The brackets are out, and Ohio St., Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Duke have received the number one seeds. Are they the favorites to win their region? Are they even favorites to make the Sweet Sixteen? It’s all about the upsets baby. Here, I will break down every lower seed and tell you who I think will pull off the upset, if they have a chance to pull off the upset, or if they will not be pulling off the upset. In addition, I’ll leak my favorites from each region, as well as the teams who will surprise by making it to the second weekend.
#16 Boston University It’s good for senior forward John Holland to finally get into the tournament. Unfortunately for him, he won’t be able to win a game. The Terriers made a nice run to capture the America East championship, but they’ll be awarded with a meeting with the Big 12 champion Jayhawks. Kansas should have its way with Boston, and the only way I see that not happening is if the Morris twins miss the bus to the BOK Center. Actually, let me correct myself: If the entire Kansas team misses the bus. Boston U. will not be pulling the upset.
#10 Florida St. It seems that Florida St. will be having Chris Singleton back for their opening round against Texas A&M, and the Seminoles couldn’t be happier. While they haven’t played to their full potential without Singleton, it should be noted that they lost to North Carolina on a Harrison Barnes rocket, and lost to Virginia Tech by a fingertip. Singleton is the anchor to Florida St.’s stingy defense and that could pose problems to an Aggies team that has seemed sluggish at times. The Seminoles are primed to pull off the upset.
#12 Clemson The Tigers have to win a game before they even advance to the field of 64. In a play-in game for twelve seeds, something I’m not too keen on, they will face UAB. Clemson has gotten better as of late, but blowing the game against North Carolina really was not encouraging. What was worse was watching Demontez Stitt trying to get a game winning shot on an iso play. He’s not that kind of player and the Tigers aren’t that kind of team. If they can control the tempo and win the rebound battle, they certainly have a shot of not only beating the Blazers, but knocking off West Virginia as well. However, due to their inconsistency, I don’t see either of those happening.
#13 Belmont This is the upset that everyone is picking, including me. Belmont has steamrolled over everyone this season, which may not be saying much, but they are such a complete team. They can shoot, rebound, work the post, and force turnovers. Their opponent, Wisconsin, ended the season by scoring only 33 points against Penn St. The Badgers in my mind are a weaker BYU. They have two very good players, but the supporting cast sometimes doesn’t show up. Ultimately, that will be their downfall. It should be an exciting game, but Belmont will advance. After that, they will win again and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
#12 Richmond Seeded five spots lower than last year, the Spiders now look to be a bracket buster in the first round. The duo of Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper provide a solid inside-outside combination. However, aside from Harper, Richmond has trouble rebounding. While Vanderbilt is mainly a guard oriented team, their center, Festus Ezeli, could give the Spiders trouble. I think the commodores are more battle tested coming out of the SEC East, as opposed to the Atlantic-10 where Richmond resides. They are a trendy upset pick as a twelve seed, and while they do have a shot, I don’t think they can overcome Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins.
#9 Villanova In a hot versus cold matchup, the Wildcats barely have a pulse. They face a George Mason team who just had their sixteen game win streak snapped by VCU. This is a very tricky matchup. The Patriots have not beaten many good teams, but seem to be on a roll. Villanova, on the other hand, has some high quality wins despite the fact that they limped to the end of the season. I went back and forth with this one but in the end, it’s really about how you’re playing. George Mason is playing a hundred times better than the Wildcats, but you should still expect a close game. In the end, the Patriots should pull it out, but you can’t sleep on ‘Nova.
#11 Marquette Marquette is a very puzzling team that has been up and down. They boast wins over Notre Dame, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Syracuse. But they had a three game winning streak at the end of the season that was followed by two rough losses, including a very ugly one at Seton Hall. They then had two strong wins in the Big East Tournament before getting mopped up by Louisville. The bottom line is that this is a very talented team. Led by Jimmy Butler’s shooting, Jae Crowder’s aggressiveness, and Darius Johnson-Odom’s all around ability, they’re primed to upset an Xavier team that just lost to Dayton. It should be a very good game and was a very hard one to pick, but I think the Golden Eagles should pull this one out.
