NCAA Tournament 2012: 10 Potential Opening Round Upsets

Ron PasceriCorrespondent IIMarch 12, 2012

NCAA Tournament 2012: 10 Potential Opening Round Upsets

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    One of the most joyous things in all of sports is the first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament. Some years they are stunning, while some years are more predictable.

    Some years there seems to be one in every part of the bracket, and some years you may only get one or two.

    This year, who knows? The field is probably more evenly matched than ever, which makes it even more unpredictable. There are some teams that look like they can pull off the surprise, though.  

    This is not a prediction of upsets that will happen, but a countdown of the 10 most likely upsets. As always, everyone will have an opinion, so please voice yours in the comments. The more upset predictions, the better.

    I look forward to hearing your opinion.

10. St. Bonaventure over Florida State

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    Florida State just shocked everyone by taking apart both Duke and North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament—and looked impressive doing so.

    Leonard Hamilton is a great coach who gets his teams to play suffocating defense. He also took them to a Sweet 16 last year. Michael Snaer can score and defend on the perimeter and Bernard James is a presence inside. 

    As good as Florida state has looked, it wouldn't be the first time a surprise conference tournament winner flopped in the big tournament.

    St. Bonaventure is another team that is playing well right now, and they have a player who can control a game. Drew Nicholson is averaging 18.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He's shooting 57.7 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from three.

    St. Bonaventure is in the top 25 in the nation in offensive rebounding and in the top 90 in field-goal defense, defensive rebounding and three-point percentage.

    Florida State is a great defensive team, but they turn it over at an alarming rate. Florida State is a prohibitive favorite, but St. Bonaventure has a real chance to win.

9. Long Beach State over New Mexico

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    Long Beach State would be much higher on this list if they weren't playing New Mexico. The Lobos are one of the most undervalued teams in the nation. But Long Beach thoroughly tested itself in the non-conference and will be ready to play.

    Casper Ware is a dynamic player who can get to the rim, get to the line and has been tremendous from beyond the arc. He gets help from T.J. Robinson inside, who is a tenacious rebounder and averages a double-double.

    They are going to need swing-man Larry Anderson to get healthy. Anderson is a slasher who is deadly accurate from deep.

    New Mexico is a conference champion that won both their regular season and tournament titles. They have handled UNLV and San Diego State. New Mexico is efficient offensively and defensively, and they will be a test.

    As good as New Mexico is, the 49ers can be just as good. They aren't a lock, but it will be a great game to watch.

8. Davidson over Louisville

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    Louisville is a good team and should win this game. But every No. 4 seed should—that doesn't mean it will happen.

    The Cardinals are not efficient offensively. They don't shoot well and they turn the ball over a lot. They are great on the offensive boards, but that doesn't completely offset their flaws.

    Defensively, they do a good job of contesting shots and making life difficult, but they also allow too many offensive rebounds.

    Davidson is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in college basketball, and they take tremendous care of the ball. They are also very efficient on offense and clean the defensive glass.

    They also have five players scoring in double-figures who shoot better than 34 percent on threes. They are led by De'Mon Brooks, who scores 16.0 points and grabs 6.3 rebounds per game.

    Davidson has a balanced attack that could give Rick Pitino a scare.

7. New Mexico State over Indiana

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    New Mexico State will have a tough time with a team like Indiana. The Hoosiers can be truly great on any given day. They beat Kentucky, they competed in the Big Ten and handled themselves well.

    Indiana is second in the country in three-point shooting and are very efficient on offense. Defensively, they have been slightly above average. Sometimes teams that battle in the big conferences have nothing left for this time of year.

    New Mexico State is fourth in the country in offensive rebounding and can score inside. They aren't a good three-point shooting team, but they can help offset that with second-chance points.

    They also take care of the defensive boards and defend the three-point line.

    Cody Zeller is one of the best big men in college basketball, but the Aggies have their own low post weapon in Wendell McKines. He's averaging 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, shooting a respectable 35 percent on threes.

    New Mexico State is a balanced team that is definitely an underdog, but one that is capable of coming out on top.

6. Iona over Marquette

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    Iona doesn't play a whole lot of defense, so Marquette will be able to score. But Marquette will always score.

    The Gaels can score with anyone and on anyone. They almost never turn the ball over and they are one of the best shooting teams in the nation. They aren't the best defensively, but they do create turnovers.

