Skip to content

Top-10 biggest upsets of the college basketball season

Feb 8, 2013, 2:45 PM EST

TCU AP

The 2012-2013 college basketball season has been scrutinized by many for its lack of great teams and NBA superstar-potential. And while us college basketball aficionados are quick to point out that this season has been one of the most exciting in recent memory, it has come with some baggage.

For every remarkable finish, like Illinois’ come-from-behind, buzzer-beating victory over No. 1 Indiana on Thursday night, there is an ugly upset, perhaps none uglier than No. 5 Kansas’ 62-55 loss to TCU.

It makes perfect sense that during the first week in which college basketball has had the stage to itself, upsets have dominated the discussion. Ten teams inside the top-25 lost, including three teams inside the top-5.

But for those of you just making the switch to college hoops, this is not a new development. The fact of the matter is that bizarre, puzzling upsets have taken place all season. Upsets that us pundits could have not predicted “from seven galaxies away”, as ESPNU play-by-play announcer Mitch Holthus so eloquently stated during the late stages of TCU’s shocking victory over the Jayhawks.
 
 
10. South Alabama 76, @ Florida State 71 – 11/9/12
Records: South Alabama (0-0), Florida State (0-0)
KenPom differential: 144 (South Alabama 195, Florida State 51)
Spread differential: -18 (Florida State -13)

Perhaps foreshadowing what would become a season full of head-scratching upsets, the Seminoles dropped their season-opener at home to a South Alabama team that finished with a 8-8 record in the Sun Belt Conference in 2012. The Seminoles had lost a significant amount of production from their 2012 squad that won the ACC tournament, but they returned preseason All-American guard Michael Snaer.

Even with the current knowledge that Florida State is arguably the most fickle team in the country, with as many good wins as bad losses, a home loss to South Alabama is certainly worthy of a top-10 mention.
 
 
9. @ Arkansas 80, No. 3 Florida 69 – 2/5/12
Records: Arkansas (13-8, 4-4), Florida (18-2, 8-0)
KenPom differential: 76 (Arkansas 77, Florida 1)
Spread differential: -22.5 (Florida -11.5)

Shock value is why this upset makes the list. The SEC is the worst BCS-conference this season, and Florida had been destroying conference opposition, winning by an average of 26.5-ppg. In fact, their closest SEC road game was a 64-47 victory over Georgia following the Gator’s 31-point destruction of then-No.17 Missouri.

The Bud Walton Arena is a difficult place to win games on the road, and the Razorbacks have historically played significantly better at home, evident by their 14-1 home record this season. That being said, Florida entered the contest as arguably the most dominant team in the country and was expected to win by double-digits. They offered little resistance to the Hogs’ hot shooting and trailed by as many as 27.
 
 
8. Charleston 63, @ No. 24 Baylor 59 – 11/24/12
Records: Charleston (2-2), Baylor (4-1)
KenPom differential: 115 (Charleston 134, Baylor 19)
Spread differential: -21.5 (Baylor -17.5)

Looking back on it, this was probably not as big of an upset as the numbers indicate.

We now know that Baylor, despite their talent, is one of the most inconsistent teams in the country, routinely failing to show up against teams they should beat with ease.

Charleston is not a pushover or a bad team. They are the second-best team in the Southern Conference, and have a strong history of postseason success. But that doesn’t change the fact that they went in to Waco and defeated a ranked team that was favored to win by more than 17 points.
 
 
7. Southern 53, @ Texas A&M 51 – 12/22/12
Records: Southern (4-6), Texas A&M (8-2)
KenPom differential: 153 (Southern 248, Texas A&M 95)
Spread differential: Off the board

Heading into the contest Texas A&M had lost just twice, both times on a neutral court against top-75 competition (Saint Louis and Oklahoma). In the 2012 meeting between the Aggies and Jaguars, Texas A&M scored a season-high 83 points and beat Southern by 25.

The Jaguars’ 2-point victory was their first road win over a team ranked inside the top-150 in over a decade, and their first win over a BCS-conference team in more than 15 years.
 
