Pick Six: Early part of college hoops season filled with upsets and scares

Parity in college basketball has made it so that when a smaller program knocks off a bigger one, it's not much of a surprise anymore.

After teams like Butler, Virginia Commonwealth and Wichita State reached the Final Four in recent years, the reaction to so-called upsets is often a shrug.

This season, David got an early start on Goliath with a few upsets and scares for big-name programs in the season's first couple of weeks.

Here's a few of them:


Belmont 83, North Carolina 80. So what if the Tar Heels were without leading scorer P.J. Hairston and senior guard Leslie McDonald. Opposing players rushing the court at the Dean Dome is not something that happens very often. The Bruins kept their cool as North Carolina turned an 11-point deficit into an eight-point lead in the second half, no one more than J.J. Mann. The senior hit five 3-pointers, including the go-ahead triple with 13.1 seconds left to send the Tar Heels to their first non-conference home loss in eight years.

Indiana State 83, Notre Dame 70. The Sycamores, with one of the Missouri Valley's most experienced teams, were a popular mid-major pick to possibly make an NCAA tournament run. The school known for being Larry Bird's alma mater got a good start by bumping off the No. 21 team in the country — on the road, no less. Indiana State lost a 10-point halftime lead, but took control of the game with an 18-3 run to give Irish coach Mike Brey his first November home loss in 14 years at Notre Dame.

North Carolina Central 82, North Carolina State 72, OT. N.C. Central had been winless in 13 previous tries against ACC teams. A pair of seniors led the Eagles to one of their biggest victories. Undeterred by the Wolfpack's late rally to tie it in regulation, the Eagles were steady in the overtime period behind Jeremy Ingram, who scored the first nine points of the extra period and finished with 29. Emanuel Chapman added 18 points to help N.C. Central become the third team to pull off an upset against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

St. Francis Brooklyn 66, Miami 62, OT. Missing your first 13 shots against the defending ACC champion is usually going to lead to a lopsided loss. It didn't seem to both the Terriers. They still managed to lead at halftime after the miserable start and didn't wilt on the road against what was supposed to be a superior opponent. Miami missed all 15 of its 3-point attempts, the first time that's happened in 173 games, and had to make a shot at the end of regulation just to get into overtime against the St. Francis.

Syracuse 56, St. Francis Brooklyn 50. Noticing a trend here with the Terriers? Even after beating Miami, St. Francis wasn't expected to be much of a match for the ninth-ranked Orange, who hadn't lost a nonconference home game since 2008. After keeping it close in the first half, the Terriers took the lead early in the second half and were still tied at 50 with Syracuse in the closing minutes. The Orange clamped down on defense and closed with a 10-0 run, but sure had a hard time getting those Terriers off their heels.

Michigan State 62, Columbia 53. The Spartans moved into the No. 1 slot in The Associated Press poll after knocking off previously top-ranked Kentucky, so there was no reason to think they'd have any trouble with Columbia. The Lions weren't willing to lie down, though. Despite having a young team, Columbia held its own against the newly-minted No. 1 team in the country, keeping within one of Michigan State with just under 5 minutes left. The Lions didn't score over the final 4:27 after the Spartans clamped down defensively, but it was definitely a nice showing for an Ivy League program that was supposed to be rebuilding.