March Madness: Five upsets waiting to happen in the round of 64

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One of the fan favorite traditions that comes with March Madness basketball is filling out your bracket and submitting it to the annual office pool at work. One of the hardest parts of correctly picking teams is anticipating those upsets that we all know are going to happen. This year, in order to efficiently outsmart that guy from accounting who wins every year, you must expect the unexpected and pick some of those lower seeded teams to beat the favorite.

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March Madness: Five upsets waiting to happen in the round of 64
Former Cornell star and BasketballInsiders.com’s Cody Toppert joins CineSport’s Noah Coslov to identify the double-digit seeds who will win in the opening round and to make Final Four picks.

BYU over Xavier

Xavier has been a very average team all year in the Big East. They do have pretty solid wins against Georgetown and Butler, but the Musketeers have also lost 13 games this season, nine of them in conference play. This tells me that Xavier is beatable. Very beatable.

Especially by a team like BYU. The Cougars are driven by their star senior guard Tyler Haws. He is one of the main factors BYU was even in the conversation to make the tournament this season and has the ability to go off for 25-plus on any given night. He is averaging 21.9 points per game this season and even had a 30 point game against Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals. He hit the go-ahead bucket with a pull up fade away jumper that was eerily similar to Michael Jordan’s shot in the 1989 NBA playoffs over Craig Ehlo as time expired.

What will fuel Tyler Haws and company even more at the offensive end is the absolutely atrocious defense Xavier is playing this year. They have allowed 67.6 points per game which is 204th in the NCAA. This is definitely something that BYU will have to capitalize on because Xavier has quite the scoring ability themselves averaging 73.6 points per game.

But on nights where they can’t find their rhythm on offense, Xavier struggles. And that has been shown in their losses to St. John’s and Long Beach State. Against St. John’s they managed to muster a measly 57 points, losing by one to their Big East rival. In perhaps their worst loss of the season, Xavier shot just 40.6% percent from the field and 12.5% from 3-point range against Long Beach State. Not the most encouraging stats for Xavier fans.

If I were making a pot of “upset-stew” these all seem like the right ingredients to me. A favored team that has bad losses in non-conference and conference play, a defense that an 8th grade basketball team could put up 40 points against, and a BYU offense that when hot, can really make you hurt. I wouldn’t be surprised if Xavier quit dancing a little earlier than expected due to a tough BYU squad.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Harvard over UNC

When I analyze the North Carolina basketball program, I can’t help but notice those five national championships (tied for third most all-time), a team that just beat Virginia in the ACC tournament, and consistently has some of the best talent in college basketball. So why in God’s name would I choose such a prestigious program to fall to some school that is known for its academics over sports? Well, maybe I am just crazy. But on the other hand, North Carolina is not the Superman of the NCAA this year as they have been in years past. And even if they were, Harvard might be their Kryptonite in the round of 64.

First of all, North Carolina has so many bad losses on their schedule. Butler, Iowa, NC State, and Pittsburgh, just to name a few, all tell me that North Carolina is not ready to compete with the best teams in the NCAA this year. They have been inconsistent at best and even with their credible wins against Louisville and Virginia, I am still asking: “is UNC really that good?”

Even if UNC isn’t a favorite to win the national title, does Harvard have the firepower to take down a national power house? Of course North Carolina fans are probably looking to Harvard’s only game against a ranked team in the Virginia Cavaliers this season. While they did lose by a brutal 76-27 margin, the huge deficit was basically driven by the fact that Harvard didn’t have anybody sizable enough to guard 7-footer Mike Tobey. UNC doesn’t really have anyone that tall. Their biggest threat in the post is 6-foot-9 power forward, Bryce Johnson. A player who Harvard matches up with physically a little better with than they did with Virginia.

If they can contain Bryce Johnson, I really like Harvard’s chances. Their senior guard, Wesley Saunders has led the Crimson to a 22-7 record by averaging 16.3 points per game. If he can shoot the ball well from beyond the arc like he has all year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Roy Williams had a little trouble with this underdog.

On top of all this, Ivy League schools love the upsets. They will have the entire conference rooting them on at home as they take on their biggest challenge yet. Some of these guys on their roster have been to the tournament before and know what it is to upset a favorite team. So look for Harvard to take down a North Carolina in the round of 64.

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

Dayton over Providence

Another Big East team getting upset? While the conference may have Villanova and Butler, two teams that have proven they can play with the best in the NCAA, the Big East is very overrated this year. But even if they are playing in an extremely overrated conference, Providence has earned the No. 4 spot in the conference with some impressive wins. Additionally, Providence has a huge height advantage over Dayton with the biggest guy on the roster being 7-foot-2 and the tallest guy on Dayton’s roster measuring just 6-foot-6 with high heels on. But Dayton is one of those teams that can just about make anything happen.

