Philip Tor | Slump Sports
Well folks it is that time of year again, bust out the brackets and the highlighters because it is time to not have a life for a few weeks. I know everyone is already deeply invested in their brackets, so I thought I would throw a little wrinkle out there. I have done extensive research and have determined the 5 most likely upsets in this years tournament. I focused on the first weekend of games, so hopefully these help you make some picks and win some money.
#5 (12)Middle Tennessee State over (5)U. Minnesota
Led by Senior Forward JaCorey Williams, and Junior Guard Giddy Potts, the Blue Raiders ran through Conference USA posting a 17-1 record in the conference on their way to the title and a birth in the NCAA tournament. This team has everything that it needs to make a run in the tournament, but it starts with Minnesota in the second round. Minnesota has had a very impressive turnaround season after winning just two BIG 10 games last season. This will not be enough to overcome a Middle Tennessee team that has all the momentum coming in to this game. Minnesota is coming off a Big 10 tournament loss to Michigan and will have to rely on guards Nate Mason and Amir Coffey if they are to move on in March.
#4 (13)ETSU over (4)Florida
One player will decide the outcome of this game. TJ Cromer, a senior guard for ETSU is a monster. He average 19 ppg leading his team. If he is on there is not stopping him, and KeVaughn Allen will have a tough time containing him due to his unique size and speed combination. Florida’s defense will have to be sharp to fend off a strong ETSU team led by 12, yes 12 Juniors and Seniors. ETSU holds one of the oldest rosters in college basketball, and will be a tough match for a streaky Florida team coming off back to back losses. Junior Forward Devin Robinson will have to protect the rim and fend off ETSU attackers. This is sure to be a great first round matchup.
#3 (11) URI over (6) Creighton
This is going to be a tough matchup for me to pick. Although Creighton is on a roll going into March with Justin Patton a freshman of the year candidate and Marcus Foster scoring buckets on opposing defenses, the loss of Maurice Watson Jr. will be the death of this Blue Jay team. It is a tall task to make a run without a playmaking guard in your lineup. URI got hot at the right time, flying through the A-10 tournament and coming out on top for the first time in a long time. The backcourt of E.C Matthews and Jared Terrell is clicking on all cylinders right now, with both averaging over 12 points per game. Foster and the Creighton defense will be tested, and in my opinion upset by this groups of fighting Rams.
#2 (11) Xavier over (6) Maryland
This pick hurts. I really don’t want to pick Xavier, believe me I don’t, but the odds are in favor of the Musketeers right now. Maryland is a great team led by a superstar in the making in Melo Trimble, but is his production enough to launch them into the next round? I do not believe so. Xavier plays extremely tough defense, with the iconic 1-3-1 zone taking usual top scorers prisoner. They did it to Butler in the Big East tournament, and even stifled Creighton to an extent. The question for Xavier will be scoring. After losing guard Edmond Sumner to a knee injury, superstar Trevon Blueitt stepped up even more than he had, leading the Muskies with 18 ppg. The key for Maryland will be finding scoring in other parts of their lineup. Trimble will need help from his bigs Michal Cekovsky and Justin Jackson if they are to move past the second round. My prediction is Maryland goes up early, but Xavier locks it down defensively in the second half and pulls off the comeback upset.
#1 (12) Nevada over (5) Iowa State
Probably the least likely upset to occur that I picked, but one thing that I have learned through bracketology is never trust a 5 seed. The 12-5 matchup is the one that is always hard to pick, but you always know it is going to happen. Iowa State comes into the tournament as one of the nation’s strongest teams, which in my mind makes them the most vulnerable. Teams that come into the tournament expecting to win almost always get bounced, and bounced early. Led by Monte Morris, who I believe to be the best guard in the tournament, Iowa State are winners of a Big 12 tournament title, and nine of their last ten games. BUT, Nevada is a team also sporting a 9 game win streak entering the tournament, firing on all cylinders on their way to a Mountain West Conference Championship. For an upset to occur, Nevada senior guard Marcus Marshall will have to be at his best. Marshall is averaging nearly 20 a game for the Wolfpack and is complimented by a pair of excellent players in Cameron Oliver (15.8 Ppg 8.7 Rpg) and Jordan Caroline (14.8 Ppg 9.2 Rpg). This game is sure to be an offensive shootout, as both teams average 80+ points per contest. The fact is whatever team decides to play hard, tough, and physical defense and control the glass will come out with the victory. Look for the Wolf Pack to bust some bracket early on in the Tournament.