The holiday season is fast approaching and that could only mean one thing. No, not college football bowl season on the gridiron. Nor is it the nearing of NFL playoffs. While those also may be true, it’s final exams week in the world of college basketball, an indication that conference play has officially begun for many programs around the country.
As the amount of weekly upsets continue to pile up, this may be the most exciting and unpredictable season that we’ve seen in quite some time. Here is a list of this week’s potential upsets to keep your eyes open for.
Portland State at California
Tate’s Take: While Cal was caught scratching its head following a disappointing and embarrassing 24-point loss to Chaminade, Portland State was busy giving then-No. 1 nationally ranked Duke all it could handle in the Phil Knight Invitational. If the Golden Bears want to avoid a west coast upset, Cal must take an approach that it hasn’t all season: Establish inside-outside production between Don Coleman and (Kentucky transfer) Marcus Lee.
Meanwhile, it’s easy to see the Vikings’ potential oozing even after a one-possession loss to Butler and a convincing win over a decent Stanford team. Bryce Canda, Michael Mayhew, Deontae North and Holland Woods make up one of the most underrated backcourts in the nation and can score at a high volume.
That’s not a recipe for success for Cal, one of the country’s worst defending teams, especially on the perimeter. Not to mention, the Vikings don’t beat themselves with mental errors or lapses. This game has upset written all over it.
Gonzaga at San Diego State
Tate’s Take: This isn’t last year’s Gonzaga team. And while the Zags’ weaknesses have yet to have been exposed, this is the perfect game versus a familiar foe to create that blueprint. SDSU rebounds the ball exceptionally well (as does Gonzaga). The difference here will be keeping Jonathan Williams and Killian Tillie in check.
If so and with a bit of energy help from the home crowd, San Diego State could run away with the game. If not, a long night ahead playing from behind could be in store. The Aztecs play stifling defense, though this will be the biggest test of the year.
San Diego State is as experienced as anyone, but has a reputation of giving games away late. Malik Pope, Trey Kell and Devin Watson can change that perception with a somewhat surprising win versus the reigning national runner-ups.
Xavier at Northern Iowa
Tate’s Take: Statistically, NIU is one of the top five teams in the country in scoring defense while Xavier is known to tally huge scoring numbers. That’s why this could be perhaps the most interesting game of the weekend. Xavier’s defense could use some fine tuning (as if Arizona State’s 102 points wasn’t obvious enough), but Northern Iowa’s offense certainly is nothing to lose sleep over.
Xavier won’t be rattled by the Panthers’ raucous fan base after a win earlier this season at Wisconsin. One bad shooting night (or half) by Traevon Bluiett would likely give NIU all the confidence it need. If the battle comes down to a coaching matchup, I trust Ben Jacobson on his home floor a little more than Chris Mack on the road.
Other potential upsets:
- St. Bonaventure at Syracuse
- Grand Canyon at Louisville
- Stephen F. Austin at Missouri