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5 Possible NCAA Tourney Upsets

Everybody remembers last year when a small school called Northern Iowa upset number one seed Kansas in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament. Mr. Farokhmanesh’s three-point dagger with 35 seconds to go will resonate in everyone’s mind forever. Upsets are what make March Madness arguably the best playoff in sports. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing David(son)s beat Goliaths, leaving many with busted brackets only a few days into the tournament. We can only hope that there is a cinderella in the field this year that will capture our hearts just like Northern Iowa and Davidson did. Here are my five possible Cinderellas to watch:

5. #13 Oakland beating #4 Texas

After a dominant 17-1 season in the Summit League, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies are looking to get their second tournament win in school history since 2005. Granted, they’re playing a very good Texas Longhorns team who was ranked as high as number two overall in the nation a few weeks ago, Oakland has a shot behind potential first round pick Keith Benson who averaged an astounding 18 points and 10 rebounds per game all season, compiling 19 double doubles. Texas’ Tristan Thompson will have his hands full trying to guard and score on Benson, who also averages 3.65 blocks per game which is 2nd in the nation.

Percent chance of an upset: 20%

4.  #12 Utah St. beating #5 Kansas St.

Kansas St., who began the season ranked #3 in the nation, fell apart in the middle of the season after losing three times to Colorado and once to Oklahoma St. and UNLV, in addition to five more losses to top 25 teams. However, Coach Frank Martin seems to have gotten them back in shape after winning eight of their last ten to end the season. Matching up against 19th ranked Utah St., the Aggies will use their stout defense to try and stop scoring machine Jacob Pullen. The Aggies have held opponents to only 58 points a game (3rd in the nation) on 38% shooting all year. There’s a reason they hold a 30-3 record. This game is bound to be low scoring.

Percent chance of an upset: 25%

3. #12 Richmond beating #5 Vanderbilt

The Richmond Spiders come into this game as the clear underdog, however they match up very well with Vanderbilt. The Spiders, like Utah St., play a tough defensive game and are talented at stopping the three point shot, which is what Vanderbilt prides their offensive game on. Vandy’s main source of offense is star guard John Jenkins, who puts up 19.5 points per game and shoots 40% from behind the arc. Richmond will have something to say about that though, as they have only allowed opposing teams to shoot 30% from behind the arc. If they can shut down Jenkins, Richmond should not have too much of a problem shutting down the rest of the team and winning this game.

Percent chance of an upset: 40%

2. #13 Belmont beating #4 Wisconsin

Belmont’s coach Rick Byrd has 610 wins at the Division 1 level, which ranks him 6th among active coaches. The Belmont Bruins are also coming off of a 87-46 rout of North Florida in the Atlantic Sun Conference championship game. The Bruins average 80 points per game, which ranks them just outside the top ten in the nation. It will be an interesting match up, as Wisconsin likes to hold opponents to only 50 points a game and is coming off of a 36-33 loss to Penn St. The Badgers will have to take their game out of the 1940s if they want to avoid one of their biggest upsets.

Percent chance of an upset: 45%

1. #11 Marquette beating #6 Xavier

Although Marquette is hardly an unknown program, I believe they have the best chance to go deep in the tourney. After going 9-9 in the stacked Big East, Marquette is ready to take on an Xavier team who has only faced one top 25 team all season, Cincinnati, while Marquette has played in 12 games against top 25 teams, securing wins over Notre Dame (79-57), UConn and Syracuse, all impressive teams. Xavier is also coming off of a disappointing loss to unranked Dayton in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Marquette also has a relatively easy road if they can get past Xavier, potentially playing Syracuse, who they know well, and then possibly UNC. Don’t be super shocked if Marquette is playing Ohio St. in the Elite 8.

