For Boston College and UMass, expectations are low this season, especially in conference play, but both teams have games this weekend that might change that type of thinking.
BC is coming off an unexpected and exhilarating victory over Providence at Conte Forum. Based on losses to Nicholls State, Hartford, and Fairfield, it was really looking as though the Eagles could have another winless season in the ACC, the best conference in college basketball.
Beating Providence changes that thinking; maybe the Eagles can win a few. I’m thinking three or four, and that starts with a home game against Syracuse Sunday. Right now, the Orange are a disaster and vulnerable.
With two graduate transfers — Andrew White from Nebraska and John Gillon from Colorado State — joining the returning talent, Syracuse fans were thinking about a return to the Final Four. Forget about that.
The Orange are 8-5 but have lost to bad teams such as Connecticut and St. John’s. The loss to St. John’s (93-60) was their worst defeat in the history of the Carrier Dome. St. John’s is no better than BC. The Eagles have a chance.
UMass is 10-3, but the schedule has been soft. A really good freshman class led by guard Luwane Pipkins has helped fuel a good out-of-conference record.
Now league play starts Friday with Saint Bonaventure, which has guard Jaylen Adams, an entertaining player that UMass will have to keep under wraps. It’s possible. The Bonnies lost to Canisius at home.
This should be high-scoring and entertaining, and it could signal the beginning of an interesting A-10 season for the Minutemen.
Other games I’d like to see this weekend:
West Virginia at Oklahoma State: Both teams are better than expected. Okie State will have to deal with the Mountaineers’ press if it’s going to pull off an upset.
Texas Tech at Iowa State: Tech comes to Ames on an eight-game winning streak, but winning at Hilton Coliseum is too big a hurdle.
La Salle at Dayton: The Explorers are a disappointing 6-4 and even had to go to overtime to win at Mercer (why were they playing that game?). A new season could begin if they pull off an upset at Dayton. Injuries have diminished the Flyers.
Virginia Commonwealth at George Mason: An old rivalry had slipped with George Mason’s decline, but suddenly the Patriots are a stunning 10-3 and with a chance to establish themselves in the A-10. The other attraction is that this is a great battle of the bands.
South Carolina at Memphis: The improved Gamecocks have not proven themselves as a road team. I think that’s going to continue.
Southern Cal at Oregon: USC is a totally unexpected 14-0. Oregon just upset UCLA, winning its 10th straight game and handing the Bruins their first loss. The way the Ducks played Wednesday night, it looks like another undefeated team will bite the dust.
Duke at Virginia Tech: This will be Duke’s second true road game; Coach K has slipped into Boeheim Mode when it comes to scheduling. He also has his entire prized freshman class finally playing all at the same time. Despite the big improvement in Tech, I don’t think the Gobblers can overcome that.
Clemson at Wake Forest: Both are upwardly mobile, and the winner will climb up over the loser. Clemson is on an eight-game winning streak; getting No. 9 would be notable.
Louisville at Indiana: Both are coming off disappointing home losses. Louisville lost to Virginia in the Pitino Palace, while Indiana inexplicably lost to Nebraska. I love Indiana’s personnel, but something is obviously missing. Based on recent form, this is a chance for Louisville to get a good road win.
Villanova at Creighton: Creighton is undefeated and averaging nearly 90 points per game while shooting 53 percent (second in the nation). Upsetting the No. 1 team in the country will stamp the Bluejays as a Final Four contender.
Florida State at Virginia: This should be a titanic defensive struggle, a half-court wrestling match that will go to the strongest.
North Carolina State at Miami: Here’s where N.C. State establishes itself as an ACC contender.
Illinois State at Loyola of Chicago: Two serious contenders in the Missouri Valley.
New Mexico at San Diego State: These are the two best teams in the Mountain West (Nevada fans might disagree).Joe Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan