Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday's Most Likely Tournament Upsets

I've been pretty much spot on with my tournament analysis so far, so I'm going to keep rolling the dice with these upset prediction posts until I finally get my comeuppance and am totally wrong. If you've been following along the last few days, though, I've been accurate to a scary degree.

1. (12) North Dakota State over (4) San Diego State
6:10pm on TNT

North Dakota State hit a miracle three at the buzzer to take Oklahoma in overtime where the Bison prevailed. They draw a San Diego State team that doesn't have a lot of size and doesn't play very good interior defense. San Diego State lost twice to New Mexico this season and has struggled to execute in the half court - something NDSU will make them do. The Aztecs are at their best when they can get out and run in transition and use their athleticism, but NDSU is a fundamentally sound team and the best shooting team in the nation, which gives them a great chance to reach the Sweet 16.

2. (7) UConn over (2) Villanova
9:40pm on TBS

Both teams got a bit of a scare in their opener, with UConn being taken to overtime by St Joseph's. Villanova couldn't buy a 3 for much of their game against Milwaukee, allowing the Panthers to hang in well into the second half before the Wildcats finally pulled away. UConn plays a staunch defense, particularly on the perimeter, which could give Villanova's 4-guard lineup problems.

3. (7) Oregon over (2) Wisconsin
7:45pm on CBS

Wisconsin was in a battle with American in the first half, but utterly dominated the Eagles and pulled away for a huge victory. Oregon beat BYU in a shootout. Wisconsin's defense hasn't been great all year and Oregon is one of the best offensive teams in the Pac-12, which could be the recipe for an upset.

4. (9) Pittsburgh over (1) Florida
12:15pm on CBS

Talk radio in Pittsburgh has been throwing around the "what if" scenario on this one since the brackets were announced. The Panthers are playing with house money and if they can continue to dominate on the inside with Zanna and on the outside with Patterson and Wright, they will have a chance to stay close with Florida. The Gators have an experienced lineup that has gone deep in the tournament before, so this doesn't seem highly likely, but Pitt is playing their best basketball of the season, so the possibility exists.

5. (7) Texas over (2) Michigan
5:15pm on CBS

If there is one place on the floor where Michigan is lacking, it is on the inside. Texas big man Cameron Ridley was a force in the paint against Arizona State, finishing with 17 points (including the game-winning basket at the buzzer), 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. If the Longhorns can continue to dominate the glass and in the paint, they'll have a chance to hang around with the Wolverines.

6. (11) Dayton over (3) Syracuse
7:10pm on TBS

The Flyers scored in the closing seconds to upset Ohio State in the first round while Syracuse dominated Western Michigan. Cuse's zone is tough to prepare for in a short turnaround, but Dayton has some players that can shoot from the outside and that can drive. Ultimately, Syracuse should find their way back to the Sweet 16.

7. (12) Harvard over (4) Michigan State
8:40pm on TNT

Tommy Amaker made it deeper into the tournament than Coach K. Make of that what you will. But simply put, Sparty is just playing too well right now. Michigan State dominated Delaware. The Blue Hens battled hard to stay within 10-15 but at the end of the day Michigan State was too good. Harvard is talented enough to keep this close, but Sparty is simply better.

8. (5) St Louis over (4) Louisville
2:45pm on CBS

NC State was my #1 upset pick on Thursday and they almost came through for me until they decided to forget how to shoot free throws and let St Louis back in the game. Ultimately, the Billikens won in overtime. I was scarily accurate with my analysis of the Manhattan-Louisville game in saying that Manhattan would keep it close but Louisville would be too good at the end. The Cardinals are hitting their stride and I have a really hard time seeing St Louis pull this one out and reach the Sweet 16.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday's Most Likely Tournament Upsets

Yesterday I published an article which I thought was just-for-fun, throwing out the most likely upsets for Thursday's games. Well, in retrospect, my analysis was actually pretty spot on in most cases (except for NC State blowing a huge lead against St Louis, but that's what happens when you miss foul shots and don't get the ball to the ACC Player of the Year with the game tied and 13 seconds left). After the rousing success of yesterday's article, I decided to take another stab at it today. As a reminder, I took two things into consideration when making these rankings. First, I considered the seed differential. A 9 seed beating an 8 seed or a 7 beating a 10 doesn't qualify as that big of an upset, so those games automatically dropped down my rankings. Secondly, I considered the likelihood of the upset happening. Given the high numer of games today between closely seeded teams (there are 3 8-9 games today), the first rule came into effect when constructing these rankings.

