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.
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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