It wouldn’t be March Madness without the upsets, and some teams in the NCAA tournament look especially primed to write their own David vs. Goliath story in the first round of action.
No. 10 Cincinnati is set to square off with No. 7 Creighton on Friday, where an upset could be in order.
While the Bearcats tend to struggle offensively—they score 66.6 points per game, 197th in the nation and have an abysmal .405 field-goal percentage, 305th in the nation—the team is a force on the boards.
Cincinnati averages 40.0 rebounds per game as a team, ranking eighth in the nation in that statistic.
The Bearcats’ presence down low alone should cause problems for the Blue Jays. Creighton may have a high-octane offense—the team leads the nation in field-goal percentage and is fifth in assists—but it cannot compete with Cincinnati’s presence on the glass.
If the Bearcats can control the boards Friday, look for them to upend the Blue Jays.
No. 6 Arizona will take on No. 11 Belmont on Friday in the first round of West Region action, and the Wildcats will be on upset alert.
The Bruins have all the makings of a giant killer. The team shoots well, averaging 77.2 points per game and a .494 shooting percentage, good for 15th and fourth in the nation, respectively. Belmont is also a strong passing squad, averaging 15.9 helpers a contest, 15th in the nation.
The Bruins are also playing hot, riding a six-game win streak.
Arizona will have trouble keeping pace with Belmont. The Wildcats can put up points but are no scoring machine by any definition.
Arizona is 84th in the nation with a .450 field-goal percentage and put up 73.3 points per game, 47th in the country.
If Belmont can get its offensive machine revving, the Bruins should give the Wildcats fits and pull off the upset.
In the Midwest Region, No. 12 Oregon looks ready to topple No. 6 Oklahoma State when the teams meet up Thursday.
The Ducks are coming off a big win against UCLA. Oregon toppled the then-No. 21 Bruins 78-69 on March 16 in their last regular season contest.
The Ducks roll deep, with seven players averaging at least 20 minutes per game and five players tallying at least nine points per game. Oregon is good but not great, averaging 71.7 points per game, but the team also rebounds well.
Oklahoma State has lost twice in its last four games and doesn’t shoot that well, with a .440 field-goal percentage, 133rd in the nation. The Cowboys especially have trouble with their passing, averaging just 12.1 assists per game, 227th in the nation.
With their deep squad, expect the Ducks to surprise the Cowboys in the first round.
All statistics via ESPN.