Despite having this huge height disadvantage, the Dayton guards are annoying little pests when it comes to perimeter defense. They do an excellent job of getting in the opposing team's face and causing them to feel uncomfortable for 40 minutes. Their defense has caused an impressive 7.0 steals per game for the Flyers and they only allow 60.9 points per game as a team.

This may affect Providence more than it would other teams as the Friars have had some turnover issues this year. Their top two players, LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn, are averaging 6.1 turnovers a game. A portion of Providence’s game that won’t be as easily disguised with the pressure defense that Dayton will exhibit. I am predicting a lot of steals that lead to easy transition lay-ups for Dayton giving them an edge.

But all in all, it will be tough for the Flyers to make something happen like they did in last year’s tournament. After all, they are missing more than just height, as Jordan Sibert graduated. He was one of the main driving forces in the Flyer’s dramatic Elite 8 run. They have a steep slope to climb if they plan on doing the same this year. But anything is possible in March. And this might be another Cinderella seasons for the Dayton Flyers.

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Buffalo over West Virginia

Led by legendary college basketball player Bobby Hurley, who led Duke to back-to-back titles in the early '90s, the Buffalo Bulls are one of those teams who are starting to heat up at the right time. They have won eight games in a row, which include their impressive performance at the MAC Conference tournament. But with West Virginia getting Juwan Staten and Gary Browne back from injury, the West Virginia Mountaineers might be too much for Buffalo to handle.

West Virginia has done some things really well all year. They have played impressive full court pressure defense in every game. They have beaten Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas all ranked teams at the time of defeat. And most importantly they have bought into Bob Huggins' system, a coach who has proven himself to be a winner in March in years past.

But this doesn’t mean they are invincible. Buffalo, who has really started to click will be going up against a West Virginia team who is just getting back to playing at full strength. Juwan Staten has missed the last four games and his 14.5 points per game were certainly missed as they went 1-3 during this time period.

Buffalo’s main threat to the Mountaineers will be junior forward, Justin Moss. He has carried the Bulls this year, averaging 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds leading them to a MAC conference championship and a 23-9 record. His huge frame and superior athleticism will make him tough to handle in the paint.

Whether or not Buffalo can pull off the upset will be a product of Moss stepping up and leading his Bulls like he has all season. The 12 seed upset is the most popular in recent years. It has been done 44 times in the tournaments history, and the only years since 1985 it has not happened are 1988, 2000, and 2007. Maybe this year it will be the Buffalo Bulls.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Belmont over Virginia

A 2 seed getting upset in the first round rarely happens. But in recent years, with the exception of 2014, it has become somewhat of a trend. A trend that could extend if Belmont takes down heavily favored Virginia.

When I say heavily favored, I mean undeniably and unequivocally favored Virginia Cavaliers. While they did win the ACC in the regular season, and for a while were the only team thought to be able to compete with the Kentucky Wildcats, they are not indestructible.

Belmont is coming into the tournament on perhaps one of the luckiest plays in OVC conference championship history. Because of a clock malfunction, the Bruins were able to change plays in the final seconds against Murray State. This allowed Coach Rick Byrd to set up a game winning three that sent them to the NCAA tournament in dramatic fashion.

But all the magic in the world will have to be on the Bruins side if they want to take down Virginia. And there is no reason to think it won’t be. In 2012, Virginia’s conference rival, Duke, was upset by Lehigh even though the Blue Devils went 27-7 in the regular season and were considered to be a favorite to go far in the NCAA tournament. Additionally, the Georgetown Hoyas had their National title hopes taken from them by Florida Golf Coast, a team that many college basketball fans had even heard of in 2013.

All I’m saying is that when you put a team like Virginia, who is coming off a bad loss to North Carolina in the ACC conference tournament, against a hot team like Belmont anything can happen. Belmont will have to shoot the living daylights out of the basketball if they want to have a chance and Virginia is the best team in the NCAA on defense, so Belmont will have to have a few baskets here and there bounce their way. With that being said, look out for Belmont to take down Virginia this Friday.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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VCU, Northern Iowa, Butler, and Davidson have all had their Cinderella story before taking down some of those pesky established programs in the NCAA. Butler has been continually making a run at a National title since Brad Stevens started coaching, despite being a low seed every year. They have established themselves as a premiere program and are a #6 seed this year. So if they do make a run at a championship this year, it really wouldn't come as much of a surprise as their incredible upset to Syracuse in 2010 did.

But part of what makes an upset special is that it's a team that doesn't do it every year. This is part of what makes March Madness so great. Anything can happen, and has happened in years past no matter what seed you are.

While impossible to predict, certain key factors can give NCAA basketball fans a better insight as to which upsets are bound to happen next. In 2010 it was the Butler Bulldogs making it to the National title. Last year, it was Dayton making it to the Elite 8 after beating heavily favored Kansas in the round of 32. This year, there are five upsets that should be on everyone's radar when they fill out those brackets in the next couple of days.

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March Madness: Five upsets waiting to happen in the round of 64
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