Upsets are expected late in the college basketball season, when the madness of March wreaks havoc on NCAA tournament brackets across the country.
What’s happening so far this season has taken parity to an entirely new level.
Figuring there’s no need to wait for March, the little guys have been busy taking down Goliaths throughout the non-conference season. They’ve been doing it mostly on the road, too, creating can-that-be-right double takes as the scores scroll across the screen.
In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a few of the more surprising wins by smaller programs so far this season:
NJIT 72, MICHIGAN 70: New Jersey Institute of Technology is a commuter school that set an NCAA record with a 51-game losing streak a few years ago, is the only independent program in Division I basketball and has a tiny gym that doubles as a campus recreation center. Michigan played for a national title two seasons ago and has been an annual Big Ten power. As upsets go, this is a mammoth one. With the help of 11 3-pointers, the Highlanders took down the 17th-ranked Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
INCARNATE WORD 74, NEBRASKA 73: Programs transitioning to Division I typically struggle against programs from larger conferences. Incarnate Word has been an exception to that rule, winning its share of games against DI opponents since making the jump before last season. Still, knocking off a team that was in the NCAA tournament last season on the road was a big takedown. Keeping it close until the end, the Cardinals beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln when Kyle Hittle hit a contested baseline jumper in the closing seconds. Incarnate Word’s players ran onto the floor to celebrate as Nebraska’s fans walked dejectedly toward the exits. It was the first time since 2010-11 that a transitioning Division I team beat an opponent from a big-five conference.
EASTERN WASHINGTON 88, INDIANA 86: A 12-point second-half deficit at a venue like Indiana’s Assembly Hall is usually a got-no-shot proposition, particularly for a program more known for his bright red football field than its basketball team. The Eagles didn’t give it a second thought, shooting 61 percent in the second half to pull out a victory that ended the nation’s third-longest non-conference home winning streak at 43 games. It gave Eastern Washington its first win in 13 games against Big Ten schools and was the Eagles’ first victory in 21 games in front of a crowd 10,000 or more. Now the Hoosiers are the ones seeing red.
YALE 45, CONNECTICUT 44: An upset so big, an Ivy League professor turned it into an exam question. When Jack Montague hit a jumper from the corner with 1.7 seconds left, it ended UConn’s 28-year winning streak against Ivy League schools, along with its 68-game winning streak against teams from the Huskies’ home state. Seeing a learning opportunity, an assistant math professor at Yale created a complicated word problem to figure out the probability of Yale pulling off another upset against the Huskies. Based upon calculations most of us have no hope of understanding, the Bulldogs have a 7 percent probability of doing it again. As Lloyd Christmas said in Dumb and Dumber: So you’re saying there’s a chance?
UNIVERSITY OF THE SCIENCES 54, DREXEL 52: Speaking of academics, it’s usually not a good sign when a Division I team loses to a school with Sciences in the name. Nothing against those schools, it’s just the way it usually works when it comes to basketball. A pharmaceutical college not far from Drexel in Philadelpia, USciences, as its called, knocked off the Dragons when Garret Kerr hit a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left. Drexel lost two players to season-ending injuries and was without second-leading scorer Tavon Allen because of a knee injury, but losing to a Division II team on their home court was a tough one to swallow for the Dragons.