By Kevin Sweeney
Today is the final day without college basketball until Christmas Eve, and to celebrate that, let’s take a look at my favorite thing about college basketball: upsets. Opening weekend is a great time for mid-majors to take their crack at a perennial power, as oftentimes the major-conference foe is less experienced or doesn’t take their opponent seriously. Last season, their were plenty of upsets during the first weekend, with UCLA, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Marquette among the notable teams to fall to mid-majors. Here are some of the upsets to watch for this weekend.
Chattanooga over Tennessee (Friday, 7pm)- To be honest, I’m not sure how much of an upset this would be. The Mocs bring back a ton of production from last year and should be one of the best mid-majors in college basketball this season. On the other hand, Tennessee finished 12th in the SEC last season and lose their top 2 scorers from a season ago. The game is in Knoxville, and Vols head coach Rick Barnes will have his young team ready to go, but in the end, the Mocs will come away with a strong season-opening victory.
Fairleigh Dickinson over Seton Hall (Friday, 7pm)- Opening weekend might be the best time all season to take on Seton Hall, as the Pirates are in limbo at the point guard spot due to the departure of Isaiah Whitehead to the NBA and the ineligibility of Jevon Thomas, the Kansas State transfer who becomes eligible in December. Combine that uncertainty with a match-up against the NEC favorites in Fairleigh Dickinson, and you have a recipe for an upset. FDU seemed to only scratch the surface of its potential last season, reaching the NCAA Tournament despite having one of the worst defenses in college basketball. If the defense improves, the Knights will be a very dangerous foe for a vulnerable Seton Hall squad.
Harvard over Stanford (Friday, 11pm)- This game, which is being played in China, is one of biggest toss-ups on opening weekend. On one hand, Harvard has as much talent as any mid-major in the country, but they are heavily reliant upon freshmen and Siyani Chambers, who is playing his first game since tearing his ACL before last season. Jerod Haase takes over the Stanford program and inherits some nice pieces, including forward Reid Travis and wing Dorian Pickens, but it will take some time for the Cardinal to put it all together. I expect the Crimson to pull out a huge early-season win Friday night.
Eastern Michigan over SMU (Sunday, 2pm)- Eastern Michigan has flown under the radar coming into the season, but the Eagles are an experienced team that should be a contender in the MAC. They have one of the best big men in the country in James Thompson IV, who averaged a double-double as a sophomore last season, and Ray Lee, a high-scoring guard, who averaged 25.5 points per 40 minutes last season. SMU has a plenty of talent, but they have a new coach in Tim Jankovich and lose star guard Nic Moore. Eastern Michigan could be in position to take home a victory from their opening road trip against Pitt (Friday) and SMU.
Long Beach State over Wichita State (Sunday, 8pm)- Wichita State is another team that the best time to play them is early in the season. When Fred Van Vleet went down with an injury last season, the Shockers looked terrible. Now, with Van Vleet and fellow star Ron Baker playing at the pro level, the Shockers could be vulnerable. Long Beach State, my pick to win the Big West, is a tough match-up, and have an excellent chance to knock off an inexperienced Shockers squad.