1. (12) Stephen F Austin over (5) VCU
7:27pm on truTV

This one has all the makings of an upset. Stephen F Austin has seen full-court pressure before against Northwestern State and has been able to handle it this season. The Lumberjacks play a slow and deliberate offensive game and are very good at executing in the half court. On defense, Stephen F Austin plays a half-court trap that will force VCU to speed up.

2. (11) Tennessee over (6) UMass
2:45pm on CBS

Tennessee built some momentum with their win over Iowa and have two talented players in Jordan McRae (18.6 PPG) and double-double man Jarnell Stokes (14.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG) that will give UMass problems. Tennessee is a very good defensive team and they are good at executing in the half court. UMass will keep this close but the Vols have a very good chance to pull the upset.

3. (11) Providence over (6) North Carolina
7:20pm on TNT

The biggest question mark here is which Tar Heels team will show up? The one that won 12-straight games in the ACC or the one that got blown off the court by Duke and Pitt in their final two games? Point guard Marcus Paige is the key for UNC and this one could turn into a shootout between Paige (who scores 65% of his points in the second half) and Providence's Bryce Cotton (21.4 PPG, 5.8 APG). Providence proved they could pull upsets in beating Creighton twice this season and this one should be a fun game to watch.

4. (14) LA-Lafayette over (3) Creighton
3:10pm on truTV

No one really knows much about LA-Lafayette and you probably didn't watch their come-from-behind overtime win over Georgia State in the Sun Belt. Point guard Elfrid Payton (19.1 PPG, 6.0 APG) has shown flashes of NBA potential, forward Shawn Long averages a double-double (18.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG) and forward Bryant Mbamalu is coming off a performance that earned him the Sun Belt Tournament MVP. Lafayette is not a good defensive team and Creighton has only lost once when scoring over 70 points, but both of these teams average over 80 points a game and have talented scorers that can put the ball in the bucket. Don't count out the Ragin' Cajuns from pulling this upset.

5. (14) Mercer over (3) Duke
12:15pm on CBS

I went on the record on Twitter and in my Midwest Region Preview saying that this matchup terrified me. Mercer is a talented offensive team and Langston Hall is one of the most dynamic guards in the country. Duke has struggled to defend guards that can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. Duke has also been known to squander second-half leads and go cold down the stretch, so this one will definitely be closer than is comfortable.

6. (13) Tulsa over (4) UCLA
9:57pm on truTV

UCLA finally started to come together at the end of the season and looked like the dominant team with NBA-level talent that many thought they would be at the beginning of the year (the absolute dud they laid against Washington State aside). Tulsa is coming off a Conference USA Championship and has the talent to give UCLA a run.

7. (11) Nebraska over (6) Baylor
12:40pm on truTV

Yesterday my 7th ranked upset was Western Michigan over Syracuse, which I thought had a minimal probablity of happening. Having Nebraska as the 7th ranked team on this list shows just how tight these games are going to be today. The Cornhuskers are a good offensive team that will need to put their loss in the Big 10 Tournament (where they let Ohio St come back from 18 points down) behind them. Baylor is one of the hottest teams in the nation and has returned to their form from the beginning of the year that had them ranked in the Top 10.

8. (16) Coastal Carolina over (1) Virginia
9:25pm on TBS

1 seeds don't lose to 16 seeds. But they do get scares. This one has the potential to be a scare as Coastal Carolina boasts three big men from African Nations (The Senegal and Cameroon) that could give Virginia some problems on the inside. The actual probability of this happening is pretty low, and Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the nation, so Coastal Carolina won't be able to get much offensive consistency. The reason this rates so high is that Virginia doesn't score much either, so this could be a low-scoring affair, which will keep the Chanticleers in the game for longer than they need to be.

