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.

MORE NCAA TOURNAMENT NEWS:

Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Wizards analysts Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos for a chance at great prizes.

Grand Prize: if you have the highest-scoring bracket in the NBC Sports Washington Bracket Challenge, you will win a 3-night trip for four people to Universal Resort, including round trip airfare, lodging, admission to Universal Studios and tickets to Blue Man Group.

Secondary Prize: If your bracket scores higher than both Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos, you win a coupon code for a free Jersey Mike's sub!

Did Anthony Cowan deserve the technical foul that ended his night vs. Ohio State?

Did Anthony Cowan deserve the technical foul that ended his night vs. Ohio State?

Anthony Cowan was handed a technical foul late in the second half of Maryland's matchup with Ohio State that resulted in his disqualification.

Cowan, with four personal fouls at the time, was hammered on a layup attempt with 3:54 left in the contest against the Buckeyes. He had cut the Buckeyes' lead to 64-59 and thought he was headed to the free-throw line for an and-1. He was not. 

After no whistle was blown, Cowan reacted, kicking his foot in the air in disbelief. He was then given the technical. which was his fifth and final foul. Maryland didn't have its star point guard for the final 3:54 of a tight game. 

Cowan had picked up his third foul with 7:08 left in the game and then No. 4 exactly two minutes later. 

Twitter lit into the officiating that played a major factor in a very important conference game between the two squads.

Maryland ended up losing the matchup to the Buckeyes 79-72, but it didn't lose ground in the conference standings.

Penn State lost Sunday afternoon, too, so Maryland (22-5, 12-4 conference) didn't lose any ground in its quest to win the Big 10 regular-season championship for the first time. With four games to go, the Terps still hold a two-game lead over the Nittany Lions, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin in the conference standings. Those teams are all tied at 10-6. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

Cassius Stanley shoots Duke past Hokies

Cassius Stanley shoots Duke past Hokies

DURHAM, N.C. -- Cassius Stanley scored 21 points and made a season-high five 3-pointers to help No. 6 Duke beat Virginia Tech 88-64 on Saturday night.

Matthew Hurt added 16 points and a season-high 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils (23-4, 13-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who never trailed.

Duke opened the game with an 11-2 spurt that featured three 3-pointers in the first three minutes. The Blue Devils scored on 10 of their first 12 possessions and later delivered a 19-4 run on their way to a 51-25 lead at halftime.

Duke improved to 21-1 all time at home against the Hokies.

Vernon Carey Jr. scored 16 points and Tre Jones had 14 points for the Blue Devils.

Tyrece Radford scored 16 points to lead Virginia Tech (15-12, 6-10), which shot 37% from the field. Isaiah Wilkins added 11 points, and Hunter Cattoor had all 10 of his points in the second half for the Hokies.

Landers Nolley II, who entered the game averaging a team-best 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, had three points and one rebound for Virginia Tech.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia Tech: The Hokies continued their slide. They were one of college basketball's feel-good stories early on with a win over Michigan State and then seven victories in an eight-game stretch through mid-January, but they have dropped eight of 10 games since then.

Duke: The Blue Devils bounced back after getting thumped 88-66 at N.C. State on Wednesday night, winning for the eighth time in their last nine games. They remain a half game behind No. 11 Louisville for first place in the ACC as they pursue another top seed for the NCAA Tournament.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Virginia, which beat the Hokies 65-39 on Jan. 4, visits Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

Duke: The Blue Devils travel on Tuesday night to Wake Forest, a team they beat 90-59 on Jan. 11.

MORE NCAA NEWS: