2018 NCAA Tournament: Upset Specials!

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FIRST ROUND

No. 12 DAVIDSON over No. 5 KENTUCKY: The biggest reason that I like this upset to happen is that Davidson runs an offense that is a nightmare to prepare for. If you talk to coaches in the Atlantic 10, that’s what they’ll tell you. And this Kentucky team, made up of all freshmen and sophomores that have never experienced an offense like this, are going to be asked to slow it down after learning about it for three days? We’ll see.

But the other side of this is that Davidson also has some talent. Peyton Aldridge is probably the best player — currently, as of today — that is going to be on the floor in this game while Kellan Grady is a freshman with NBA potential in his own right. This will be a fun game.

No. 12 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE over No. 5 OHIO STATE: There are four things that South Dakota State has going for them when it comes to picking upsets:

  1. They lead the nation in turnover percentage.
  2. They are top 20 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
  3. They are top 30 nationally in three-point shooting percentage.
  4. They have Mike Daum, who is a matchup nightmare for the Buckeyes.

All the dots connect on this one.

No. 11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO over No. 6 MIAMI and No. 3 TENNESSEE: The Ramblers ended up with a pretty perfect draw for a team looking to make a run. They are a good defensive team going up against Miami in the first round while Miami will be without their best player. They can cut off penetration, and if you do that, you cut off Miami’s offense. Then they draw Tennessee, who is good but is certainly not unbeatable this season. They may be the best matchup for Loyola when it comes to a No. 3 seed. If there is going to be a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16, I think it will be the Ramblers.

No. 13 MARSHALL over No. 4 WICHITA STATE: This pick is relatively simple for me: Marshall run one of the wildest, most up-tempo offensive systems you’ll ever see. Wichita State really struggles to guard people. This is the kind of game that could end up getting played in the 80s or 90s, and if that is the case Marshall can absolutely win that.

SECOND ROUND

No. 9 ALABAMA over No. 1 VILLANOVA: The dots on this one connect. There are, essentially, two things that need to be done in order to beat this Villanova team: You have to be able to run them off of the three-point line and you need to have a dynamic playmaker at the lead guard spot to take advantage of some of their defensive deficiencies. The Crimson Tide are 13th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They’re top 20 nationally in defensive three-point percentage. And they have this guy named Collin Sexton, who is pretty good.

Now, remember, Alabama still has to beat Virginia Tech first. And they are a team with 15 losses this season that didn’t play well away from home until those two games in the SEC tournament. But strictly from a strength-on-strength perspective, I think this matchup makes some sense.

No. 10 PROVIDENCE over No. 2 NORTH CAROLINA: Where North Carolina has a tendency to struggle is with ball-screen defense, and one of the things that Ed Cooley loves to do more than just about any other coach in the country is to … run ball-screens. Cooley’s proven his coaching chops over the years, and there aren’t many coaches out there who are better when it comes being able to scheme a way to get his playmakers in a position to, you know, make plays. Kyron Cartwright is that guy this year, and if the Friars can get past Texas A&M, this may be the matchup to look at when it comes to a No. 2 seed losing.

Keep in mind, in each of the last eight NCAA tournament, a No. 2 seed has failed to make it out of the first weekend of the tournament. Will North Carolina be this year’s victim?