9. (16) Cal Poly over (1) Wichita State
7:10pm on CBS

Why not? Cal Poly's miracle run continues. The 7th-seeded team in the Big West defeated the #2 and #1 seeds en route to their Conference Tournament title the won a play-in game over Texas Southern. In all likelihood, the undefeated Shockers will run all over Cal Poly, but wouldn't it be fun to see a team that entered the Tournament with a losing record keep it close against the first team to enter the Tournament undefeated since 1991?

10. (10) Stanford over (7) New Mexico
1:40pm on TBS

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - New Mexico is a poor man's Wisconsin. That said, Wisconsin dominated American yesterday. Stanford will need to get strong play from their big men on the inside and control the glass against a very good rebounding Lobos team. This one has all the makings of another tight finish.

11. (14) North Carolina Central over (3) Iowa State
9:50pm on TNT

I have Iowa State in the Elite 8, so obvioulsy I don't think they're going to lose this game. However, Iowa State losing would rate as a much bigger upset than any of the 9 seeds beating any of the 8 seeds, so that's what it ranks above them. NC Central is a tough defensive team, but Iowa State is simply too good with tremendous play-makers at all 3 levels of the offense.

12. (9) Oklahoma State over (8) Gonzaga
4:40pm on TNT

Much like the Pitt-Colorado game yesterday, this is a game I expect will be won by the 9-seed but it ranks so low because the seeding differential indicates these teams are essentially even. Oklahoma State was a Top 10 team before suffering a 7-game losing streak, punctuated by Marcus Smart's suspension. The Cowboys are a completely different team with Smart in the lineup and should roll over Gonzaga.

13. (9) George Washington over (8) Memphis
6:55pm on TBS

These are two evenly matched teams in that neither are very deep but both have very good scoring depth in that all 5 players on the floor can score in bunches. Both teams struggle from the free throw line, ranking in the bottom 40 in the nation under, coming in with team averages under 66%.

14. (9) Kansas State over (8) Kentucky
9:40pm on CBS

Two things are in play here. First, the seeding. Given the closeness in their seeding, Kansas State beting Kentucky simply shouldn't be considered a huge upset. Secondly, Kentucky played their best basketball of the season in the SEC Tournament while Kansas St has struggled away from home, going just 4-10 in road and neutral court games.

15. (15) Eastern Kentucky over (2) Kansas
4:10pm on TBS

On paper, this looks like a game with some upset potential in that Eastern Kentucky is a very good shooting team (11th in field goal percentage and 24th in 3-point percentage) but Kansas is simply too good. The Colonels may be able to keep it close for a little while, but even without Joel Embiid, Kansas still has multiple future NBA players in their lineup and is just too good.

16. (16) Weber St over (1) Arizona
2:10pm on TNT

Much like the Albany-Florida game yesterday, this one finds its way to the bottom of the rankings because it is extremely unlikely, though it would probably rate as one of the biggest tournament upsets ever. Weber St has a dynamic scorer in Davion Berry (19.1 PPG) but they're simply overmatched.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday's Most Likely Tournament Upsets

As a fun last-minute exercize, just to mess with your head as you're thinking about making some last minute changes to your bracket, I decided to take a look at the 16 games on the slate today and rank them in terms of their potential for upsets. I took two things into consideration when making these rankings. First, I considered the seed differential. A 9 seed beating an 8 seed or a 7 beating a 10 doesn't qualify as that big of an upset, so those games automatically dropped down my rankings. Secondly, I considered the likelihood of the upset happening. Basically, sorry Albany. Though a victory over Florida would possibly qualify as the biggest NCAA Tournament upset of all time, the likelihood of it actually happening is incredibly small, so you're going to get ranked behind Pitt-Colorado, where the 9th-seeded Panthers are actually favored over the 8th seeded Buffaloes.

1. (12) NC State over (5) St Louis
7:20pm on TNT

Statistically speaking, 12 seeds have won more than 25% of their opening round games, which basically means that at least one 12-5 upset has happened every year. NC State boasts the most dynamic scorer in the nation in TJ Warren and St Louis has lost 4 of their last 5 games. I know I keep hammering on this fact, so hopefully it sinks in -- even though St Louis won 13 games in conference play, only 3 of those wins were by more than 8 points. That's a recipie for an upset right there.