 
6. Chaminade 86, Texas (2-0) 73 – 11/19/12
Records: Chaminade (2-1 D-II), Texas (2-0)
KenPom differential: N/A (Chaminade is a D-II school)
Spread differential: -29.5 (Texas -16.5)

Texas traveled to Hawaii to participate in the Maui Invitational with the knowledge that superstar guard Myck Kabongo was unlikely to participate due to the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into his eligibility.

And while Texas faced the Silver Swords on the 30th anniversary of their legendary upset over then-No.1 Virginia, no one could have predicted a loss of this magnitude.

The Longhorns not only lost, but were run out of the gym. As -16.5 favorites losing by 13 points, the Longhorns suffered the largest betting line differential of any losing favorite this season.
 
 
5. Columbia 75, @ Villanova 57 – 11/20/12
Records: Columbia (2-1), Villanova (3-1)
KenPom differential: 68 (Columbia 131, Villanova 68)
Spread differential: -28 (Villanova -10)

Villanova lost to a marginal Ivy League team by 18 points at home in unquestionably the ugliest home upset loss of the season.

Columbia has not made the postseason since 1968.

A loss to the Lions in any fashion would be considered a massive upset, but losing at home by 18 points to a team that does not provide athletic scholarships should be grounds for removal from the Big East.

Hindsight is 20-20, but this is the same Villanova team that beat No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse in back-to-back games.
 
 
4. Winthrop 50, @ Ohio 49 – 12/15/12
Records: Winthrop (3-4), Ohio (7-2)
KenPom differential: 185 (Winthrop 233, Ohio 48)
Spread differential: Off the board

You may have not even been aware that this game took place, but not all upsets feature legendary programs and top-25 teams.

The Bobcats entered the game having lost just twice, both times on the road, and faced a Winthrop team that had yet to defeat a D-I opponent.

Heading in to the contest Winthrop had lost by an average margin of victory of 18 points. Ohio had lost just once at home in the previous season and despite losing their head coach Jim Groce to Illinois, returned their top three scorers, including 2012 MAC tournament MVP and Cousey Award finalist D.J. Cooper.
 
 
3. Cal Poly 70, @ UCLA 68 – 11/25/12
Records: Cal Poly (1-2), UCLA (4-1)
KenPom differential: 167 (Cal Poly 217, UCLA 50)
Spread differential: -20.5 (UCLA -18.5)

Until Kansas’ loss to TCU, there was not a more embarrassing loss this season than UCLA’s home defeat at the hands of Cal Poly. The Bruins led 51-33 with 12:21 remaining, but made just four field goals the rest of the way.

Cal Poly was picked to finish 7th in the Big West heading in to the season, and were 18.5-point underdogs heading into this contest. It was also the highest-ranked team ever defeated by Cal Poly, a team that joined the Division-I ranks in 1994.
 
 
2. Old Dominion 63, Virginia 61 – 12/22/12
Records: ODU (1-10, 0-1), Virginia (9-2)
KenPom differential: 195 (Old Dominion 237, Virginia 42)
Spread differential: -16 (Virginia -14)

Old Dominion is the worst team in a very bad Colonial Athletic Association. The Monarchs were so bad that the school fired head coach Blaine Taylor, the schools all-time winningest coach, with nine games remaining in the season.

It’s true, both of Virginia’s losses heading into the contest with the Monarchs were to CAA competition. And yes, it’s true, Virginia is not a potent offensive team. But that does not excuse the fact that the Cavaliers lost to a team ranked 284th in defensive efficiency and 318th in effective field goal percentage.

At the time it was an ugly loss and huge upset, and the Monarchs continued struggles have only magnified just how big of an upset this was.
 
 
1. @ TCU 62, No. 5 Kansas 55 – 2/6/13
Records at the time: TCU (9-12, 0-8), Kansas (19-2, 7-1)
KenPom Ranking differential: 265 (TCU 278, Kansas 13)
Spread differntial: -24 (Kansas -17 favorites)

You don’t need to look at the stats to know that this was the ugliest, most shocking upset of the season. TCU, a school with almost zero basketball pulse or identity, defeated one of the nation’s top teams and most legendary programs.

