The NCAA Tournament bracket has been set and it’s safe to say there are a handful of teams that are considered favorites to win. While these name teams who have had great seasons garner a lot of attention from basketball fans,, there is another type of team that almost every fan enjoys during March Madness – the “Cinderella” teams.
Just last year we saw history when No. 16 seed UMBC knocked off No. 1 seed Virginia. And No. 12 seed Loyola-Chicago became everybody’s favorite underdog during its run to the Final Four. Every year there are upsets and this year should be no different. Here are five games in the Round of 64 that could end with an upset victory.
(5) Marquette vs. (12) Murray State
This matchup is one of the best in the first round and a big reason for the hype around this game is because each team possesses what I like to call a game manager.
Murray State has one of the best players in the country and a top five projected pick for the NBA Draft in Ja Morant. Morant is averaging just under 25 points per game. Pair that with six rebounds and six assists per game and you have one of the top players in this tournament.
On the other side, Markus Howard of Marquette is one of the best, if not the best, scorers in the tournament averaging 25 points a game while shooting 40 percent from the 3-point point line.
Each team will need their stars to come through for either to advance to the next round.
(7) Nevada vs. (10) Florida
Nevada was one of the most intriguing teams entering season because they returned a load of talent. However, the Wolf Pack are coming off a loss to a San Diego State team and at times this season they have looked underwhelming – hence, their No. 7 seed. Jordan Carolina, who has been battling an Achilles injury, along with twins Caleb and Cody Martin form one of the best trios in the country. Florida has been playing a lot better recently having beaten LSU in the SEC tournament, and the Gators are a few foul calls from having wins against Auburn (SEC tourney) and LSU (regular season). This matchup is going to be in favor of Nevada, who I believe has a good chance of making a run but watch out for Florida; the Gators could make Nevada a one-and-done team.
(4) Kansas State vs. (13) UC-Irvine
This matchup features a 30-5 UC-Irvine team filled with solid, veteran players who complement each others’ skill sets. Kansas State (25-8) team who won a share of the Big 12 regular-season title. While Kansas State has the overall edge in talent, the playing status of senior forward Dean Wade is doubtful. He missed both of the Wildcats’ games in the Big 12 tournament. Wade is hard to replace and UC-Irvine could take advantage if he can’t play. While Kansas State should be the clear favorite, UC-Irvine is capable of pulling off this big upset.
(6) Villanova vs. (11) Saint Mary’s
Villanova comes into this game after winning three in a row to capture another Big East Tournament championship. But before that, the defending national champions had lost five of their last eight games. Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s won seven of their last nine regular-season games with only losses coming to Gonzaga, the top seed in the West Regional. The Gaels made the bracket by upsetting the Zags in the West Coast Conference tournament championship. This game could be an early test for Villanova. Saint Mary’s is one of the nation’s top defensive teams and sophomore guard Jordan Ford is a big-time scorer (21.3 points per game).
(3) LSU vs. (14) Yale
This game is likely to be the biggest stretch of a prediction that I will make. LSU, the Southeastern Conference regular-season champions, is still a good team despite an early exit from the SEC Tournament exit. The Tigers are deep and led by guards Skylar Mays and Tremont Waters. My hesitation to pick them is the doubt created by the off-court controversy involving suspended coach Will Wade. Yale is a good team that can score from all five positions and is one of the top scoring teams in Division I. I think they can take advantage because LSU will be hearing a lot of noise about its absent coach.