The Men’s College Basketball tournament tipped off on Tuesday night with the first two First Four games. The reason why it’s called March Madness is because of the uncertainty the tournament provides. There are always upsets and anything can happen in any one of the matchups. With that said, here are the most likely upsets in each region of the tournament.
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Rutgers/Notre Dame (11) over Alabama (6)
Whoever wins the First Four matchup on Wednesday night is capable of beating the Crimson Tide. Alabama hasn’t been playing all too well of late and is probably a little overseeded. They have lost three games in a row, including losing their opening game in the SEC Tournament to Vanderbilt. In that game, they were up by as much as 14, but 14 missed free throws and 18 turnovers led to an 82-76 loss. Alabama also finished 8-8 in Quad 1 games, losing to the more lowly teams like Georgia, Iona, and Missouri.
Notre Dame, after starting the season 4-5, didn’t lose back-to-back games the rest of the way and finished with a 22-10 record. That included a 15-5 ACC record and they were in or within one game of first place in the conference until the end of the season. Rutgers beat four ranked teams in a row – Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois – in February, so they are used to playing spoiler. They are led by guard Ron Harper Jr., who averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this season.
Virginia Tech (11) over Texas (6)
The only real reason this can even be called an upset is because of the seeding. Virginia Tech is coming off a big upset over Duke in the ACC Championship game. The Hokies are one of the hottest teams in the country and went from a fringe tournament team to snatching the automatic bid. As the seventh-seed in the conference tournament, they became the lowest seed to win the ACC crown. They earned wins over tournament teams Notre Dame, North Carolina, and then of course Duke. The Hokies are 13-2 in their last 15 games and can ride that momentum.
Texas played well in conference play in the regular season, earning a win over one-seed Kansas, and also has a non-conference win over three-seed Tennessee. But in the Big 12 Tournament, they relinquished a 20-point lead against TCU in the quarterfinals. The Longhorns will still be without fifth-leading scorer Tre Mitchell, who took a leave of absence in February. Defense will be key for Texas to stop the red-hot Hokies, and it’s hard to see that happening right now. Texas hasn’t been moving the ball well on offense, while Virginia Tech has.
Loyola Chicago (10) over Ohio State (7)
The Ramblers are going to be a popular pick to take down the Buckeyes. Ohio State has a duo of NBA-level talent with E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham, but Loyola Chicago has a really suffocating defense. The Ramblers rank 22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom and will face guard the two all game. If both of them are being taken out getting easy looks, it will be tough for the Ohio State offense to get rolling. The Buckeyes’ defense also isn’t too impressive and will have a hard time defending Lucas Williamson. The versatile guard shoots well but also isn’t afraid to go inside and score from short to mid-range. Junior Braden Norris is another guy to watch for, especially from deep. He shot at a 43.5 percent clip from three-point range this season and can get hot. This is a team that is also 44th in the country in made threes per game this year.
Colgate (14) over Wisconsin (3)
Despite being co-champions in the Big Ten for the regular season, Wisconsin had an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament. The loss was to Michigan State, who is also in the tournament as a seven-seed. Wisconsin is a very poor shooting team which can easily take them out of a game. They only shoot at a 31.2 percent clip from three-point range and have played in 21 games decided by eight points or fewer. Colgate, on the other hand, ranks 11th in the nation with a 47.6 field goal percentage. They come into the tournament on fire with a 15-game winning streak and have a great chance to keep it going. The Raiders can get hot quickly against a weak defense and grab a win over, frankly, an overseeded team. Wisconsin should really be on the five-line or lower and Iowa should be higher than a five-seed.
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