Upsets are one of the biggest reasons why March Madness is so popular. People love seeing the underdog win even if it means their brackets get torn to shreds. Who can ever forget some of the classic underdogs to make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament? Valparaiso with Bryce Drew, Davidson with Steph Curry, Butler (twice!), VCU, and of course, George Mason making it to the Final Four all stole our hearts by beating bigger programs. Upsets are going to happen — they always do — the question is: who is going to produce them?
This year, the tournament field seems to be pretty even when it comes to competitive balance. For that reason, it would not be much of a surprise to see many higher-seeded teams lose.
I have already posted my expert tournament picks online, and I’ve picked a few upsets. Combining my thoughts with many other expert brackets I have looked at, there seems to be several popular upset picks.
Here are some of them:
(11) Minnesota vs. (6) UCLA – Minnesota is favored to win the game by three points and seems to be picked much more frequently than the Bruins, so this would be an upset strictly on seeding. We’ve already gone over the big reason why Minnesota is a popular pick to beat the higher-seed Bruins — UCLA’s Jordan Adams got hurt in the Pac-12 tournament and is done for the season.
(14) Davidson vs. (3) Marquette – Marquette is only favored by 3.5 points, which is a tiny margin for a 14-3 matchup. But the stats point to this being a close game. Davidson has won 17 in a row including their conference tournament. They are led by senior forward Jake Cohen and junior forward De’Mon Brooks, both of whom are averaging more than 13 points per game and playing well. Marquette, despite being 23-8, ranks lowly in defensive metrics, so they’ll probably have a tough time holding down the Wildcats.
(13) South Dakota State vs. (4) Michigan – I picked the Wolverines to reach the Final Four, so I don’t anticipate an upset here, but the Jackrabbits are a popular upset pick for those feeling extra brazen. Many people are also betting on them to cover the spread, which is 11 points. The biggest reason people are in on South Dakota State is Nate Wolters (pictured). The senior guard is averaging 22.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game.
(10) Iowa State vs. (7) Notre Dame – The old 10-7 upset is only a mild one, but many experts are picking the Cyclones to win this game. Iowa State lost to Kansas three times and doesn’t seem to capable of beating elite opponents, but they have wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State, which are more on Notre Dame’s level. Freshman Georges Niang has been playing very well lately, as has Utah transfer Will Clyburn. The Cyclones also have some senior leadership from Korie Lucious, who has tournament experience from his time at Michigan State.
(10) Colorado vs. (7) Illinois – Another 10-7 upset that has been popular. Illinois is a good team — they beat Indiana, Gonzaga, and Ohio State — but they also went 8-10 in conference. One of their biggest issues is that they are a streaky outside shooting team. After starting the season hot from the outside, many of the Illini’s top 3-point shooters have seen their percentages drop. Against a pretty good defensive team in Colorado, they could have trouble. Andre Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie are no joke.
(11) Saint Mary’s vs. (6) Memphis – Saint Mary’s first needs to defeat Middle Tennessee State in a play-in game. The Gaels are favored by 2.5 points in the game and, if they win, they would be facing the Tigers. Saint Mary’s has only lost six times this season — three of which have come against Gonzaga. They’re strong on the outside with senior guard Matthew Dellavedova and they’ll need some strong interior play from Brad Waldow.
Photo credit: Twitter/Nate WoltersGoogle+