The best time of the year, March Madness, is officially here. There are plenty of great things about the NCAA Tournament, but one of the best things is seeing underdogs pull off big upsets. Who are the teams this year that can pull off an upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament?
Belmont is in the First Four in Dayton, but if they can score a win over Temple, they are a threat to win another game or two. Their first-round matchup would be against Maryland in a 6/11 matchup in the East Regional. Maryland is a team that is struggling as well, with three losses in their last four games, including two games to teams who aren’t in the NCAA Tournament in Nebraska and Penn State.
It’s not often that a team of Belmont’s caliber has an NBA prospect, but this year they do in Dylan Windler. The 6-foot-8 guard is a matchup problem as he scores 21.8 points per game and grabs 10.7 rebounds per game. The Bruins have a great offense that averages 87.9 points per game and have proven they can beat solid teams in wins over Lipscomb, Murray State and Western Kentucky.
Murray State Racers
The Racers will play Marquette in the 5/12 matchup for the West Region. Marquette poses their share of problems with point guard Markus Howard and the Hauser brothers, but they are beatable. The Golden Eagles have lost five of their last six games, including losses Georgetown and Creighton, who did not make the NCAA Tournament. To go along with that Howard is ice cold right now, as he shot 6.7% from the field against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament.
Ja Morant is the main reason the Racers have a shot to beat Marquette. Not only can he matchup with Howard well, but he can pass and score with the best players in college basketball, as he averages 24.6 points and 10.0 assists. If Morant plays well and sets up his teammates, they can win a shootout with Marquette, with the team averaging 83.7 points per game on the season.
Yale is coming off of a victory in the Ivy League Tournament over Harvard and now will play LSU in the 3/14 matchup from the East region. LSU has had a great season, but have had some issues as of late. They lost in the SEC Tournament to Florida and only had to play both Tennessee and Kentucky once. On top of this LSU will be without their head coach Will Wade, who has not cooperated with LSU or the NCAA in regards to the FBI investigation of his program.
Another NBA talent in the tournament could provide a tough matchup for a high seed in Miye Oni. Oni averages 17.6 points and 3.5 assists per game. On top of having Oni, Alex Copeland, Blake Reynolds and Jordan Bruner all average double figures for a variety of options the Bulldogs can utilize. For a well-coached solid team going up against a team that won’t have their head coach, this could be the biggest upset of the tournament.
Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament after their season was looking bleak due to injuries. They now get to face the No. 5 seed in the South Region, the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin has lost to just one team that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, but they have their issues. Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the country for them, but has trouble at the free throw line and rarely scores from outside the paint. Their defense is ninth in the country, but there offense averages just 69.1 points per game, which could give them problems early in the tournament.
The Ducks are on fire right now with eight straight wins. Four of those wins came over the other teams in the Pac-12 to make the tournament, Arizona State and Washington. They are led by Payton Pritchard, who was a part of Oregon’s Final Four team two seasons ago. With Bol Bol out for the season, Pritchard has been carrying the offensive load by scoring and assisting his teammates with 12.7 points and 4.5 assists per game. Louis King, Paul White and Kenny Wooten will all provide help by fulfilling their jobs as secondary options and role players.
Northeastern won the CAA Conference Tournament and earned the No. 13 seed in the Midwest Regional. Now they have a game with Kansas to look forward to. This is not the same Jayhawks team that fans are accustomed to seeing in March. They didn’t win the Big 12 regular season title or the tournament. The team will be without Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick for the postseason. They also have had inconsistent guard play, which will be a factor in March. The Jayhawks have lost some questionable games as well to West Virginia and Texas.
The Huskies are riding a seven-game winning streak heading into the NCAA Tournament. They are led by star player Vasa Pusica, who leads the team with 17.8 points and 4.2 assists per game. He is exactly the type of player who can put pressure on Kansas given their inconsistent guard play. Outside of Pusica they have three players who hit at least 40% of their shots from three-point range, which should allow the Huskies to spread the floor and possibly win the game.