2. (12) Harvard over (5) Cincinnati
2:10pm on TNT

Harvard topped #3 seed New Mexico last year and return 5 of their top 6 scorers from that team. What makes me waiver on locking this in as the top possible upset is that Cincinnati is brutally tough on the defensive end, ranking in the top 25 in the nation in steals and blocks. Cincinnati isn't a great offensive team, but they will give Harvard's shooters problems on the defensive end.

3. (13) New Mexico State over (4) San Diego State
9:57pm on truTV

The Aztecs have a great win over Kansas on their resume and are a talented athletic group that can look like the Harlem Globetrotters at times. The only thing they lack is size, which is something New Mexico State has in bunches with 7'5" center Sim Bhullar. If the Aggies can do what New Mexico did in the Mountain West Championship game and slow down San Diego State and force them to paly a half-court game, they will have a chance to pull the upset.

4. (11) Dayton over (6) Ohio State
12:15pm on CBS

This one has a very real chance of happening. Dayton has been one of the hottest teams in the A-10 down the stretch and Ohio State has been up-and-down all season. The Buckeyes are a hard team to figure out - sometimes they look like one of the best in the Big Ten when they are executing efficiently on offense and getting steals on defense (like in their 18-point comeback against Nebraska) and other times they look totally outmatched (like when they got down to 18 against Nebraska). This game is in Buffalo and you have to believe Dayton will be fired up to take on their in-state rivals.

5. (13) Manhattan over (4) Louisville
9:50pm on TNT

If you're planning on staying up late tonight, be prepared to crap your pants when Manhattan keeps it close against Louisville. The Jaspers are coached by Rick Pitino's former assistant Steve Masiello who has molded Manhattan's game after Pitino's style of coaching. Both teams will press and both teams can score in transition. This has the feel of an up-and-down game that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Ultimately, Louisville is the bettter team, but don't be surprised if this one stays close for a while.

6. (12) North Dakota State over (5) Oklahoma
7:27pm on truTV

Oklahoma quietly finished in 2nd place in the Big XII this year, but in North Dakota State they draw the best shooting team in the nation (51% FG%). If the Sooners aren't tight on the defensive end, they could wind up in a shootout with the Bison (which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, as Oklahoma is 7th in the nation in scoring). Both teams can score and both will go 8 or 9 players deep on their bench, so this is another one that could come down to the wire. As we know from tournaments past, never give an underdog a shot to win at the buzzer, or magical things will happen.

7. (14) Western Michigan over (3) Syracuse
2:45pm on CBS

This one is entirely dependent on which Syracuse team shows up for the Big Dance. Will it be the one that rattled off 25 straight wins to start the season and was the #1 ranked team in the nation? Or will it be the one that lost home games to Boston College and Georgia Tech? Western Michigan has a great inside-out duo of Shayne Whittington (16.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG) and guard David Brown (19.4 PPG). Syracuse's zone presents a tough matchup for anyone and if the Orange get back to form with Ennis driving, Cooney getting open looks from deep, Fair creating his own shots, and the Grant/Christmas/Keita trio dominating the inside, they are going to be a tough team to beat.

8. (10) Arizona State over (7) Texas
9:40pm on CBS

These are two incredibly evenly matched teams, so it would be hard to call this one an "upset." Both teams like to bang on the inside and have shot-blockers and rebounders that can be game-changers. This is probably one of the most literal "toss-up" games, so it's hard to call a 50-50 game much of an "upset" (especially given the closeness in seeding) which is why this falls right in the middle of the list.

9. (10) St Joseph's over (7) Connecticut
6:55pm on TBS

Yesterday was the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. Today, in all likelihood, will be a feast day for UConn. Even though St Joe's won the A-10 tournament, I have a hard time seeing them handling the defensive pressure that UConn will put on them. The Hawks had an answer for VCU's press, but UConn's length and athleticism on the defensive end is something else entirely.

10. (15) Milwaukee over (2) Villanova
9:25pm on TBS

This ranks so highly because I really don't know what to make of Villanova. I thought they were one of the top teams in the nation (and the committee did too, giving them the #5 overall seed in the tournament), but their loss to Seton Hall in the opening round of the Big East Tournament scares me. Milwaukee is hot and essentially playing with house money right now after beating top-seeded Green Bay in the Horizon league semi-finals and Wright State in the title game. No one expected the Panthers to rise from their 5th place finish in the regular season to win the conference title, and Villanova has been known to struggle in tournament openers before (see: Robert Morris).

