The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament began this past weekend, and it was wild. Of course, in every NCAA tournament, there are Cinderella teams but this year has been different. There have been more major upsets this year than any other year. We have seen about 9 upsets so far this year. The biggest one so far has to be the (16) UMBC’s win over the top overall seed (1) Virginia. I’m going to go over some of the big upsets that happened this past weekend, and what I expect to happen in the Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight this coming weekend.
The first upset came courtesy of (13) Buffalo over the (4) Arizona Wildcats and their star freshman Forward DeAndre Ayton in the South Region. The upset was the first of many to come. A lot of people had Arizona at least reaching the Final Four, and some even had them winning the whole tournament. Ayton is a projected NBA Lottery pick so a lot of people wanted to see him throughout the tournament. Ayton scored 14 points and had 13 rebounds in his final game as a Wildcat. This busted a ton of brackets, but it was an omen for things to come.
The second upset came from (13) Marshall over (4) Wichita State in the East Region. This was Marshall’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1987. Their 1987 appearance was vacated, so technically it’s been since 1985. Basically, it’s been about 33 years since the Thundering Herd has been in the tournament. Their first appearance under Dan D’Antoni (yes, the brother of Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni) was a memorable one. They defeated the Wichita State 81-75. The Shockers had done something like this a few years ago which brought them to the national spotlight. It was only a matter of time before it happened to them.
(11) Loyola Chicago has been a surprise as well. They defeated (6) Miami and (3) Tennessee this past weekend. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance was 1985. They went 30-5 this season and were the Missouri Valley Champions. Their head coach Porter Moser is in his 7th season. This team has Elite Eight potential, but I’ll touch on that later when I give you guys my predictions!
(5) Clemson and (11) Syracuse also pulled off some really amazing upsets. Both ACC teams weren’t expected to make runs in the tournament. Syracuse especially was not expected to do what they’ve done so far. They’ve defeated ASU/TCU/MSU so far. Personally, I had them at least making it this far, but on many brackets, people had them out the first or second round. Clemson, on the other hand, took down Bruce Pearl and Auburn in the second round. Not only did they defeat Auburn, they throttled them 84-53. Even still, there were more surprises.
(9) Florida State and (7) Texas A&M have pulled off what were, in my opinion, some true shockers. As an SEC fan, Texas A&M’s run is insane. Florida State is another ACC team that I felt was going to get knocked out in the second round. They defeated (1) Xavier 75-70. Texas A&M pulled off an amazing upset as well. They defeated defending champions (2) UNC in a rout of 86-65. They both advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face some pretty amazing basketball teams.
(11) Loyola-Chicago V. (7) Nevada – Nevada
Nevada has been playing pretty well during the tournament. They took (10) Texas to overtime and overcame a 22 point deficit against (2) Cincinnati. Nevada is led by Junior Forward Caleb Martin who averages 18 PPG. Martin’s brother, Cody, had 25 points against Cincinnati to Caleb’s 10. The team had to battle in that game to win. Loyola-Chicago is led by Junior Guard Clayton Cluster who averages 13 PPG. Cluster had 10 points against Tennessee, the team points were led by Senior Forward Aundre Jackson who had 16 points. The bench play of Loyola is amazing, but Nevada has the better team to me. Loyola-Chicago’s run has definitely been amazing, but I feel like it comes to an end Thursday night.
(7) Texas A&M V. (3) Michigan – Texas A&M
Texas A&M has defeated (10) Providence and (2) UNC so far in the tournament. As I mentioned before, the A&M won over UNC was a rout. Michigan defeated (14) Montana and (6) Houston in the first two rounds. A&M didn’t exactly struggle with either team while Michigan had a tough time with Houston. Texas A&M is headlined by Junior Center Tyler Davis and Junior Guard Admon Gilder. They have a ton of height. They have a frontcourt of Center Tyler Davis (6-10), Forwards DJ Hogg (6-8), and Robert Williams (6-9). This will be one of the toughest teams Michigan has faced all season. A&M wasn’t fully healthy all season, but now they are and they are ready to keep winning. Michigan has height as well in their frontcourt with Forward Moritz Wagner (6-10), Guard Duncan Robinson (6-8), and Center Jon Teske (7-1). They can all match up height wise but A&M’s true secret is the athleticism. We will see what happens though. I’m taking Texas A&M.
(9) Kansas State V. (5) UK – Kentucky
Personally, I think UK should have had a higher seed, to begin with. Kansas State, on the other hand, has played the bracket busters of (8) Creighton and the perfect story in (16) UMBC. Kentucky has a really good team playing well at the right time. Kentucky has played (12) Davidson and (13) Buffalo. This game is kind of a toss-up because both teams are good in transition. Kentucky won the SEC tournament and has won two games in the NCAA Tournament though. Riding a very high winning streak, I’m picking them to win this game. Kentucky has a ton of height but most are freshman. They are led by Freshman Guard Shai Alexander and Freshman Forward Kevin Knox. Kansas St. has a lot more experience but they aren’t as tall. Kansas St. is led by Junior Guard Barry Brown and Junior Forward Dean Wade. We all know that coach Calipari is made for games like this. Bruce Weber is also a great coach. We will see what happens Thursday night though guys. My pick is Kentucky just based off of the way those kids play so well together.
