NCAA Tournament 2014: Upset Predictions for Second Round

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NCAA Tournament 2014: Upset Predictions for Second Round
Elijah Van Benschoten/Associated Press

The first week of the NCAA tournament provides an environment unlike any other in American sports.

Among the biggest reasons people like to play hooky from work or school during the opening rounds is to see the upsets—Cinderella teams coming out of nowhere to knock off heavy favorites.

With 16 games on Thursday and 16 more on Friday, there are sure to be some upsets in the second round of the Big Dance. Here's a look at a couple of contests where the underdogs have a good shot at emerging with a victory.

 

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(No. 12) North Dakota State over (No. 5) Oklahoma

Date: Thursday, March 20

Time: 7:27 p.m. EDT

TV: truTV

Live Stream: March Madness Live

For whatever reason, it always seems like the No. 12 vs. No. 5 matchup is the most prone to upsets, and this year is no exception. Looking at the bracket, you could make a sound argument that all No. 12 seeds could knock off their respective opponents in the second round.

Playing in the Summit League doesn't do much to bolster North Dakota State's national profile, but don't sleep on the Bison. Leading the charge for NDSU (25-6) is 6'7" guard Taylor Braun, who is averaging 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 44.1 percent from behind the arc in his senior year.

Braun, an Oregon native, recently told John Canzano of The Oregonian how proud he was to make the NCAA tournament with NDSU after being overlooked by the Pac-12 schools in his home state.

(It) has been a goal of mine, a dream of mine, the minute I signed with a Division I team. Oregon State is sitting home. I've had the opportunity to play against a couple of Pac-12 schools. It gives me incentive. I want to make them feel like they missed out on a good player. But I was given an opportunity here. I wouldn't change it.

Braun is not alone, though, as forward Marshall Bjorklund (13.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG), forward TrayVonn Wright (11.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG) and guard Lawrence Alexander (10.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG) also averaged double-digit points on the season.

NDSU led Division I with a 50.9 shooting percentage, while the Sooners (23-9) ranked 132nd (45.1 percent). There's no doubting the talent on its roster, but Oklahoma also tends to rely on the three-point shot too much.

Still, NDSU's backcourt will have its hands full against Oklahoma's collection of guards, like Buddy Hield (16.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG), Isaiah Cousins (10.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG) and Jordan Woodard (10.3 PPG, 4.7 APG).

But without a single player listed above 6'8", the Sooners also won't have the traditional size advantage that power-conference teams tend to have over smaller schools like NDSU. Braun has the potential to create some serious mismatch problems and with a strong supporting cast, the Bison look primed to move on to the third round.

 

(No. 10) St. Joseph's over (No. 7) UConn

Date: Thursday, March 20

Time: 6:55 p.m. EDT

TV: CBS

Live Stream: March Madness Live

With so much parity in college basketball, you can argue that it wouldn't be an upset for any No. 10 seed to come out of the second round with a victory and advance to the weekend. It certainly wouldn't be surprising to see St. Joseph's (24-9) beat UConn, in a matchup that will feature two talented guards leading their respective teams.

According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, St. Joe's stands a fair shot at winning on Thursday.

St. Joe's won the Atlantic 10 conference tournament on Sunday with a 65-61 victory over NCAA tourney No. 5 seed VCU, so the Hawks have to be feeling confident going into this matchup with the Huskies.

Perhaps it's no surprise that senior guard Langston Galloway played a starring role in that title-game victory for the Hawks, as he has averaged 17.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game this season. What makes him deadly is his three-point shooting, though, as he averages 3.2 converted attempts on 43.9 percent from behind the arc.

Dustin Hockensmith of PennLive.com detailed why the Hawks can win on Wednesday.

Galloway is an assassin from long range with a trend of making big-time shots when they matter most. … the Hawks have been consistently tested in the A-10 and are playing some of their best basketball at the right time. … SJU is led by upperclassmen, including the senior trio of Galloway, (Ronald) Roberts and (Halil) Kanacevic. … if this game is close late, which it likely will be, veteran composure could be the difference.

UConn (26-8) has also been playing well as of late, with two recent losses to a top-notch Louisville squad marring an otherwise strong finish to the season. Huskies guard Shabazz Napier (17.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.9 APG) can be a one-man wrecking crew, but I suspect Galloway and the scrappy Hawks to keep riding their momentum into the third round, where they will likely face No. 2 Villanova.

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