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.

No comments: