Teams on Upset Alert in Day 5 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Thursday’s NCAA tournament action proved just why it is called March Madness, and the good news for fans is that those same teams take the court again Saturday in the round of 32.
Dayton hit a game-winning shot against Ohio State and now gets a crack at Syracuse, Florida struggled to separate itself from No. 16 seed Albany, San Diego State was taken to overtime by New Mexico State and even Louisville—the defending champions—narrowly escaped an upset bid from Manhattan.
We will undoubtedly see more upsets in the coming days from this group of teams, including in the round of 32, which starts Saturday.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few teams that are officially on upset alert on the fifth day of the tournament. Recent results, overall talent on the rosters, how teams match up with their opponents and momentum were specifically taken into account when determining which teams made this list and which ones did not.
Villanova (No. 2 Seed, East Region)
There won’t be a single matchup in the round of 32 with more familiarity between the two teams than the showdown between No. 2 Villanova and No. 7 Connecticut.
These old Big East rivals will meet again with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line, and you can be assured the Huskies won’t really care about the No. 2 seed denomination next to the Wildcats name on the bracket.
Connecticut dug out of a halftime deficit to outlast Saint Joseph’s in overtime in the round of 64. Shabazz Napier scored 24 points, but he struggled from the field and shot 7-of-22. To his credit though, he stuffed the stat sheet by adding eight rebounds, six assists and three steals and was the focal point of the offense down the stretch.
The fact that the Huskies were able to win against a dangerous Saint Joseph’s team with their star struggling to hit his shots bodes well for the Villanova matchup. Napier can take over a game by himself and will likely be connecting at a more consistent clip in the next game.
Villanova isn’t getting much respect for a No. 2 seed though, and will have a chance to prove itself against an old foe.
Wisconsin (No. 2 Seed, West Region)
This year’s Wisconsin team is not the slow, plodding squad fans have become accustomed to under Bo Ryan. Just because Wisconsin scores at a more efficient rate than in the past doesn’t mean it wants to get in a track meet with Oregon, though.
The athletic Ducks dominated BYU Thursday to the tune of 87-68 and have only lost one game in the past 10 (against a red-hot UCLA team).
Joseph Young, Mike Moser and Johnathan Loyd provide athleticism and length across the board, which will be difficult for the Badgers to deal with for 40 minutes. If Oregon gets contributions off the bench like it did from Elgin Cook against BYU (23 points and eight rebounds), it will be in even better shape to upset Wisconsin.
That being said, the Badgers are ranked No. 5 in Ken Pomeroy’s pace-adjusted offensive efficiency ratings for a reason. As long as they keep the tempo at a level they can thrive in, the Badgers will ultimately find a way to prevail behind timely scoring.
That’s much easier said than done against Oregon, though.
San Diego State (No. 4 Seed, West Region)
San Diego State escaped in overtime against New Mexico State in the round of 64 after blowing a double-digit lead in the second half.
It still counts the same as a 30-point win does, though, when we are in the survive-and-advance stages of March. North Dakota State also went to overtime in its first game against Oklahoma.
What was most impressive about the victory over the Sooners for the No. 12 seed Bison was the fact they won the game despite the shooting struggles from superstar Taylor Braun. He finished 3-of-11 from the field, yet North Dakota State still managed to upset a team from the mighty Big 12.
Lawrence Alexander picked up the slack with 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He also hit the critical three-pointer that put the contest into overtime.
The Bison are the top team in the country when it comes to field-goal percentage. On the other side, San Diego State is ranked 118th in Pomeroy’s offensive ratings, so if North Dakota State can score early and often (and Braun has an expected bounce-back performance), it will be difficult for the Aztecs to recover.
Florida (No. 1 Seed, South Region)
Perhaps nobody turned in a more dominant performance in the round of 64 than Pittsburgh in its 77-48 beatdown of Colorado.
The fact that it came in a contest between a No. 8 and No. 9 seed made it all the more startling.
The top overall seed Florida Gators came out sluggish against No. 16 seed Albany in a game that was actually tied in the second half. It appeared as if Billy Donovan’s team was simply going through the motions, so expect a much higher energy level against the Panthers in the round of 32.
Behind Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna—who scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds against Colorado—Pittsburgh has won four of its last five games. The only loss in that stretch was a three-point heartbreaker against No. 1 seed Virginia in the ACC tournament.
With Patterson on the outside, Zanna on the inside and some late-season momentum in their corner, the Panthers can challenge the senior-laden Gators for 40 minutes. Florida will likely come away with a victory, but it will need to play at a much higher level than it did against Albany in its first tournament game.