC teams later this month – at Florida State Dec. 17 and vs. Georgia Tech Dec. 29 – may provide a gold rush.
Belmont Bruins (Ohio Valley, 8-2 SU, 3-4 ATS)
Impressive wins over Indiana State and at Chapel Hill early on not only vaulted Belmont into top spot in the Ohio Valley Conference but into the national spotlight (they received a program-best 31 votes in the AP poll after knocking off North Carolina). If the Bruins are serious about cracking the Top 25, a win in Lexington against the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats on Dec. 21 would certainly do the trick. Having made the NCAA tournament six times in the past 10 years, an upset by Belmont against a top-ranked team isn’t completely out of the question.
Indiana State Sycamores (Missouri Valley, 6-2 SU, 3-4 ATS)
Indiana State continues to make a name for itself as a giant killer, long after Larry Bird’s departure. Last season, the Sycamores defeated the likes of Miami, Mississippi, Creighton and Wichita State before an end-of-season funk cost them a chance to qualify for the big dance. This year, it’s tournament or bust. But after two crushing one-point losses, they’ll need to exact revenge against Belmont and come up big vs. Saint Louis (8-2) later this month. It’s kinda what they do.