Percent chance of an upset: 65%

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2011 NCAA Pre-Tourney Honors

  • Player most likely to have a “Bill Walton” Moment:

Jared Sullinger-Ohio State

I probably shouldn’t post a picture of the guy I’m picking to have a Bill Walton like game of domination, singing Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus… but whatever. For those of you that don’t know what Bill Walton moment I’m talking about though, prepare to get educated. Although he was on one of the best teams ever (in the midst of what would be an 88-game winning streak), Walton decided to assert himself as the best collegiate basketball player in the world in the 1973 NCAA Championship game against Memphis State. He went 21-22, scoring 44 points in what ended in a route for the UCLA Bruins. Wow. That’s 95%. I can see Sullinger pulling off something similar (not in the champ. game though because I didn’t pick them to get there…), just because of the way he treats all opponents like that 3rd grade bully we all hated back in the day. He won’t do it Friday against the play-in game winner, since that game is already over, but against teams like George Mason, Villanova, Kentucky, or West Virginia, watch out. The 6’9, 280, Freshman of the Year bruiser is always a threat to explode for a 30 point, 20 rebound game.

  • Team most likely to try on George Mason’s Cinderella slipper:

Richmond Spiders

Kevin Anderson and the Spiders may have a little more celebrating to do this March

If John Jenkins of Vandy is off Thursday, the Richmond Spiders will be off and running. If John Jenkins of Vandy scores 30 Thursday, I still think the Richmond Spiders will be off and running. A team seeded way below their actual talent level, they fit the cinderella mold. An experienced team that’s been here before, a stud point-guard in Kevin Anderson (who may be the best point in the nation), and a legit NBA prospect that can shoot the ball with the best of them in Justin Harper; this team will be hard to stop. The fact that their predicted match-ups aren’t THAT tough (Vandy plays the awkward SEC slow it down style, and Louisville has been over-achieving all year) also helps them out. A-10 Tourney Champs, a record of 14-2 in their last 16, and I wide open Southwest region, I think the Spiders have a really good shot of getting at least to the Sweet 16, if not further.

Jimmer Fredette-BYU

Yes, he is also the guy that’s most likely to snap and score 180 points in a game. Throughout the season, he’s been absolutely insane, bringing BYU recognition for something other than being mormon. But couldn’t you see him breaking down after losing? He has to go to the NBA next year where he’ll probably just become another Morrison or Redick (if he’s lucky) so this is his last chance to shine. The fact that his team probably had an Elite 8 run in them if not for the Davies honor code thing, is also sad. Sad, but this may provide awesome comparison clips of who cried harder. The Heat need a say in this as well, we know Lebron/Bosh/Wade can cry with the best of them.

Anyone on the Fighting Illini Basketball team

Ready for the dance my ass. I came into this season expecting the Illini to at least compete for the Big 10 title, at least win 23-25 games, at least beat UIC!?! Yeah, I didn’t get any of those. My expectation of at least a Sweet 16 run also seems like fantasy at this point. What let downs. Losses to UIC, Indiana, Northwestern, and an embarrassing showing in the Big 10 Tourney (Where they blew a 12 point lead with less than 8 minutes remaining) have led them to be the underdogs in an 8-9 game against UNLV and former coach Lon Kruger. This comes after being preseason favorites (along with Ohio State) to win the Big 10. Demetri McCamey refuses to step up when his team needs him, Jereme Richmond can’t shoot from further than 6 feet out, and Mike Tisdale is Mike Tisdale…bad. I can’t wait to see who gets to blow this game for the Illini.

So there you have it. A couple NCAA Tourney things to look out for. As for picks, here are mine:

Final 4:

Duke vs. Syracuse

I really think Kyrie Irving makes that much of a difference (I originally had them losing in the Sweet 16). I don’t have OSU up against them just because I think Kentucky will be able to match up with them, tire Sullinger out, and the Buckeye’s will panic from there.

Kansas vs. Wisconsin

That’s my biggest bracket shake up. The Badgers in the Final 4. I don’t think Pittsburgh is that strong, and I think this Wisconsin team is the best it has been in years. Also, other than Pittsburgh (barring a Belmont first round upset), who is there to stop Jordan Taylor and the Badgers?

Championship Game:

Kansas vs. Duke… Winner Duke

Kyrie Irving. Yes, I like him that much. Him along with a very, very experienced Duke roster that proved us all wrong last year, I don’t see why not.

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