#15 Northern Colorado Coming out of the Big Sky conference with their first ever tournament berth, the Bears are another nice story who should just be happy to be there. San Diego St. has beaten everyone it should, and that shouldn’t stop here. The Aztecs play such good defense that Northern Colorado star Devon Beitzel will be smothered. He led the Bears past Montana, but they’re in the big leagues now. San Diego St. will win, and I’ll be shocked of the opposite turns out to be true. Either way, it should be a nice send off for the four senior starters.
#16 N. C. Asheville Given the fact that they beat Coastal Carolina on the road twice, the Bulldogs should feel accomplished enough. They have a play-in game against Arkansas Little-Rock who barely made it through their conference tournament. They should be able to beat the Trojans, but they get a date with Pittsburgh afterwards. The Bulldogs will be happy with their first win and feel a little sour after getting romped by Pitt.
#9 Illinois The Illini have to put together all their pieces if they want to make a win. They have an extremely talented team with Demetri McCamey and their frontcourt of Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. I feel that Illinois will be extra motivated since their head coach Bruce Weber may be playing for his job, while the trio of players mentioned above are all seniors. All of this combined should lead to the Illini overpowering the Runnin’ Rebels en route to a victory.
#10 Michigan St. Despite coming out flat against Penn St., a blowout win over Purdue says that the Spartans are ready for March. No one coaches better in the big dance better than Tom Izzo, and he should have his underachieving yet talented squad ready for battle. They face a UCLA team who has some talent too, but just got thumped by Oregon. In a matchup that I think will be dominated by coaching, Kailn Lucas won’t let his senior season end just yet. With Draymond Green and Durrelll Summers at his side, Michigan St. is poised to upset the Bruins and could even make it to the Sweet Sixteen.
#10 Penn St. The second Big Ten team to earn a ten seed, the Nittany Lions needed a late season surge to make the field. They have won five of their last seven, only losing to Ohio St. Despite the loss, I liked what I saw in the Big Ten championship game. I’m still a little unsure of how their resume got them a ten seed, but they are a threat nonetheless. Temple is a veteran team that doesn’t want to make an early exit like last year. But Talor Battle is playing for his college basketball career life. If he loses, that may be it for the star guard. Expect him to play with a chip on his shoulder and take down the Owls who made an unexpected early exit in the A-10 tournament.
#11 Missouri After playing excellent in their non-conference schedule, losing only once to Georgetown in overtime, they faltered in the conference part of the schedule and are losers of three of their last four. They’re playing a team who was playing pretty well before it got manhandled by Notre Dame. I feel like if the Tigers can control the pace, they should have their way with the Bearcats. Marcus Denmon and Kim English will run the floor and show flashes of their preseason dominance. Cincinnati will be off their game which will lead to an upset win for Missouri.
#15 UCSB The Gauchos are in way over their head in this one. While many people think Florida is overseeded at number two, nobody is giving UCSB a chance. They were only a game above .500 before their conference tournament when they made a big run. Like most fifteen seeds, they have really no chance of winning, and should just be happy to be in the tournament.
#9 Old Dominion One of the best rebounding teams in the country, Old Dominion is primed for a hardnosed battle with Butler. They have Kent Bazemore who does it all, and look like a very dangerous team. However, they may have met their match in the Bulldogs. Butler epitomizes toughness and they have so much experience from last year’s run. Matt Howard is one of the most hardworking players in the country, and he should be able to grind it out for Butler. The Monarchs have a shot in this game that will go down to the wire, but I see Butler getting the victory.
#11 VCU Once again, it remains to be seen if VCU will even make the field of 64. I’m surprised they’ve gotten this far. They’ve shown they can win with victories over George Mason and UCLA, but I’m still shocked they made the field over Colorado. They have an outside shot, I don’t see them beating USC. After that, they certainly couldn’t beat the Hoyas.