(9) Florida State V. (4) Gonzaga – Gonzaga
I’m taking Gonzaga because of their size, experience, and just all around ball play. They also have a wonderful coach in Mark Few who has so much NCAA Tournament experience. Florida State has a chance as they have size as well and a lot of athleticism. The athleticism has helped them win their first two games. Gonzaga is led by Senior Forward Johnathan Williams and Sophomore Center Killian Tillie. This team is tall as I mentioned before and they are also an experienced group of kids. FSU is led by Senior Forward Phil Cofer and Senior Guard Braian Angola-Rodas. This is also an experienced sized group. They just don’t have the experience it takes to beat a team like Gonzaga in my opinion. Stranger things have happened so I wouldn’t be surprised if FSU pulls off the upset, but I’m taking the Zags.
(5) Clemson V. (1) Kansas – Kansas
I’m taking Kansas. Bill Self has seen it all when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. He’s gotten upset by a small school before, and he’s won the whole thing before. He usually makes it pretty far in these tournaments and this year he has a pretty good team. They had a bit of a fall off early in the season and a tad in the middle, but overall this is a very good basketball team that nobody wants to see when they’re streaking the way they are. Clemson is a good basketball team that shouldn’t be slept on though. Many people didn’t expect them to get this far especially considering that they had to play a very good Auburn team. They also got pretty far in the ACC tournament so it’s not like this team is a pushover. Ultimately though, Kansas is a basketball school that is known to step up when necessary. They’ve been starved from a NCAA championship long enough and I think they are more hungry than Clemson right now.
(5) West Virginia V. (1) Villanova – Villanova
West Virginia and Head Coach Bob Huggins have been here plenty of times. Huggins has done some pretty amazing things in his tenure. They haven’t made the Final Four since 2010. Villanova, on the other hand, won the whole tournament in 2016. This game will definitely be a game of coaching. Basketball is a game of adjustments and Head Coach Jay Wright is great at making those adjustments. Overall, Villanova is an experienced team led by Junior Guard Jalen Brunson. Brunson has averaged 19 PPG this season on 53 FG%. Brunson and Mikal Bridges who had 23 Pts against Alabama make up Nova’s amazing backcourt that will lead them to a victory. WVU is led by Senior Guard Javon Carter who is averaging 17 PPG. Carter had 28 Pts against Marshall in a 23 point blowout. The play of the guards will most likely decide this game. I’m taking Nova.
(11) Syracuse V. (2) Duke – Syracuse
This is a game of titans, I don’t care what seed either of these teams is. Personally, I think Syracuse is a Final Four team. I also think Duke is a Final Four team. This will be a very fun and competitive game. Senior Guard Grayson Allen and Freshman Forward Marvin Bagley are the leaders of this Duke team. This team is long and athletic as ever. They’ve had plenty of comebacks and plenty of disappointments. Syracuse, on the other hand, is athletic but not as tall as Duke. Syracuse is led by Sophomore Guard Tyson Battle and Freshman Forward Oshea Brissett. They have had a pretty upsetting season, but this tournament run has been absolutely amazing. They lost to Duke by 16 in the one game played so far this season against them. They have been on a tear lately though in the tournament, so I’m expecting some fireworks. This game will be a great one. Two legendary coaches in Boeheim and Krzyzewski. These guys are both HOF coaches in my opinion. We are in for a treat in this Sweet Sixteen game. I’m taking Syracuse only because they have been amazing so far this tournament and I think Duke’s freshman may fold in such a huge stage.
(2) Purdue V. (3) Texas Tech Texas Tech
Purdue will likely be missing their star player Senior Center Isaac Haas (7-2) for this game. He makes a huge difference as he gives them a true inside presence and more length. The Boilermakers of Purdue are a long and athletic team, but so is Texas Tech. Texas Tech is led by Senior Guard Keenan Evans and Freshman Guard Jarrett Culver. Evans averages 17 PPG and Culver averages 11 PPG. The Texas Tech offense averages about 75 PPG and holds their opponents to about 65 PPG. The Boilermakers offense averages 80 PPG and hold their opponents to 65 PPG. They both have a really good defense and offense. I think Tech takes it with Isaac Haas being out and no true post presence for Purdue. I think we get a high scoring game, but Texas Tech prevails in the end.
These are the upsets that have occurred and my predictions for the Sweet Sixteen. I expect a few more upsets to happen, but I expect some really good games. This tournament has been one of the best tournaments I’ve seen so far. We can only expect great things to happen in the next 4 rounds of the tournament. I am excited and I hope you guys are as well. What do you guys think? What are your predictions? As always, tweet us your thoughts @TheUtilityMan17!
– Rascal F. Kennedy