    Scott Machado leads their attack and is arguably the best point guard in the tournament, averaging 9.9 assists per game. He has a dominant inside player in Micheal Glover. Glover is quick and athletic and scores 18.5 points and grabs 9.0 rebounds per game.

    The most vital part of their offense is Lamont Jones. The shooting guard is a great shooter, scoring 16.0 points per game, with a season high 43 points against Canisius.

    Iona has to get by BYU first, but they are capable of knocking off anyone in the first couple rounds.

5. Montana over Wisconsin

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    Montana is exactly the type of live underdog that can electrify the tournament's first weekend.

    They came from a small conference but actually managed to knock off Weber State twice in the last week of the season. Damian Lillard is being discussed as a lottery pick, but Montana point guard Will Cherry went to to toe with him.

    Cherry is averaging 16.0 points, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game. The Grizzlies also have four other players averaging better than nine points per game.

    Wisconsin is a good tournament team that plays disciplined offense and tough defense. They are never easy to eliminate, but Montana has some of the ingredients it will take.

    They don't turn the ball over and are a great three-point shooting team. Defensively, they create turnovers and do a great job defending the three-point line. They are a team that can really make some noise.

4. Belmont over Georgetown

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    Picking upsets is no easy task. It's fun to theorize and build the courage to write the underdog in, but you just never know what's going to happen.

    With Belmont, you at least know they are going to make it a game for Georgetown. Georgetown isn't quite "Hoya Paranoia" from the 1980s, but they are pretty close this season.

    They are tops in the nation in three-point defense and fifth in field-goal defense. They are just locking teams up over the last month.

    But Belmont is a balanced team with a great point guard in Kerron Johnson and four other double-figure scorers. Johnson can score and distribute and Belmont can shoot and take care of the ball.

    The Hoyas are a tough team to beat, no matter who they play, but Belmont has the weapons and style of play to get the job done. 

3. California over Temple

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    Cal hasn't exactly had the type of season a lot of people projected, but they have time to get there. Temple is in the midst of the best year of the Fran Dunphy era, but they looked dreadful in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

    If Temple plays like that against the Golden Bears, they will be going back to Philadelphia quickly.

    The Owls are a really good team that beat Duke this year, but UMass really took it to them. It was due to the play of guards Chaz Williams and Jesse Morgan, as they torched the Owls for 41 points and five steals.

    If Temple couldn't handle those guards, wait until it sees the perimeter play of Cal. They will deploy three guards in Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs. They can all handle the ball, score inside and shoot from deep.

    California is also a disruptive defensive team. Temple is in the top 10 in three-point shooting, but the Golden Bears can take that away. It should be a great game that Cal can steal.

2. Ohio over Michigan

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    A battle of the midwest. Ohio and Michigan. The Wolverines hate Ohio State, but aren't as familiar with Ohio.

    They should get familiar quickly with point guard D.J. Cooper, who terrorized Georgetown in an upset victory in 2009. Cooper was just a freshman then, but he will be looking to repeat that performance. 

    Cooper can score and assist, and he is a tremendously disruptive defender. Watching him battle Trey Burke will be one of the most enjoyable individual match-ups of the early rounds.

    Michigan doesn't take care of their defensive boards and they don't defend the three-point line. Their talent could be enough to win them this game, but Ohio has enough to exploit their weaknesses.

    The Bobcats are one of the best in the nation at offensive rebounding and second in college basketball at forcing turnovers. Michigan is a really good team from a great conference, but Ohio could be dancing past them.

1. South Dakota State over Baylor

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    This is a tricky one.

    Baylor is one of the longest, most talented and most athletic teams in the tournament. They can beat anyone on any given night if they play to their potential. The problem is, they haven't done that enough.

    Especially their best player, Perry Jones. He has had an inconsistent season, and it has cost the Bears in some big games.

    On the South Dakota State side, they have Nate Wolters, one of the best players who most people haven't heard of. He is an incredibly versatile point guard who averages 21.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.

    He isn't shooting well from deep this season, but he can get to the rim and finds open teammates. He also has Jordan Dykstra on his side, shooting 48.6 percent on threes. He is dangerous to Baylor from outside.

    The Jackrabbits can shoot the ball, rebound and defend. Baylor does all those things as well or better—when they want to. If Perry Jones shows up like in the Big 12 Tournament, they win. If the regular season Perry Jones is out on the floor, South Dakota State will walk off victorious.