NCAA Tournament 2014: Breaking Down Early Upset Picks

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2014

Mar 15, 2014; Katy, TX, USA; Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks teammates celebrate during the final seconds of the game against the Sam Houston State Bearkats in the championship game for the Southland Conference college basketball tournament at Merrell Center. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks won 68-49. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness is here and with it, the opportunity for major upsets. 

The 2014 NCAA tournament field is set following Selection Sunday, with 68 teams still alive in the journey to be crowned national champion. 


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Credit: Bleacher Report


You can't have madness without upsets. Below I'll break down some early upset picks to watch for in the round of 64 this week. 


No. 11 Iowa/Tennessee Over No. 6 Massachusetts  

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: Chaz Williams #3 of the Massachusetts Minutemen lies on the court reacting to a call in the second half against the George Washington Colonials during the Quarterfinals of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barcla
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Regardless of which team advances in Wednesday's first-round showdown between Iowa and Tennessee, look for the winner to upend sixth-seeded Massachusetts, who stumbled to a 10-6 finish in the Atlantic 10 after dropping just one game out of conference.

Led by senior guard Chaz Williams, the Minutemen are an excellent passing team and also solid on the boards. However, Massachusetts is also turnover-prone, committing 13.5 per game this season.

On top of that, the Minutemen aren't a dangerous team from beyond the arc, hitting at a rate of just 34.7 percent in 2013-14.

In Tennessee, Massachusetts would be facing off against a dangerous and confident team that will have won six of its past seven games coming in. On the other hand, in Iowa, Massachusetts would be battling one of the best scoring and rebounding teams in the nation.  

Either way, the Minutemen appear set for an early exit this March.


No. 12 Stephen F. Austin Over No. 5 VCU

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16:  Director Spike Lee yells to the refs in the first half of the game between the Virginia Commonwealth Rams and the Saint Joseph's Hawks during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays C
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The 12th-seeded Lumberjacks enter the Big Dance in the midst of a 28-game winning streak that began in late November and therefore should be viewed as a legitimate threat to advance to the round of 32, per USA Today's Eric Prisbell:

VCU is a tough team and will be favored to escape, but its offensive woes could come back to haunt it. 

After all, the Rams are only shooting 42 percent from the field as a team this season. That ranks 284th in the country and is well below Stephen F. Austin, who ranks 67th, hitting at a clip of 46.4 percent. The Lumberjacks are also one of the top passing teams in the nation, racking up nearly 17 assists per game, which ranks them eighth in the country.

It's fair to call out their lacking resume, but there's no denying the upset potential of this particular No. 12 vs. No. 5 matchup.


No. 13 New Mexico State Over No. 4 San Diego State

Dec 11, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski (35) defends New Mexico State Aggies center Sim Bhullar (2) during the first half at McKale Center. Arizona won 74-48. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs are the highest-seeded Mountain West team and one of only two teams from the conference in the tournament field, but keep in mind that at least one No. 4 seed has fallen in each of the past six years.

And given the fact that the Aztecs aren't a potent offensive team, there's a good chance that they'll struggle to pull away from No. 13 New Mexico State, one of the most accurate shooting teams in the entire country. 

The Aggies shoot 49 percent from the floor as a team (ninth-best nationally) and also boast a unique presence inside in 7'5", 355-pound center Sim Bhullar.

San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher certainly isn't looking past the upset-minded Aggies, per the Associated Press' Bernie Wilson"There will be a San Diego State connection when we play Marvin and New Mexico State, and we will look forward to the challenge. They're a good team."

It also doesn't hurt that New Mexico State is riding a five-game winning streak into the Big Dance. 

If a No. 13 seed is going to advance to the round of 32 for the seventh straight year, watch for it to be the overlooked Aggies in the wide-open West Region.


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