Upsets happen throughout the NCAA tournament, and the round of 64 is where you’ll find the most shocking defeats that will reshape the tournament landscape.
Statistics, records and rationality only go so far. At some point, things get a little crazy in the Big Dance.
With action now underway, it’s time to preview some of the matchups that could yield massive second-round upsets.
The hatches are sealed and no one is getting off the ride. Buckle up and enjoy it, because there’s a lot of great basketball to be played in the next three weeks.
No. 11 St. Mary’s over No. 6 Memphis
First-round winners aren’t going to get a lot of attention in the round of 64, but there’s one team everyone should be watching out for.
The St. Mary’s Gaels, led by supremely talented point guard Matthew Dellavedova, bested Middle Tennessee in the first round of action in convincing fashion. With a 22-point performance from Dellavedova, the Gaels cruised to a 67-54 victory with a second-round matchup against No. 6 Memphis on the horizon.
St. Mary’s isn’t an ordinary play-in team. Balance, experience and quality defense are the Gaels’ calling card, and Memphis is in for a surprise when the two squads square off on Thursday.
The Gaels average 74.6 points per game and hold opponents to an average total of just 63 points. While an 11-plus point scoring differential in the WCC isn’t astounding, St. Mary’s record (28-6) certainly is.
Three of the team’s six losses came at the hands of Gonzaga, two of the three games were extremely close contests. The Gaels can hang with the best teams in the country, and they’ll prove it against Memphis.
Prediction: St. Mary's 72, Memphis 68
No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Syracuse
Syracuse is a sexy Sweet 16 pick because of its No. 4 seeding. A seemingly underrated team, the Orange is a smart upset pick later in the tournament, right?
Syracuse is one of the weaker top seeds in the tournament, and a late-season collapse doesn’t bode well for its tournament chances. Dropping eight of its last 16 games to close out the regular season, the Orange will struggle to create any semblance of momentum in the early rounds.
The Grizzlies, however, lost just two games in the final three months of the season. Led by senior forward Mathia Ward and junior swingman Kareem Jamar, Montana can also score a lot of points, and the Grizzlies do it efficiently with a 47.4-percent mark from the field.
Bovada.lv lists Memphis as a 1.5-point favorite, adding further evidence that things aren’t always as they appear. Montana may be a No. 13 seed, but it isn’t leaving the tournament without a win.
If the numbers alone don’t make this an intriguing upset pick, consider this: A No. 13 seed has won in the round of 64 each of the last five years. With a strong showing Thursday, Montana will continue that streak.
Prediction: Montana 67, Syracuse 64
No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA
With wins over Wisconsin and Indiana in the regular season, Minnesota proved it has the talent to hang with any team in the country. With a brutal Big Ten schedule in their rear-view, the Golden Gophers have the experience to make a splash in the Big Dance.
As good as UCLA was at times this year, it also has the disadvantage of lacking elite veteran talent. Forward Shabazz Muhammad is the team’s leading scorer, but he’s a true freshman with no tournament experience, and he’ll be without freshman running mate Jordan Adams in the tournament. The Bruins’ second-leading scorer is out with a broken foot.
Minnesota’s defense has been impressive this season, holding opponents to just 61.7 points per game. With Adams out and an inexperienced Muhammad left to shoulder UCLA’s offense, the Golden Gophers are in terrific position to play the upset role in Round 2.
Minnesota may be a lower seed, but Bovada.lv lists the Gophers as three-point favorites over No. 6 UCLA. Make sure to tune in for this one.
Prediction: Minnesota 62, UCLA 57
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