Kansas had not lost back-to-back games in 264 contests dating back to the 2005-2006 season. On the flip side, the Horned Frogs have mustered just two winning seasons in the past decade.

Kansas scored just 13 points in the first half, their lowest single half total of the season, and finished with 55 points, another team low for the season.

Prior to Wednesday night’s game, TCU had lost eight consecutive games and had not won since beating 3-18 SWAC bottom-feeder Mississippi Valley State by just three points on the same court.

This was not just the biggest, ugliest and most shocking upset of the season, but one of historic proportions.

Latest Posts
  1. Kansas head coach Bill Self shuffling starting lineups to send message to players

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:45 PM EST

    Bill Self

    Kansas head coach Bill Self is trying to get through to his players by changing starting lineups.

  2. Barclays Center Classic will air on NBC Sports Network on Friday night

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:55 PM EST

    NBCSN

    The Barclays Center Classic doubleheader will air on Friday night on NBC Sports Network.

  3. Providence could be without two key players for multiple games

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:20 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Friars could be depleted on the perimeter against two tough opponents.

  4. Minnesota suspends sophomore guard after arrest for domestic violence

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:24 PM EST

    Richard Pitino AP

    Minnesota will take a hit to its back court with this suspension.

  5. Rick Pitino on blow out win: ‘We played four white guys and an Egyptian’

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:58 PM EST

    AP AP

    I hope his joke doesn’t make people ignore the fact the he really felt bad about this.

  6. Player of the Year Power Rankings: A familiar face on top, but a few surprises behind him

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:18 PM EST

    Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo) Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

    Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor are near the top, but the rest of the top five may surprise you.

  7. Report: Oregon’s Dwayne Benjamin out tonight against VCU

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:27 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Benjamin hurt his ankle against Michigan.

  8. #POSTERIZED: Jason McManamen unloads on FAMU defender (VIDEO)

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    GoWyo.com GoWyo.com

    Jason McManamen is trying to prove Billy Hoyle and Sidney Dean wrong.

  9. Ricky Doyle secures 70-63 win for No. 19 Michigan over Oregon in Legends Classic

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    AP AP

    Michigan was dominated on the glass, but the freshman forward stepped up to ice the victory.

  10. Villanova’s win is evidence of why VCU may have peaked as a basketball program

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Can a team that runs a pressing system truly be one of the nations elite?

  11. Late Night Snacks: San Diego State and BYU engage in double OT thriller; Nova, Zona earn big wins; Indiana upset at home

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:00 AM EST

    Aqeel Quinn AP

    A busy night of tournament and non-conference action in college hoops made for some big wins for Villanova and Arizona and a home loss for Indiana.

  12. No. 13 Iowa State holds off Alabama as bench additions give them even more weapons

    Nov 24, 2014, 11:51 PM EST

    Dustin Hogue AP

    We knew Iowa State had a lot of offensive weapons, but with the return of some key rotation players the Cyclones look really tough.

  13. Tennessee assistant coach resigns amid NCAA probe

    Nov 24, 2014, 8:30 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte3owi1njbhnjg0mtc2yjbkzdgzmdzhnzm2mtbjytc1 AP

    Tennessee is losing an assistant coach as a NCAA investigation into head coach Donnie Tyndall’s time at Southern Mississippi continues.

  14. No. 3 Arizona takes down Missouri in opening game at Maui Invitational

    Nov 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EST

    Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Keith Shamburger AP

    No. 3 Arizona held off Missouri the whole game and cruised to a double-digit win in Maui.

  15. Hall of Famer Jerry Tarkanian due for hospital release

    Nov 24, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    Morehead State v UNLV Getty Images

    After spending some time in the hospital battling pneumonia, legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian is leaving the hospital.

  16. Florida Gulf Coast suspends senior for three games

    Nov 24, 2014, 5:15 PM EST

    Jamail Jones AP

    Florida Gulf Coast suspended a key player for three games on Monday.

  17. Baylor loses a 2015 commitment

    Nov 24, 2014, 4:25 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Baylor lost a commitment from a 2015 guard.