By Kevin Sweeney
Congrats everyone. We’ve made it.
After seven months of waiting, college basketball is finally back. In 48 hours, we’ll all be watching games that actually count. Of course, one of the best parts of college basketball is upsets, and you can expect plenty of twists and turns during the season’s opening weekend. Here are 7 potential upsets to watch out for at the beginning of the season. We’ll define “opening weekend” as Friday through Monday.
Campbell over Penn State
Last season, the Nittany Lions got off to a rough start with an upset defeat at the hands of Albany in their opener. They will once again be tested by a mid-major this season, facing off with a talented Campbell team that many believe is a dark horse contender in the Big South. Chris Clemons is certainly capable of exploding offensively at any time, and I’m excited for this Friday matinee showdown.
Navy and/or Montana over Pittsburgh
Pitt is a virtual unknown commodity, with a vast group of newcomers being looked to as replacements of the incredible amount of production departing from last year’s roster. They’ll be tested by a pair of teams that should be near the top of their conferences in Navy on Friday night in Annapolis and Montana back home in Oakland. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Panthers are stunned early in the season by one of these two talented mid-majors.
Mercer over UCF
Experience always helps when trying to pull off an upset, and that is exactly what Mercer has. The Bears will trot out 5 senior starters Friday night against a UCF team that I believe should be in NCAA Tournament contention. This one should be a defensive battle, but Mercer has the guards in Ria’n Holland and Jordan Strawberry to make plays late in ballgames and pull out a win in what should be a terrific opening night matchup.
Yale at Creighton and/or Wisconsin
My pick to win the Ivy League has a pair of stiff tests from high-major foes during opening weekend, traveling to Nebraska to take on Creighton on Friday before heading north to Madison to take on Wisconsin Sunday. If Makai Mason is 100% after missing all of last season due to a foot injury, the Bulldogs have an excellent chance to earn a quality win for their resume come March.
Bucknell over Arkansas
Bucknell is just an excellent basketball team. They have a dominant big in Nana Foulland, a stretch 4 in Zach Thomas that is one of the more versatile players in college basketball, and a senior point guard in Stephen Brown that makes plays when you need them most. They’ll be a tough matchup for anyone in the country this season, and I believe they will stun the Razorbacks on Sunday night and leave Fayetteville with a win.
Vermont over Kentucky
No, I don’t expect this to happen. That said, I certainly won’t rule it out. Vermont is a veteran unit with a star in Anthony Lamb who can take over games. Kentucky will still be feeling things out with plans to start 5 freshmen, and the Catamounts may just be able to steal a win at Rupp Arena.
College of Charleston over Wichita State
College of Charleston should be one of the best mid-majors in the country this season, and they’ll take on a short-handed Wichita State team on Monday night. Markis McDuffie is out for the game, and star point guard Landry Shamet will likely be limited as he continues his recovery from offseason foot surgery. Meanwhile, this Cougar team is experienced and talented, making them a tough test for the Shockers. This should be an excellent game, with the possibility certainly there for the Cougars to grab a signature win for their resume in opening weekend.