By Joseph Liptak
Editor’s Note: Enjoy this feature at Wizard Races & Sports – this article about NCAA March Madness is not intended for betting purposes
March Madness is the premier stage for all of college basketball with incredibly high-stakes, and it is not uncommon for some teams to end up going home sooner than expected. There are a couple of teams who are a shoe-in for the Round of 32, but in this article we will be looking at the teams who might get their season cut short. Throughout the years we’ve seen some crazy upsets, like Loyola Chicago, in 2018, making a push to the Final Four, while being the 11th seed. On the other hand you have one-hit-wonders, like UMBC. In the same year Loyola made their run, UMBC was able to take out the No. 1 seed, Virginia, in a surprise upset. So, who will be the team to pull off the seemingly impossible? Here are some upset possibilities in this year’s NCAA March Madness:
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Davidson
The comparison of these two teams is not as drastic as UMBC vs. Virginia, but Davidson has a strong chance of upsetting more than just Michigan State. Davidson has shown that they are a strong team. This was most visible from when they faced off against the Alabama Crimson Tide in December. They were able to squeak out a 1-point win over the Crimson Tide thanks to their incredible shooting. Davidson has been phenomenal shooting the basketball. They finished the regular season in the Top Ten of all teams for three point shooting with 38.6%. If Davidson were to pull off an upset, this would be the game. Michigan State faced struggles as their season went on in their last 15 Big Ten games, where they notched a 6-9 record after going 5-0 to kick-off the season. Davidson has shown to not be the greatest defensive team, but that might not matter as much in this game. Michigan State only has one guy averaging more than 10 points this season, Gabe Brown with 11.4 points, while Davidson has 3 guys averaging over 14, Foster Loyer, Hyunjung Lee and Luka Brajkovic. This team has an incredibly slim chance of going deep in the tournament, but they have all the makings of a sleeper pick, especially against Michigan State.
No. 4 Providence vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
Some might look at this match-up and assume the four seed walks through this game, but I would not be so sure about that. Providence has shown to not be the greatest shooting team. They have averaged 43.7% from the field and 34.3% from three. These numbers are not terrible, but they might be just bad enough to allow South Dakota State to steal this game because South Dakota State shoots the ball so well. If the Jackrabbits can get hot, then it might be over for Providence. The Jackrabbits have shot 52.5% from the field and 44.9% from three. These percentages might seem incidental, but here’s a look at the big picture. Providence averages 71.8 points per game, while South Dakota State averages a whopping 86.7 points per game, second most to the No. 1 Gonzaga. With the Jackrabbit’s high-powered offense paired with their impeccable shooting, it’s hard to not take them seriously in this match-up.
No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Chattanooga
After Chattanooga’s crazy buzzer beater to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament, it was hard for this 13 seed to sneak below the radar, especially when they have one of the best players in the tournament, Malachi Smith. He has been on an absoluter tear this year, averaging over 20 points on very solid splits, 50.5% from the field and 41.5% from three. However, Illinois has shown to be a force to be reckoned with, when their big man, Kofi Cockburn, is on the court. The games they lost in the regular season, Kofi was either not playing or picked up too many fouls. If Chattanooga can find a way to exploit Cockburn, then they stand a strong chance. Another important statistic is that Cockburn has not attempted a single three-point shot this season. This will allow Chattanooga to play off of him and help on shooters. This is important because Illinois has two players who shoot over 40% from three, Alfonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison. Chattanooga definitely has the guys to pull-off and upset, but it all comes down to how they defend Cockburn. If they can get him in foul trouble or take advantage of his nonexistent shooting, then this game might be a closer contest than you think.