Ah, March Madness. Arguably, the greatest sporting event in the world.
Many people join various March Madness pools, and what separates a winning bracket and a losing bracket is usually comes down to who correctly picked more upsets. So, it is very important for people to pick the right upsets.
The great thing about making a March Madness upset pick list (and March Madness in general) is that you can ask one hundred people for their opinion, and get one hundred different answers. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees with these picks.
Regardless, here are my picks for bracket busters in the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
Bo Ryan's Wisconsin squad finished 24-9 and is well-deserving of the 4-seed they have received, but they, unfortunately, have to go up against a strong Montana squad in the first round. The Grizzlies are led by junior point guard Will Cherry, who is averaging 16 points and 2.6 steals per game. Helping Cherry out is guard Kareem Jamar, who had a stellar Big Sky Tournament. If these two guards are hitting their shots, Montana will be a tough out in the tournament.
Montana is one of the hottest teams in the nation (they have won 14 in a row) and—although Wisconsin has given up the least points-per-game in the nation—a strong shooting day from Cherry and Jamar can send the Badgers home early.
PREDICTION: Montana 61 Wisconsin 58
This 5-seed v. 12-seed match-up pits two of the best mid-majors in the country against each other.
Long Beach State guard Casper Ware, the Big West Conference Player of the Year, has been a great leader this season. The 5'10" senior point guard is averaging 17.4 points and 3.3 assists, and has led the 49ers to their first NCAA Tournament since 2007.
New Mexico, led by UCLA transfer Drew Gordon, has had an excellent season, winning the Mountain West Conference tournament title. However, I see Ware having a great game, while the defense does just enough to make up for the loss of Big West Defensive Player of the Year, Larry Anderson.
Long Beach State will come out on top...barely.
Prediction: Long Beach State 66 New Mexico 65
This season's North Carolina State basketball team was not expected to make the NCAA Tournament when the season started. However, due to the hard work of the players and the coaching staff, first-year head coach Mark Gottfried's squad finished 22-12 and will be dancing for the first time since 2006.
This season's N.C. State team was led by sophomore forward C.J. Leslie's 14.6 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. They had a solid regular season, with a few bad losses. However, in the ACC Tournament, they looked very good. The Wolfpack nearly knocked off North Carolina, hanging in with the Tar Heels until the final seconds of a 69-67 loss.
Many people, including ESPN's Joe Lunardi, and President Barack Obama have N.C. State in their Sweet 16. The Selection Committee gave them a favorable stretch (they avoided the play-in game, and will be playing winnable games against San Diego St. and Georgetown) and the Wolfpack will take advantage of that and ride into the Sweet 16.
Steve Fisher's Aztecs had a great season, but N.C. State should be able to put away San Diego State late in the second half to seal a victory.
Prediction: N.C. State 75 San Diego State 68
Despite the fact that this is a 1-seed vs. 8-seed game, this game will be a lot closer than expected. The Memphis Tigers have won 14 of their past 16 games, with their two losses only being by three and two points, respectively. The Tigers have a star in Will Barton (18.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game), but they have many players who can score.
Take their Conference USA Championship game against Marshall as an example. In that game, an 83-57 Memphis win, five players scored in double figures with Barton (18 points and 13 rebounds) and sophomore guard Joe Jackson (19 points) leading the way.
The one flaw on this Memphis team is their inexperience, but this team has the talent to make a long tournament run regardless.
I always have a hard time picking against Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in March, but I think Josh Pastner's Tigers can be the next Northern Iowa and send the region's #1 team home early.
Prediction: Memphis 68 Michigan State 65