Having spent much time in deliberation and research, here are the match-ups to keep an eye on as potential upset picks.
The main data points used were how well the team has been playing recently as well as if the team was underseeded or overseeded (based upon ESPN’s BPI index) which makes it pretty clear who got a good line and who didn’t. Let’s get to the matchups.
As mentioned in last night’s post on the last 13 years of the Tournament, the 8 vs. 9 matchup is the closest to being a 50-50 split and odds are at least one 9 will win.
- Temple and Villanova (both 9 seeds) are two of the lower teams in the BPI rankings meaning they got overseeded and both play teams (UNC who was seeded correctly and North Carolina State who was underseeded) that are ranked much higher and these games likely will go chalk with UNC beating Villanova and NC State beating Temple.
- The other two 9 seeds (Missouri and Wichita State who could be 6′s) are actually underseeded meaning they are better than where they got placed (though the teams they face are better). Missouri is a good candidate to win as a 9 seed (though they play a Colorado State team who could have been a 7) and while Wichita State would be a good one as well they face Pittsburgh who was the most underseeded team in the bracket (they arguably could have been a 4) and they should win as well.
The 7 vs. 10 matchup is the next closest in probability of upset and that carries on through this year.
Illinois (as a 7 seed) and Oklahoma (as a 10) both were overseeded and should have been 12 seeds or worse; Illinois in fact could have been one of the most overseeded (could have been in the teens though they are a 7).
Both teams face correctly seeded teams (Colorado as a 10 against Illinois) and San Diego State (as a 7 against Oklahoma) and both should win (which makes Colorado a strong upset candidate.
Creighton is underseeded as 7 seed (they could have been as low as a 4) and should handle a good Cincinnati team that was slightly underseeded (could have been a 9).
The last matchup is the closest as Notre Dame (a 7) and Iowa State (a 10) are next to each other in the rankings at the line between a 9 and a 10 seed which makes Notre Dame overseeded and Iowa State correctly. This game is really a toss up and could be a good pick for an upset as well.
Next are the 6 vs. 11 matchups:
Memphis was slightly underseeded (could have been a 5) and they play the winner of a play-in game which features two lower ranked teams giving Memphis the strong advantage.
Arizona was also underseeded (they could have been a 4) and they face a Belmont team that is actually a bit overseeded and Arizona should roll.
The other two 6 seeds are UCLA and Butler who were both overseeded (UCLA should have been a 8 and Butler a 11) and also with UCLA losing their top scorer they are a good upset pick to lose to a Minnesota team that got underseeded as an 11 and should have been an 8 as well.
Fortunately for Butler, they face an overseeded Bucknell team that could have been a 14 instead of an 11. Go with Minnesota as the 11 seed to upset a 6 seed.
The 5 vs. 12 matchups are next:
Oklahoma State was the only correctly seeded 5 and they face an interesting Oregon team that won the Pac-12 Conference Tournament and ended up being underseeed as a 12 (though they could have been a 9).
This could be a close game but Oklahoma State probably has the advantage here.
VCU was slightly overseeded (a 6 instead of the given 5) and they face a low Akron team so stick with VCU.
Both Wisconsin and UNLV were overseeded and should have been 7 seeds. UNLV faces a California team that was actually a bit overseeded and so they should advance without issue.
Wisconsin faces an Ole Miss team that won the SEC Tournament and should have been a 9 seed which makes this the closest matchup and could be a strong upset pick.
The next matchups are the 4 vs. 13:
Saint Louis and Kansas State both were overseeded (Saint Louis should have been a 5 and Kansas State a 8) but fortunately for them they face teams that are seeded close to correct.
Saint Louis should roll over a New Mexico State team and Kansas State faces the winner of Boise State vs. LaSalle and Boise State could be interesting if they play Kansas State but likely no upsets here.
Michigan and Syracuse were both underseeded (Michigan could have been as high as a 2 and Syracuse a 3) and both have differing prospects.
Syracuse plays a Montana team that was very low and they should roll. Michigan faces a South Dakota State team that could have been a 7 seed and is probably one of the better picks for an upset but likely none here either.
The last matchup to look at is the 3 vs. 14:
- All of the 14 seeds are very low and none really pose any threats but it should be mentioned that Florida was underseeded (could have been as low as a 1 seed), Michigan State and New Mexico were correctly seeded, and Marquette was overseeded (should have been a 5).
Also it should be mentioned how the 1′s and 2′s stacked up:
- Ohio State, Louisville, and Indiana were all correctly seeded as either a 1 or a 2.
- Georgetown, Miami (FL), Kansas and Gonzaga were all overseeded (Georgetown should have been a 4, Miami a 3,Kansas a 2 and Gonzaga a 2).
- Duke was underseeded and should have been a 1.
In conclusion the errors in seeding will help make some games closer and for some matchups it will end up being irrelevant and so it makes sense to take some chances in picking upsets in games that are close.
Here’s a bracket taking into account the above data (upset picks are highlighted) and has a few chances taken as well. For your own don’t forget to choose wisely and a bit fearlessly as well.