The key to winning your N.C.A.A. tournament pool is identifying and picking some teams to knock off higher-seeded opponents. The tournament is often volatile, so with that in mind, here are a few surprises to consider as you fill out your brackets:
Why It Will Happen: Heading into Friday night, Oregon was a trendy pick as a possible No. 1 seed. But all that changed when Chris Boucher, who led the Pac-12 in blocks, tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Cal. A tight loss to Arizona in the tournament championship a day later only added to the emotional toll. The Ducks’ shallow depth will be tested against the quick-paced Gaels, who had seven different players score 20 points or more this season. This is Iona’s fourth N.C.A.A. tournament appearance since 2012, and Coach Tim Cluess will finally notch his first win.
Why It Might Not: Iona is 18-1 this season when it hits at least 10 3-pointers in a game, but Oregon is 23rd in the nation at defending against the 3. The Ducks will shake off the sorrow of losing Boucher and ride the experience of Dylan Ennis, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks to get them over the hump.
X-Factor: Kavell Bigby-Williams averages only 9.7 minutes per game, but he is going to be thrust into a much more prominent role now that Boucher is out. A junior from London, he played soccer until age 15, then took up basketball. Now he is a key figure in Oregon’s N.C.A.A. tournament hopes.
Why It Will Happen: It sounds obnoxious to say in so many ways, but the Ivy League is very good. Of the past 10 league champions, four won their first N.C.A.A. tournament games – in which they were always lower-seeded – and one lost by 2. And none were as hot as Princeton, which ran the Ivy League table and then, in the first-ever Ancient Eight tournament, beat Penn at the Palestra.
Why It Might Not: Notre Dame is a major-conference favorite, sure, but it is also extremely well coached and fundamentally sound in addition to the ordinary thing where they are much more talented than the scrappy Ivy squad.
X-Factor: Princeton needs to sink its 3’s. Princeton’s .381 3-point percentage is barely above milquetoast, but they lean on the shot, scoring nearly half their points through it. At the very least, Princeton must make the Irish take the 3 away, opening up some of those backdoor cuts the Tigers are so famous for.
Why It Will Happen: Giddy Potts is back. So are six other players from last year’s Cinderella team, which knocked off No. 2 seed Michigan State in one of the most stunning tournament upsets in history. There is a reason Middle Tennessee State has been consistently receiving votes in the Top 25 poll for weeks. Coach Kermit Davis again has his team playing as one of the toughest defensively in the nation, and Minnesota was 3-4 this season when they scored fewer than 70 points. The Gophers were never expected to be this good after going 8-23 a year ago. Their remarkable season ends early.
Why It Might Not: Minnesota can defend, too. Coach Richard Pitino, like his father, Rick, loves a tough-nosed brand of basketball, and the Gophers are led inside by the Big Ten defensive player of the year Reggie Lynch (3.47 blocks per game). Middle Tennessee State is also missing one key element from last season: the surprise factor.
X-Factor: The Blue Raiders’ senior Reggie Upshaw is one of only three active players with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks in his career. The do-it-all forward scored 21 points vs. Michigan State and will be a handful again.
Why It Will Happen: What happens when fast meets slow? We are about to find out. Nobody suffocates a game better than Tony Bennett’s Virginia team, which this season, per KenPom.com, has the most efficient defense and averages the slowest games in Division I. Less than a month ago, they beat North Carolina, which boasts one of the best offenses, 53-43. But U.N.C.-Wilmington likes to play fast and score a lot. The Seahawks amassed 100 or more points seven times this season, including against William & Mary in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals. Even if the Seahawks are not able to maintain their typical pace against the Cavaliers, limiting possessions tends to neutralize talent disparities – which may be part of why even Bennett’s excellent squads have disappointed in March.
Why It Might Not: There is a substantial talent disparity to be neutralized. Virginia finished sixth in the super-deep Atlantic Coast Conference this season. U.N.C.-Wilmington played one other N.C.A.A. tournament team – Middle Tennessee State – and lost.
X-Factor: Get on the glass. Virginia is among the best in the country at limiting offensive rebounds. The Seahawks’ Devontae Cacok averages nearly 10 rebounds per game in just over 25 minutes. Play him, and camp him out.
Why It Will Happen: South Carolina was seeded higher than even Coach Frank Martin expected, considering that the Gamecocks have lost six of their last nine games. Balanced Marquette (five players average double-digits scoring) spreads the floor and is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country. In fact, their 3-point percentage, 43.1, is the nation’s best — led by freshman Markus Howard’s 54.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The last time another Marquette team averaged more than 80 points a game for an entire season was 1971. That team went to the round of 16, and this one could, too.
Why It Might Not: This will essentially be a home game for South Carolina, with the game being played in Greenville, S.C. The crowd will energize one of the nation’s staunchest defensive teams, which forces more than 17 turnovers per game, fifth most nationally. South Carolina will take the air out of the ball and hope Marquette goes cold.
X-Factor: Marquette’s Andrew Rowsey, the Big East’s sixth man of the year, will have the ball in his hands at the end of the game. His 93.3 percent shooting from the free-throw line is third in the country.
Why It Will Happen: Bad seeding. Florida State has some great A.C.C. wins, but the Seminoles were 7-8 playing away from home. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Sun champion played No. 3 Baylor close and No. 9 Michigan State really close – both on the road – and lost just two conference games. Add in that magnetic March mojo that pulls close teams even closer together, and the Eagles are an excellent candidate for an upset in Orlando, which is a solid 100 miles closer to Fort Myers than Tallahassee.
Why It Might Not: Florida State recruits nearly as well in basketball as it does in football. From a pure talent perspective, the Seminoles should be able to run the Eagles right off the court.
X Factor: The Eagles need to slow it down. A slow pace is more to their liking, but especially against Florida State’s all-world athletes a track meet will leave them in the dust.
Why It Will Happen: You can start poking at Kansas’s résumé more easily than is typical of a second overall team. Their average margin of victory, 10.3 points, is 29th in Division I (its fellow No. 1 seeds are all in the top 10). And Kansas is coming off a loss to a team that did not even make the tournament.
Why It Won’t Happen: I mean … it won’t happen.
X-Factor: In Kansas’s last loss, they were without the superstar freshman Josh Jackson, who was suspended for a game after he reportedly backed into a parked car and failed to leave a note, and then did not tell his coach about it. Jackson will be back, but will the team — which has plenty more potential off-court issues where that came from — continue to be distracted?
This article was sourced from http://amadeusnews.com