NCAA

March Madness 2019: Five upset picks to make in the opening weekend

March Madness 2019: Five upset picks to make in the opening weekend

First and Second Round upsets are what make March Madness so great.

Seeing some team that no one expected to win knock off a Power 5 team is why everyone loves this time of year. In some ways it’s the iconic David vs. Goliath.

Picking these upsets is a different conversation though. Everyone wants to be the expert that gets to say “I saw this upset coming.” They are hard to predict, another reason why we love it.

While picking First and Second Round upsets will not win you your bracket pool/ challenge, it can make a difference when the final votes are tallied.

These are some upsets that have a strong likelihood of coming to fruition during the first week of the NCAA Tournament.

First Round Upsets

No. 13 Saint Louis over No. 4 Virginia Tech

From afar this upset pick makes zero sense. Virginia Tech, who hails from the best conference in the country, has one of the most potent offenses that can catch fire at any moment. This was already on display in their upset victory over Duke back in February. Saint Louis is only in because they were left standing in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

But this is also a Hokie offense that can stutter (47 points in a WIN over NC State) and has Justin Robinson coming off an injury. Even without those obstacles, when they played a hard pressured defense this season it did not end well.

Enter Saint Louis.

They rode their defense through the A10 Tournament. A variety of defensive schemes, mainly a 1-3-1 zone, had them knock off Dayton, Davidson and St. Bonaventure to get to the big dance.

They will force the Hokies to shoot from 3pt range. And with the Hokies’ hot-and-cold offense they are bound to have an off game.

No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Maryland

As many Terrapins’ fans know this is a team that is capable of making a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond OR they will lose painfully in the First Round.

The latter is their future if Belmont is their opponent.

As the second highest scoring team in the country they average 87.4 points per game. Not only do they have a formidable challenger to Bruno Fernando/ Jason Smith in Dylan Windler, but they have reinforcements. Two other players average over 14 points a contest in both the backcourt and the paint.

Belmont is good and likely would be a better seed if they had a schedule comparable to Power 5 teams.

Only twice has Maryland scored more than Belmont’s averages this season. They were against Loyola (MD) and Mount St. Mary’s back in December and November.

No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin

The Ducks have won eight consecutive games (albeit to Pac-12 opponents) to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Less than a handful of teams can say that much.

Early in the season the Ducks were a preseason favorite with 7-foot-2 Bol Bol on their roster. An injury in mid-December derailed their season until a late push stole them a bid.

Instantly they are a mismatch with four players standing at 6-9 in the starting lineup. While Wisconsin has Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers, they will have their hands full in the paint. Their depth behind that is a big concern. 

Oregon is a dangerous and unpredictable team that no one wants to face.

No. 12 Murray State over No. 5 Marquette

Both of these teams are essentially one man wrecking bands with Ja Morant on Murray State and Markus Howard on Marquette.

But only one of them is fully healthy.

Howard recently aggravated a left wrist injury from earlier in the season. In Marquette’s last game in the Big East Tournament he shot 1-for-15 in a loss to Seton Hall.

If Howard cannot play at 100 percent, somebody on the Golden Eagles will have to match NBA Draft prospect Morant on the Racers.

Second Round

No. 6 Iowa State over No. 3 Houston

Hard to get too ahead of the games, but assuming Iowa State and Houston make it to the Second Round, the Cyclones have a great chance at an upset.

Both of these teams have recent appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Both have a veteran presence on their squad. But one school went through the powerhouse that is the Big 12 and the other went through to the AAC.

The Cyclones last three games were in route to the Big 12 title, over Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas. Houston’s was UConn, Memphis and a loss to Cincinnati; a big difference.

If Iowa State’s trio of talented guards can break through the Cougars’ defense, watch out.

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Could Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. jump into 2019 NFL Draft's first round?

Could Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. jump into 2019 NFL Draft's first round?

Coming out of the NFL combine, former Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. was projected to be a second-round pick in the NFL Draft. But could he end up sliding into the first round on Thursday?

It seems like a possibility now, based on some of the teams he's met with, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Monday. And NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has previously said Savage could rise to the first round too.

NBC Sports Washington's latest NFL Mock Draft has Savage going to the Green Bay Packers as the 44th overall pick.

According to Rapoport, Savage met with 11 teams, including the Carolina Panthers (No. 16 overall pick), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 20 overall pick), Seattle Seahawks (No. 21 overall pick), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 25 overall pick) and Los Angeles Rams (No. 31 overall pick). 

The three-year starter out of College Park was named Second Team All-Big Ten this season after recording 52 tackles (38 solo, 14 assist) for the Terps, along with four interceptions, including one pick six. He's versatile, strong and fast, and even if he gets passed by in the first round of the NFL Draft, it seems unlikely that he'll still be available by the end of the second.

At 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, Savage ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February -- a time that was second-fastest among all safeties -- and posted a 39.5-inch vertical, third among safeties, and a 126-inch broad jump. He also had 11 bench-press reps.

Pro Football Focus has Savage listed as the second-best safety in this year's draft class behind Delaware's Nasir Adderley because he's "a missile around the line of scrimmage".

MORE NFL DRAFT NEWS

Jamion Christian, GW basketball receive commitment from Jameer Nelson's son Jameer Jr.

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Jamion Christian, GW basketball receive commitment from Jameer Nelson's son Jameer Jr.

The George Washington University men's basketball team landed the son of longtime NBA point guard Jameer Nelson Tuesday. 

Jameer Nelson Jr., a 2019 guard out of Pennsylvania's Haverford School, decommitted from his father's alma mater (Saint Joseph's) following the news that Phil Martelli would not return for the 2019-20 season. 

This marks first-year head coach Jamion Christian's second commitment since being named head coach of the Colonials after one year at Siena College. 

Nelson Sr. played in the Association from 2004 to 2018, including 10 seasons in Orlando. The point guard averaged a career-best 16.7 points per game during the 2008-09 campaign.