11. (13) Delaware over (4) Michigan State
4:40pm on TNT

Sparty finally got everyone healthy and looked like the dominant team that started the season when they ran through the Big Ten Tournament. Delaware was the best team in the CAA all season and has a trio of scorers that can cause problems for any team in Devon Saddler (19.7 PPG), Davon Usher (19.4 PPG) and Jarvis Threatt (18.1 PPG). The Blue Hens play fast and can score, so they have a chance to keep it close against Michigan State, but ultimately Sparty is just better.

12. (9) Pittsburgh over (8) Colorado
1:40pm on TBS

You might be wondering why this game is so far down the list when Pitt is favored to win. As I said at the outset, seeding differential played a factor in my rankings, so I'm not saying that this is an unlikely upset (far from it, I fully expect Pitt to win by double-digits) but that it really doesn't rank high on the "upset" scale.

13. (10) BYU over (7) Oregon
3:10pm on truTV

This would be somewhat surprising given that BYU just lost their best all-around player Kyle Collinsworth to an ACL injury. Collinsworth was 2nd on the team in scoring, 1st in rebounding and 1st in assists. Oregon is getting hot at the right time and should breeze through this game. BYU is one of the top scoring teams in the nation, but it's hard to say how they will adapt to life without Collinsworth on the floor.

14. (15) American over (2) Wisconsin
12:40pm on truTV

A lot of people seem down on Wisconsin, but this is a well-coached team that was as high as #3 in the nation at one point this season and finished second in the Big Ten. Wisconsin plays one of the best team games in the nation and shares the ball incredibly well. The only way American wins this is if Jesse Reed (47% from behind the arc) goes off.

15.(15) Wofford over (2) Michigan
7:10pm on CBS

The Wolverines are playing some of their best ball of the season and Wofford is...well, Wofford.

16. (16) Albany over (1) Florida
4:10pm on TBS

As I said at the outset, if this actually happened it would probably be the biggest upset in Tournament history. But it's simply not going to happen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 NCAA Tournament West Region Preview

The NCAA Tournament officially tips off on Tuesday night with the Play-in games (because, get real, calling them the "First Round" or the "First Four" is ridiculous) in Dayton. Here is a look at the West Region.

1. Arizona vs 16. Weber St
San Diego, 2:10pm Friday (TNT)

This year marked the return of the Pac-12 to national prominence. Regardless of what you think about Arizona and UCLA, it's good for basketball when there are talented teams on both coasts. Arizona spent time as the #1 team in the nation this year but have struggled to adapt to life without forward Brandon Ashley. Before Ashley's injury against Cal, the Wildcats were 21-0. They lost to Cal in the game Ashley went down and finished 9-3 in their last 12 games. Arizona has the best point guard in the country in TJ McConnell (5.5 APG) and is loaded with talented players in Nick Johnson (16.2 PPG), freshman sensation Aaron Gordon (12.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and Kaleb Tarczewski (10.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG). Arizona is in the top 5 in the nation in defense and even without Ashley is perfectly capable of winning the West and earning their 5th trip to the Final Four. Weber St won the Big Sky Tournament and features a dynamic scorer in Davion Berry (19.1 PPG, 4.0 APG). It will be interesting to see how center Joel Bolomboy (8.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG) battles against Arizona's big men on the inside. The only way Weber St keeps this close is if Berry gets hot and their big men dominate the inside, but there is very little chance of the Wildcats pulling the upset. Yes, both teams are the Wildcats. The Mascot Bracket addressed this.

