The Kent State Golden Flashes celebrating a victory in the locker room.
The Madness is finally here, with the field of 68 announced to the public by the NCAA committee Sunday night. We had some controversial decisions, especially with Rutgers just missing the tournament, UCLA getting a No. 2 seed, Texas A&M being a No. 7 seed, etc. But the committee gets what the committee wants, and now we’ll have to analyze what they’ve given us. There will be no shortage of great games this year, and while everyone’s eyes are on the giants of Alabama, Houston, and more, let’s not forget about the inevitable Cinderella and upset runs that happen every year. Let’s dive into this year’s tournament matchups and who could have a shot at busting some brackets and making it past the first weekend.
Upset: No. 12 Drake over No. 5 Miami
Here we have a classic 5-12 upset. You’ve got to include at least one in your bracket every year, and this is definitely one you should keep an eye on. The analytics hate this Miami team, with the Hurricanes standing at an extremely low No. 40 ranking, per KenPom. This is by far the lowest out of any No. 5 seed, with the next closest being Duke, up at No. 21. This Miami team has consistently been shaky all season and took huge losses in Quads 3 and 4. The Drake Bulldogs have a solid defense and could definitely slow down the Hurricanes. Vegas also seems to agree, with Miami a measly 2.5 point favorite against the Bulldogs. Keep an eye out for the sneaky Drake Bulldogs out of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Upset: No. 10 Utah State over No. 7 Missouri
This one isn’t as huge, but still an upset that seems as if the teams were seeded incorrectly. This Aggies team ranks insanely high for a 10 seed (18th per Kenpom), with Missouri all the way at 51st. This Utah State team will make it rain from deep, hitting threes at a 38.5% clip, one of the best in the nation. Their junior stud Steven Ashworth is an offensive weapon, averaging over 16 ppg. Missouri sports a great offense as well, being 10th in the country in offensive efficiency, but their defense is utterly terrible, and the lack of size makes cleaning the glass a tough task. In a three-point shootout, give me the Aggies in a tight contest to move onto the second round.
Cinderella: No. 13 Kent State
Don’t skip over the Golden Flashes, especially against an Indiana team with size being their only true standout factor. Kent State has an incredibly stout defense and forces turnovers like crazy, being top-20 in the nation. They held the No. 1 seeded Houston Cougars to just 49 points earlier in the season, and have shown they can hang around top-tier talent like those seen at Houston. They breezed through their conference tournament and have lately seemed to pick up offensively, outbursting for 93 points in the MAC Championship game against Toledo. Their experience against the giants of college basketball should go a long way, and their ability to take care of the ball while swarming on defense make the Golden Flashes a perfect candidate for a Sweet 16 run.