Nothing is more alluring than picking upsets in the Round of 64 when filling out your NCAA tournament bracket.
The devil on your shoulder tells you to knock out a No. 2 seed on the first weekend (because we all know a No. 1 has never bowed out in the Round of 64). The angel on your shoulder says, "Play chalk and if you do select an upset, make it in a 5-12 matchup."
This year, I'm not listening to either one. While I don't think a 2-seed will go one-and-done, I also don't like chalk this year or—and this is shocking to me too—a single No. 12 seed advancing in the Round of 64.
But I do like several upsets and feel extremely confident that they'll play out as I'm projecting, so I felt obligated to share them with you here. Good luck, and may God—and the Cinderellas—have mercy on your bracket.
West Region: No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Arizona
This one is pretty simple—Belmont is a very dangerous team on the perimeter, while Arizona's biggest weakness as a team is that they allow teams to shoot lights-out from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats allow opponents to shoot 36.5 percent from three, ranking them 287th in the nation in that department. That's a serious problem against a Belmont team that shoots 49.4 percent from the field (fourth in the nation), 37.6 percent from three (39th), scores 77.2 points per game (15th) and doles out 15.9 assists per contest (15th).
Arizona is vastly superior in the post, but the fear is that Ian Clark (18.1 PPG, 46.3 percent from three) and Belmont's shooters will bomb away from outside. That will cause Arizona to extend its defense and the Bruins will then use their excellent ball movement to penetrate inside and earn easy buckets.
I also don't like the fact that Arizona comes into this game 5-5 down the stretch, including a bad loss to USC. The Wildcats are a very talented team and could be very dangerous if they advance, but I simply think this is the worst possible matchup for them and Belmont will pull off the upset.
South Region: No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA
This is another popular upset, and for another pretty simple reason—UCLA lost second-leading scorer Jordan Adams (15.3 PPG) for the season to a broken foot. That's a recipe for disaster against a Minnesota team that is battled-tested in the competitive Big Ten.
Minnesota has quality wins over Memphis, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana. They boast four starters who score double-digit points per game and rank 27th in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. In other words, Minnesota can keep up with the high-paced UCLA attack.
I hate that Minnesota limped down the stretch, finishing 5-11 after starting the year 15-1, but a UCLA team that has to reinvent itself without Adams scares me even more than Minnesota's finish.
East Region: No. 11 Bucknell over No. 6 Butler
Yes, I really love the No. 11 over No. 6 upsets this year. And yes, I know that Butler has excellent wins this year against Indiana, Gonzaga, Marquette and North Carolina.
But I think Butler is a really weak No. 6 seed. They are guilty of three major "bust potential" flaws: They don't have a pure point guard, they turn the ball over way too often and they aren't great from beyond the arc (34.6 percent, 130th in the nation).
Bucknell is a solid team. Center Mike Muscala (19.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 22 double-doubles this season) is an NBA prospect and a defensive force down low. While the Bison aren't a threat from three, they never turn the ball over (15.3 percent turnover rate, second in the nation), crash the boards and play solid defense (43rd in defensive efficiency according to KenPom).
The best way to beat the Bison is by jacking up threes, but that plays against Butler's strengths. Butler will go from being everyone's favorite Cinderella to an ugly stepsister in the second round.
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