8. Gonzaga vs 9. Oklahoma St
San Diego, 4:40pm Friday (TNT)

Gonzaga once again did what they always do - won the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament title. They didn't rack up the stellar out-of-conference resume that we typically see out of the Zags, and were all around a middle-of-the-pack team. Sam Dower led the Bulldogs with 15 PPG and 7.1 RPG and teamed up with Przemek Karnowski (10.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG) for one of the better frontcourt duos in the nation. Kevin Pangos is still around and running the show at point guard and Gonzaga has gotten quality contributions from Gary Bell, Jr and David Stockton this year. The Zags got an incredibly difficult draw in Oklahoma State, a team that was once ranked in the top 5 in the nation. The Cowboys lost only once in the first two months of the season and looked to be a contender in the Big XII after losing by just 2 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. However, the wheels came off the wagon when star guard Marcus Smart was suspended for an altercation with a Texas Tech fan and the Cowboys suffered a 7-game losing streak that had their tournament hopes almost sunk. They rebounded when Smart (17.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.7 APG) returned to the lineup and won 5 of their last 7 with their only 2 losses coming in overtime (Iowa St and Kansas).The Cowboys are a dangerous offensive team Smart, Markel Brown (17.1 PPG) Le'Bryan Nash (14.2 PPG) and Phil Forte III (13.3 PPG). The Cowboys should be able to handle the Zags and could present a challenge for Arizona in the Round of 32.

5. Oklahoma vs 12. North Dakota St
Spokane, 7:27pm Thursday (truTV)

If there is a matchup in this tournament you probably know nothing about, it's this one. This may come as a surprise, but Oklahoma actually finished 2nd in the Big XII in the regular season. The Sooners were knocked out of the Big XII Tournament early by Baylor, but they boast a dangerous offense that ranks 7th in the nation in scoring at over 82 points per game. Oklahoma will go 8 deep on their bench and have 4 players that score in double figures, led by Buddy Hield (16.8 PPG) and Cameron Clark (15.3 PPG). The Sooners are one of the better free throw shooting teams in the tournament at 75% (19th in the nation). On the other side, North Dakota St is the best shooting team in the country at nearly 51% from the field. The Bison rank in the top 50 in the nation with 76.4 points per game and have only lost once since January 10th. Much like Oklahoma, the Bison will go deep onto their bench and have 4 players that average in double figures, led by Taylor Braun's 18.2 PPG and Marshall Bjorklund's 13.4 PPG. This one could turn into an offensive shootout, and in a game like that you have to like Braun's dangerous 44.1% accuracy from behind the arc to give the Bison a shot at pulling the upset.

4. San Diego St vs 13. New Mexico St
Spokane, 9:57pm Thursday (truTV)

This game is an absolute contrast of styles between San Diego State's undersized but athletic lineup and New Mexico State's plodding giant. San Diego State is a fast team with length on the perimeter, led by Xavier Thames (16.8 PPG) and Winston Shepard (12.1 PPG). However, the Aztecs have just 2 players over 6'8" and will have to find a way to defend against Sim Bhullar, who is basically the Giant from The Princess Bride.  Both Sim (7'5" 355) and his smaller brother Tanveer (7'3" 335) are both on the roster, but Tanveer is redshirting this season. The Aggies are a strong offensive team, ranking in the top 40 in the nation in Points Per Game, led by Daniel Mullings (16.8 PPG). This game will be worth tuning into on Thursday night, just to get a look at Bhullar in action.

6. Baylor vs 11. Nebraska
San Antonio, 12:40pm Friday (truTV)

Baylor entered conference play with a 12-1 record and as a Top 10 team in the nation with wins over 4 NCAA Tournament teams (Colorado, UL-Lafayette, Dayton, Kentucky). The bottom fell out on the Bears and they lost 8 of their next 10 but righted the ship in mid-February and closed the season on a 7-1 run before winning 3 games in the Big XII Tournament and reaching the championship game. The biggest change was the resurrection of the Bears offense, which averaged 68.8 points per game in their first 10 conference games and 76.6 over the last 12 (including the conference tournament). Baylor is a talented, athletic team that is capable of going on a deep run in this tournament if they can get by Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are appearing in their first NCAA Tournament since 1998. Led by Texas Tech transfer Terran Petteway (18.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG), Nebraska won 11 of their last 15 games, including wins over Ohio State, at Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Huskers had an 18-point lead on Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals, but blew the lead and lost to the Buckeyes. The biggest wild card for Nebraska is Petteway's foul trouble - he has fouled out 5 times and accumulated at least 4 fouls in 14 games.

