Every year we have teams in the first round that devastate the majority of our brackets. Whether it be for the long term like the 2011 VCU squad or a one win and done like the 2014 Mercer team, lower seeded teams always appear to do the unexpected. And this is exactly what causes the madness. As sport fans, we’ve caught onto these trends and over the years learned to always expect the unexpected. You simply can’t fill out a good bracket without throwing in at few upsets here and there just because “it feels right”.
Just hours ago, the NCAA released the seeding for this year’s tournament and man they really got some people, including myself, fired up. But, I’m not here to complain this time so let’s get straight to the task at hand. I want to talk about this year’s potential first round upset games. Within the bracket, there are four regions and each region is comprised of 16 teams. So to be as efficient as possible, I will select eight teams that each hold a 9 through 16 seed respectively, that I feel are the biggest threats to pull an upset.
*Queue my upset selection music*
#9 Alabama will defeat #8 Virginia Tech
The #9 seed versus the #8 seed is supposed to be the closest matchup in the entire first round and can hardly be consisted an upset. In fact since 1985, this matchup holds a 67-65 record in favor of the #8 seed. However, I think that the saying “big time players make big time plays in big time games” comes into play here. Collin Sexton is a future lottery pick plain and simple. His presence alone puts Alabama over the Hokies and the Tide will roll onto the Round of 32.
#10 Texas will defeat #7 Nevada
A lot of the people who have joined in on the Nevada hype might not like me for this one. I see the record. I understand they beat a tough Rhode Island team earlier in the year. However, they have very little depth and I can’t give them a pass on the 17 point loss they took to San Diego State in their conference semifinal game. In addition, top five draft prospect, Mo Bamba, is expected to play a bigger role in this one as he continues to recover from his sprained toe.
#11 Saint Bonaventure OR UCLA will defeat #6 Florida
Now this is an interesting situation. I almost feel bad for picking against Florida here, but I can’t help myself. The Gators don’t impress me at all. Although they are a good shooting team all around, living and dying by the 3 is dangerous business especially in the tourney. In my opinion, both the Bonnies and Bruins could be considered more talented teams and I don’t think it is that much of a stretch to see an upset here.
#12 South Dakota State will defeat #5 Ohio State
With wins against the best of the Big Ten, the Buckeyes have shown at times they can be a great. Sadly, when you lose to a team like my Nittany Lions not once, not twice, but three times I begin to have my doubts. This Jackrabbits squad possesses an unique combination of size and skill. They are led by junior forward Mike Daum who averages 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and shoots better than 42% from deep. If Ohio State can find a way to control Daum’s production, I say they win. If not, Bates-Diop and company will be enjoying the rest of their March on the couch.
#13 Marshall will defeat #4 Wichita State
As we get into the lowest seeds of the tourney, the probability of an upset decreases, but the potential insanity an upset would create increases dramatically. Wichita State is an extremely solid team that has a lot of experience in big moments. However if any team is going to knock them off, it would be a “run it and gun it” crew like the Thundering Herd have. Marshall has the luxury of an explosive guard duo who, if the game comes down to it, can hit big time shots.
#14 Bucknell will defeat #3 Michigan State
As a fan of the Big Ten, I have a lot of respect for Tom Izzo as a coach. The bond he holds with his players is admirable and all four of their losses were to great tournament teams. For these reasons, I would love to see Michigan State succeed in March. The flip side of the coin says otherwise. Come Friday, the Spartans will have been laid off from play for nearly two weeks. This doesn’t mean they’ll be terrible, but it does suggest some rust and a possible slow start. That, coupled with the fact that Michigan State hasn’t gone deep into the tourney for a few years now, makes me question their ability to perform this time around. This potential upset doesn’t have so much to do with what Bucknell does well, but more so with what concerns I have about the Spartans.
#15 Cal State Fullerton will defeat #2 Purdue
With the team name of “Titans” but the logo of an elephant, this isn’t the only mismatch that CS Fullerton must deal with. Purdue is a force to be reckoned with certainly. But, so are the other three number 2 seeds in this tournament. I chose Purdue as the upset candidate for the 2 spot because, although they managed to win an impressive 19 games in a row, they lost 3 games consecutively. This obviously holds little significance, but when I saw Purdue play Penn State in the Big Ten tournament they didn’t blow me away as I was expecting. If the Boilermakers’ bigs get into foul trouble early, I could be see the door open up a little bit for the Titans. The question is will they stick their foot in to keep it from closing?
#16 North Carolina Central OR Texas Southern will defeat #1 Xavier
This is it! This could be it! Mark your calendars ladies and gents because this might be one for the history books. Obviously, the odds of an upset are very unlikely here as number 1 seeds sit at 132-0 all-time against number 16 seeds. But hey, of all the years it would be this year right? As wild and unstable as college basketball has been this season, I am feeling quite optimistic for an excellent tournament and what better way to kick it off than with the ultimate first round upset. If all of the stars align perfectly and Mother March is in the right mood, maybe just maybe, it can happen. Regardless the results of each one of these games, all I know is that we’re in for a wild ride and I am just glad to be here to see it.