Add these picks to your NCAA Tournament bracket ASAP. Or don't. Your loss.
The Madness is back, BABY! The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is easily one of my favorite times of the year with all of the thrilling games. Part of what makes the tournament truly mad is the Cinderella teams and upsets, which happen every year without fail. I don't want to toot my own horn, but I was kind of money on my upset picks last year and I'm back again to make you look like a college basketball genius in your bracket pools.
Let's begin in the West. Lots and lots of people are talking about 13 Vermont upending 4 Arkansas due to Vermont's win streak, running through the America East, and excellent effective field goal percentage. But, I don't like this pick for a couple of reasons. They have hardly played any major conference schools, and when they did, they lost (Prov and Maryland) and Arkansas played tough competition throughout the year. They're also super athletic and capable of offensive explosions.
So, with that out of the way...It's not a spicy pick like a 12 over a 5 but I see 10 Davidson taking out 7 Michigan State. MSU has not instilled a ton of confidence over their last 10 games. In my opinion, not a good sign going into the post-season. Davidson, on the other hand, has been playing well and nearly won their conference championship. They're good on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. KenPom has them at number 11 in adjusted offensive efficiency; they have four guys averaging almost 12 PPG or more! This methodical, precise offense full of sharpshooters, led by A-10 POY Luka Brajkovic, could give MSU a lot of trouble, especially if Coach Izzo doesn't get his boys ready.
Upset Pick: Davidson over Michigan State
Slide down to the East Region. I actually have two upsets in this region. 11 Virginia Tech over 6 Texas and 12 Indiana over 5 Saint Mary's. Firstly, both Va. Tech and Texas play in tough conferences, so they're both prepped for battle. But Tech is on an absolute roll right now. They grinded through the ACC tourney and decapitated Duke for the crown. They're playing well at the right time which is a perfect recipe to do damage. Led by "YMCA style of play" Keve Aluma (15.8 PPG), they're 13-2 in their last 15 with a blistering team three-point shooting percentage. Texas is limping into the tourney on a three-game skid and basically underachieved all season. I like the hot Hokies to take out the Longhorns.
The Gaels are 2.5 point favorites. A lot of college hoops experts like this team. Why do I like Indiana over St. Mary's? I simply don't like the competition in the WCC. I'm flabbergasted they have three teams in the tourney. They defeated Gonzaga once on their home floor (although I think Gonzaga might be an overrated 1 seed) and have a couple solid wins on their résumé, like Notre Dame and Oregon.
Here's the thing; they took L's from MWC teams and I have always thought the MWC is the most overrated conference in college hoops. It's soft AF. Every year the experts say a MWC team is going to make a huge run, but it never happens. I don't think a 5 seed should be losing or nearly edging out wins against weaker teams. Indiana just stifled one of the best teams in the MWC for the First Four game, a Wyoming team that would likely give SMC fits! They're long, strong, and athletic. SMC plays good defense against their weaker opponents, but I don't see the Gaels able to slow down Trayce Jackson-Davis. The guy is an animal. The Hoosiers just seem to hang with anyone in the gym and then figure out a way to win. I like Coach Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers to send the Gaels home early in a low-scoring affair.
Upset Pick(s): Virginia Tech over Texas. Indiana over St. Mary's
Now for the South Region. I think this might be the most competitive region and it was hard to find an upset. Then something caught my eye....a MWC team. Maybe I am an asshole. Michigan will knock out the Colorado State Rams.
I watched the Rams play in their conference tourney, and while they have a dynamic player in 6'6" brute David Roddy (MWC POY), I am not sold on them. Aside from a strong PG in Isaiah Stevens, they don't seem to have a great supporting cast and rely on Roddy too much. I am surprised the Michigan Wolverines made it in with a 17-14 (11-9) record, but I'll still put my money on them to beat Colorado State. The Rams don't have the defense to keep the Wolverines at bay, they definitely don't have the clientele to clamp down on big boy Hunter Dickinson. Michigan is going to get a lot of points at the rim with their size and bulk - this will be a constant mismatch for the Rams, who actually play better basketball when their small-ball lineup is on the court. One big thing to keep an eye on is if Juwan Howard can keep his fists of fury in check.
Upset Pick: Michigan over Colorado State
Last we have the Midwest Region. I'll throw in two of my picks here. 11 seed Iowa State over 6 seed LSU and 10 seed Miami over 7 seed USC. This Iowa St/LSU matchup is tricky. LSU is a very strong defensive team with an okay offense. The team also seems to struggle on the road. Iowa State is a strong defensive team that started off really hot and finished the season somewhat inconsistent, despite some good Quad 1 wins. I suppose I am contradicting myself as the Cyclones lost three straight to finish the season.
ISU will throw different schemes at offenses, forcing them to adjust. ISU makes teams cough it up at nearly 25% of opponent possessions, that's 6th best in the NCAA and 2nd best among remaining teams. This defense, plus in-game adjustments is where it gets iffy for LSU, who just fired their head coach and will be led by interim HC Kevin Nickleberry. This will probably be a gross game to watch: lots of turnovers, bad shots, and fouls. Whoever takes slightly better care of the rock wins this one. After ISU's garbage loss to Texas Tech, I see them coming out with something more to prove.
The ACC might've been weaker according to the hoop brains, but Miami is better than you think. They have a number of guys who can hurt you in Wong, McGusty, and veteran of veterans Charlie Moore. The U has some good wins this season and nearly beat Duke to get into the ACC 'ship, despite some suspect officiating. Larranaga's team can kill you with speed and quickness. They're aggressive on defense and force a lot of turns, BUT at the same time, opponents have a good shooting percentage against them. Long possessions may work against UM.
USC has size and a very good player in Isaiah Mobley, who will cause problems for the undersized Miami interior. USC will smoke Miami on the boards, but I see the Canes hitting a lot of shots (3's, mid-range, lay-ups) and not worrying too much about cleaning the glass. For Miami to pull this off they will have to cover the perimeter better than they previously have. USC has a bomber in Drew Peterson, who is above 40% from deep. I think this game will be a dogfight and likely determined from behind the arc.
Upset Pick(s): Iowa State over LSU. Miami over USC
Here are my 8v9 matchups. I think all four of these games are going to be entertaining.
9 seed Creighton over 8 seed SDSU
9 seed Memphis over 8 seed Boise State
8 seed UNC over 9 seed Marquette
8 seed Seton Hall over 9 seed TCU