The tendency to look for the upset is everywhere in bracket talk, and rightfully so. From Villanova to Gonzaga to George Mason to Butler, over the years some low seeds have made some big noise that shattered some brackets (shakes fist at DQ again for ’06).
Now I’m aware of the upset, but I don’t seek them out to an extreme. You can just as easily ruin a good bracket by trying to account for too many of them. I’ll trust 23 Wisconsin wins over 30 Bucknell victories anytime. Don’t look at a bracket & lose your common sense about it all.
With that said, here are my upset picks for the day’s games, with my takes on why. I don’t consider 8/9 games true upsets, and 7/10’s (while being the most boring, yet difficult games to predict) aren’t really major upsets either, so I’ll skip those.
#12 CLEMSON over #5 WEST VIRGINIA in the East: I look at this as a bit of an overseeded WVA squad catching a Clemson team that’s showed it can play with the big teams in the ACC. West Va gets a lot of run for bringing back 9 guys from last year’s Final Four team, but the main guns both left for the NBA, and it was a team that overachieved in even getting that far. I’m going with the tough inside club in Clemson to pull it out. (Even though it’s tied at the half after a nice run from the Mountaineers.)
#12 UTAH STATE over #5 KANSAS STATE in the Southeast: I can’t see the disorganized, bad interior shooting KState team beating out Utah State, who forces teams inside to challenge the rim, which is their strength. Plus I’m hearing Jacob Pullen is sick. If he’s not in there, this may be a beating of epic proportions.
#11 GONZAGA over #6 ST. JOHN’S in the Southeast: The rebirth of St. John’s has been real, no doubt. They ran a bunch of the best teams in the deepest conference in the country off the floor, but I see them prime for an early exit. They lost their PG that keeps it all together, and they don’t match up well on the inside against Gonzaga. It’s definitely about who establishes their game first, but GU has good guard play that can slow down the Johnnies & make them work inside to come to Gonzaga’s strength. It’s been a while since the Bulldogs have been in the spoiler role, but I see them pulling this one out.
#12 RICHMOND over #5 VANDERBILT in the Southwest: As you can see, I’ve taken 3 12’s over 5 seeds this year, and this one makes the most sense to me. Richmond has two NBA-level talents they work around on the inside & outside, while Vandy is suspect on defense & more alarmingly, effort. If there’s anything that primes you for the upset in the tourney, it’s lack of effort, because the underdog isn’t going give in. And when that underdog is more talented AND underseeded like Richmond is, that’s like signing your life on the line. Richmond takes it.
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