3. Creighton vs 14. UL-Lafayette
San Antonio, 3:10pm Friday (truTV)

Creighton features the nation's leading scorer and the likely National Player of the Year in Doug McDermott. McDermott averages 26.9 points per game and capped off his senior season with a career high 45 points on senior night. However, Creighton (which averages nearly 80 points per game) ran into a brick wall against Providence in the Big East Championship Game, and scored only 58 points. The Blue Jays are one of the best outside shooting teams in the nation and can score points in bunches, with 5 players shooting over 39% from downtown. Louisiana-Lafayette rose from a 3rd place finish in the Sun Belt to topple #1 seed Georgia State in overtime in the Championship Game. The Rajin' Cajuns have dynamic playmakers at all levels in point guard Elfrid Payton (19.1 PPG, 6.0 APG), forward Shawn Long who averages a double-double (18.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG) and Sun Belt Tournament MVP Bryant Mbamalu (12.5 PPG). Lafayette's athleticism and length on the perimeter could give Creighton some problems. In all but one of Creighton's losses, the Blue Jays were held under 70 points. Lafayette is not a good defensive team, but they can score with anyone in the nation, averaging over 81 points per game. This has all the makings of a shootout and has a high potential for upset with Lafayette's offensive abilities.

7. Oregon vs 10. BYU
Milwaukee, 3:10pm Thursday (truTV)

Oregon was ranked in the top 10 in the nation when the calendar turned to 2014 and was riding an undefeated record into conference play, but dropped 5 straight games and 8 of their first 11 Pac-12 contests. But the Ducks managed to turn things around in February and went on an 8-game winning streak that ended with a loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament but included a Double-Overtime win at Pauley Pavilion and a win over Arizona. The Ducks are one of the best offensive teams on the west coast, led by Joseph Young (18.6 PPG) and Mike Moser (13.5 PPG, 8 RPG). Though the team got Dominic Artis back from suspension halfway through the season, they have actually played better with senior Jonathan Loyd at the point. Loyd isn't a dynamic scorer but he averages 4.7 assists per game. The committee isn't supposed to repeat matchups in the first round of the tournament, and Oregon met BYU  back in December with the Ducks emerging victorious in overtime. BYU was one of the highest scoring team in the nation this season, their 84.2 points per game was 3rd best. However, in the West Coast Conference Championship Game, they lost point guard Kyle Collinsworth to an ACL injury. Collinsworth led the team in assists and rebounds and was second in scoring, so it remains to be seen how the Cougars will adapt to life without him on the court. BYU still has Tyler Haws (23.4 PPG), one of the leading scorers in the nation, and Mike Carlino (13.7 PPG, 4.3 APG). BYU can score in bunches in transition, but it is hard to like their chances of advancing without Collinsworth on the floor.

2. Wisconsin vs 15. American
Milwaukee, 12:40pm Thursday (truTV)

Wisconsin was the talk of the nation back around New Years, having rattled off 16 straight wins to start the season and looked poised for a run at the Big Ten title with wins over ranked conference foes Iowa and Illinois. Yes, there was a time this year when Illinois was ranked. But the Badgers dropped 5 of their next 6, including road losses to Indiana and Minnesota and a bizarre home loss to Northwestern. Bo Ryan got his team back together and the Badgers won their next 8 games to get them back to a second place finish in the Big Ten. If there is some cause for concern, it is that the Badgers dropped two of their last three - the season finale to Nebraska by 9 (which was probably the win that got Nebraska into the Dance) and the Conference Tournament semi-final to Michigan State by 8. Wisconsin is a vert good outside shooting team and their top 5 scorers all shoot better than 33% from beyond the arc. Wisconsin is not a very deep team and has 4 players that average over 30 minutes per contest. There are no stellar scorers on this team, but four players average between 10 and 14 points per game. The American Eagles were the Patriot League Champions. I'm still not sure if I should feel extremely patriotic when I hear their name or if I should expect to see the team run out in designer jeans. American started their conference slate with 10 straight wins, but finished the season just 3-5. The Eagles got back on track in the conference tournament and won 3 games without scoring more than 60 points in a contest. American actually ranks 8th in the nation in points allowed, averaging just 58.6 points allowed per game. It is unlikely that American has the firepower to topple Wisconsin, but watch out for Jesse Reed, one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation (13.9 PPG, 46.8% from 3P%).