#12 UAB The Blazers are another team that isn’t in yet and people are skeptic as to whether they deserve a bid. But they are not a team you want to face. Their Coach Mike Davis has a 7-4 NCAA tournament record and always seems to pull off an upset or two. This could be the case again. I see them beating Clemson, but I don’t expect them to go any further. However, it is possible that the beat the Mountaineers, and they even have an outside shot of advancing to the second weekend.
#12 Memphis This is a twelve-five matchup that a lot of upset lovers are steering away from. That does not include me. While they are young, I feel like Memphis’s freshmen took a big step towards growing up in the Conference-USA championship game against UTEP. On the road against a crazy crowd, the Tigers fell down big in the beginning, came back, and won it close at the end because of free throws. They showed a lot of toughness, and have a lot of talent with four players scoring in double figures. I think Arizona is a one man team, and rather overrated. Will Barton is a great player and Tarik Black should keep Derrick Williams in check enough for Memphis to squeeze out a victory.
#13 Princeton A miracle shot vaulted Princeton into the tournament and left a team who a lot of people belonged in, out (Harvard). Senior Kareem Maddox is a sparkplug off the bench for a Princeton team that shoots pretty well from behind the arc. I have Kentucky in this matchup, but I’m a little scared. If Princeton can get hot, the lack of experience could come out of Kentucky’s super freshman, leading to an outside shot of an upset.
#14 St. Peter’s The Peacocks are a team that is mainly defense oriented. Unfortunately for them, they face one of the highest scoring teams in the country. They will have a ton of trouble guarding E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. St. Peter’s has probably one of the worst matches, and I’m not sure how they can escape this one with a win.
#15 Akron The Zips won an exciting championship game in the MAC tournament against Kent St. thanks to a game saving block by Zeke Marshall. Look for Marshall to give the Irish offense some headaches. Akron is very good at taking care of the ball, and probably has a decent chance of keeping it close. However, Notre Dame is too good to lose this game, but the Zips should make this one interesting.
#16 Hampton The Pirates have a matchup against Duke that they won’t be able to win. No way that a team coached by Coach K loses to a sixteen seed. Hampton’s offense won’t be able to keep up with the Blue Devils, and their defense won’t be able to stop them either. Honestly, I don’t see any sixteen seeds pulling off the unheard of upset this year.
#14 Indiana St. The Sycamores have a tough matchup against a hot Syracuse team. Maybe if it were another team, they would have a shot, but unless forward Carl Richard can somehow outrebound Rick Jackson, Indiana St. has no shot. The Orange are a team who is inconsistent at times, but shouldn’t have trouble getting out of the first round.
#15 Long Island It’s a little upsetting that Long Island is seeded so low. One of the few conference champs who were seeded at the top of their conference tournament, no one is talking about how the Blackbirds are underseeded. If they can hit some threes and control the pace, they may actually be able to beat a North Carolina team that has been getting off to some slow starts as of late. However, I don’t see it happening.
#13 Morehead St. Kenneth Faried is a monster. He’s pulled down more rebounds than anyone has in the entire NCAA history. But Louisville is a really good team. Unfortunately for Faried, the Eagles don’t have enough players to help him beat a team like the Cardinals. Rick Pittino is a fantastic coach that won’t let his team be beat by a weaker Morehead St. They have a shot, but expect the Eagles to only be able to keep it close for a little while as Faried plays his final college game.
#11 USC Why are the Trojans in the tournament again? They lost to Rider, Bradley, TCU, Oregon St., and Oregon twice. By the way, that loss to Rider was at home by twenty. Yuck. However, with Nikola Vucevic and Jio Fontan, USC has some talent and potential. I can see them beating another undeserving team, VCU, but I give them no chance against a rejuvenated Georgetown team with Chris Wright back in action. Watch out though, with those bad losses, the Rams could knock them off before the second round begins.
