Ready to pick some March Madness upsets?
After a depressing cancellation in 2020, March Madness is finally back and ready to ruin your brackets. The first round never fails to let down basketball fans with its upsets, buzzer-beaters, and nail-biters in the opening round. Let’s take a look at a few upsets in each region that you’ll want to lock in to gain that advantage over the self-proclaimed college basketball savant in your friend group. Before you plug these picks in I just want to say you’re welcome and I’m sorry depending on what happens.
Starting off in the West Region there is an interesting development in the Virginia vs. Ohio game. Virginia is a 4-seed and Ohio is a 13-seed, but Virginia has been hit with a positive Covid test on Tuesday. This means they need to have at least 5 players test negatively for 7 consecutive days in order to compete.
If they’re able to achieve this, they will be traveling to Indiana on Friday where they will continue to isolate and have their first practice together on Saturday morning. The team has not been able to practice together and Head Coach Tony Bennett has been going over game plans with his players over Zoom calls.
Most teams that have been forced to pause their seasons due to Covid have not fared particularly well upon returning. Maybe it won’t hurt Virginia as much with their incredibly slow pace of play, but I think the lack of practice and real game situations will negatively affect them. Ohio has a balanced offensive attack and a star in Jason Preston who stuffs the stat sheet for the Bobcats. They’re also not afraid of anyone as they nearly took out the University of Illinois in November. I’m going with the Ohio Bobcats to win this one by 10.
Over to the South Region we have our eyes on the 5-seeded Villanova Wildcats vs. the 12-seeded Winthrop Eagles. Normally, you set it and forget it with Nova but not this year. Don’t get me wrong, Nova was good this season, but they lost their leader and Co Big East PoY in Collin Gillespie two games ago. They have been atrocious since he has gone down with an MCL tear and are basically floundering into the Big Dance.
They still have the other half of that Co Big East PoY award in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, but will it be enough to escape the First Round? No. It’s hard for a team to reshape their identity on the fly like this - had it happened in the beginning or middle of the season then it’s a different story.
The team on the other bench is 23-1 this season. Granted, they’re a mid-major team playing against lesser competition, but they still won 23 ballgames. KenPom also ranks them as the 11th fastest tempo in college hoops which could strike the Villanova defense hard. Winthrop is led by Chandler Vaudrin, a 6’7" guard that averaged over 12ppg, 7rpg, and nearly 7 apg. Watch out for Winthrop to pull the chair out from Villanova.
Down into the East Region, which I think is the most competitive region in the bracket, good luck, 1-seed Michigan. UCLA is a strong team capable of sending BYU packing. Let’s be real, the West Coast Conference is not THAT good, and for BYU to come in second and land a 6 seed is quite favorable. They’re 1-3 against top 25 competition and that win is against San Diego State University, who I’m picking to lose against Syracuse.
BYU has hung strong with its opposition this season and even played decently against Gonzaga in two of their three matchups. But they have not played too many major conference schools, which typically boast bigger and more athletic ballers. In UCLA they’re going to be facing a sizable, yet slow pace of play team that rebounds the ball and doesn’t turn it over. They also have five players averaging double figures. The one major weakness they have is bad perimeter defending where BYU could take advantage.
You already know who we’re targeting in the Midwest Region…SDSU. Full disclosure, I think the Mountain West Conference is overrated and as soft as my baby nephew's dumps. It is beyond me why they always have a number of bids and highly-seeded teams.
SDSU is going against Jim Boeheim and his famous zone defense. The Aztecs aren’t a very strong offensive team and are known more for their defense, whereas Syracuse has an efficient offense and obviously stout defense. This doesn’t bode well for SDSU and will likely be a low-scoring affair. I see the Orangemen coming out on top, especially if Buddy Boeheim and Alan Griffin get hot from 3-point land. Syracuse is averaging almost 76ppg while facing stiffer competition all season. That efficient offense will look a lot better after you factor in the preparation Boeheim is given.
Boeheim’s teams have busted brackets before and they’ll do it again this year. I’m sure a lot of teams have cringed on Selection Sunday when they see they’re getting Syracuse. In the end, ‘Cuse’s nasty brand of defense will disrupt the Aztecs too much.
March Madness is Back
No matter what, it’s shaping up to be a great tournament once again and I’m more than excited for the return of the Madness. Hopefully, this year's tourney can make up for last year's cancellation. Good luck out there!
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