#14 Bucknell When I watched the Patriot League championship game, I was very impressed with the Bison, and especially their do-it-all center Mike Muscala. Bucknell moves the ball very well and is a team to watch because of their upset history (Kansas anyone?). However, just look at how UConn stormed through the Big East tournament, and your decision should be made for you. The Bison have a chance, but they aren’t the team that will stop the momentum of the Huskies.
#10 Georgia Despite completely choking against Alabama in the SEC tournament, Georgia is in as a ten seed. However, instead of playing another struggling team, they get red hot Washington. Georgia has not done very well against good teams, having a 3-9 record against tournament teams, one of them being against UAB. I don’t see them stopping the Husky train, especially because of their coach, Mark Fox. I’m not a fan of Fox, and he really killed a chance to win that Alabama game late. A lot of times I’ve seen Georgia collapse down the stretch and with athletes like Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslies, I feel like Fox is the problem. You won’t win any tournament games with a bad coach.
#14 Wofford In my biggest upset of the bracket, I have Wofford defeating BYU. They have two excellent players in Noah Dahlman and Cameron Rundles. They play great defense, and have won eight straight. Last year, they finished their season hot and came within four of Wisconsin. Now, with everyone back, expect them to pull off the upset over an overrated BYU team. Jimmer Fredette will get his points, but with almost no one to help him, they will ultimately fall. The loss of Brandon Davies hurts, and Fredette and guard Jackson Emery are the only ones on the team who do anything. In what will be a team game, look for the Terriers to pull off the monumental upset.
#16 UTSA The Roadrunners were seeded seventh in the Southland Conference tournament and still managed to get into the tournament. The upsets end here. They have absolutely no chance against Ohio St., but I’m going with my gut a picking them to lose to Alabama St.
#16 Alabama St. Refer to my prediction above. The Hornets should beat UTSA because of their defense, but like the Roadrunners, they would have no shot in beating the Buckeyes.
#13 Oakland After playing a tough non-conference schedule, the Grizzlies stormed through the Summit League to win the title. They are battle tested and have a ton of talent, especially in the front court with Keith Benson. It’s a shame they have to play the Longhorns who are a team that is just too good for them to beat. Look for this one to be close, but Jordan Hamilton will be the difference in this one.
#16 Arkansas-Little Rock Solomon Bozeman miraculously led the Trojans to the tournament but the Cinderella story stops here. They live and die by the three, and that will ultimately be their undoing against UNC Asheville. Of course, if they do win, I don’t need to tell you what will happen. Ashton Gibbs will happen.
#11 Gonzaga A hot streak by the Zags have led them into the tournament. Mark Few has a lot of experience in March Madness, but I think it the wins end here. Steve Lavin has St. John’s so confident right now and these kids know that if they lose in the second round, it will be a major disappointment. Unless Robert Sacre can really take advantage of D. J. Kennedy being out, I don’t think the Bulldogs will beat the Red Storm.
#12 Utah St. A lot of people like Utah St. over Kansas St., but I just don’t see how that’s going to happen. Yes, they have talented players in Tai Wesley and Brockeith Pane, but who did they play this year? A thirty win season includes wins against all no names except for St. Mary’s, who got left out of the dance. Meanwhile, Kansas St. is playing great and despite an early exit in the Big 12 tournament, they’ve beaten a lot of good teams, including Kansas who has two losses. I’m not buying into the Aggies like the rest of the country.
I see Washington upsetting a North Carolina team that they are evenly matched against to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. St. John’s should also advance by overpowering Wofford with Dwight Hardy. Although I like Kansas St., I see them eventually losing at the hands of an incredibly dangerous Belmont team. And finally, I have Bruce Pearl and Tennessee pulling off a monumental upset over Duke. My final four teams are Ohio St., Texas, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. In the championship game, I see the Buckeyes overpowering the Cardinals, as they frankly can’t be stopped.
Let the Madness begin!