Everyone loves rooting for a good upset in March Madness, and those who love underdogs should have some big reasons to cheer in coming games of the NCAA tournament.
Lightly regarded teams like Mercer and Stephen F. Austin have already made people stand up and take notice, but there are a few games on the slate of the fourth day of the NCAA tournament that are primed to produce some more shocking results.
In fact, there’s a pair of high seeds that could find themselves out of the tournament earlier than expected.
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(10) Stanford vs. (2) Kansas
The Jayhawks are a team loaded with talent, but they have to be concerned about missing dynamic freshman Joel Embiid.
Embiid isn’t just an offensive threat in the post—putting up 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game—but he’s also a defense weapon for Kansas. Not only does Bill Self’s squad lose Embiid’s offense for this game, but they also miss out on his 2.6 blocks and .9 steals per game.
That could be an issue against the upset minded Stanford Cardinal.
Stanford plays a three-forward lineup, throwing out the 6-foot-11 Stefan Nastic at center and the 6-foot-10 Dwight Powell and 6-foot-7 Josh Huestis at the forward spots.
Without Embiid, the Jayhawks have been playing a three-guard look with Tarik Black essentially taking the center’s role.
Black has played well in stretches, putting up 12 points and four blocks in a decent performance in the team’s first game of the tournament, he’ll have handful guarding Stanford’s big men.
Perry Ellis should be able to help him out, but Kansas will need his offense as much as his defense.
Stanford is a veteran team, and head coach Johnny Dawkins has them confident they can hang with bigger teams like Kansas.
"Only a handful of teams thinks they can actually win the thing. We're going to be one of those teams,” Dawkins told Jeff Faraudo of The San Jose Mercury News.
The Jayhawks would be wise not to take them lightly.
(8) Memphis vs. (1) Virginia
Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers have made a living of throttling opponents with their superior defense and methodical offense—Josh Pastner’s Tigers are almost their polar opposite.
Memphis loves to run, and if they can goad Virginia into playing its game, the Tigers can down one of the tourney’s top seeds.
Doing so will be a tall task for Pastner’s bunch. After all, Virginia plays at staggeringly slow pace, averaging 62.4 possessions per game—that puts them at the fifth slowest rate of play in the whole country.
By contrast, Memphis is 35th in the nation with 72.6, and there’s little doubt Pastner will try and exploit this difference.
But if they can’t, they have options. They were able to match wits with George Washington when the Colonials tried to slow them down, as Lauren Brownlow of Fox Sports Tennessee details.
Memphis showed great patience against George Washington, winning a 60-possession game -- its second-fewest this season.
Memphis has been able to impose its own up-tempo style on opponents, rarely having a game with fewer than 60 possessions when those are all too common in today's college basketball world.
When George Washington went to a 1-3-1 zone, Memphis just stayed patient and attacked it by getting into the teeth of it rather than jacking up three-pointers. Memphis attempted 17 first-half three-pointers but just five in the second half.
The Tigers aren’t scared of big opponents—their pair of wins over Louisville and incredibly close loss to Florida proves they know how to compete with the best.
But Virginia is so radically different in style that they might have trouble adjusting.
Yet should they jump out to a quick lead force the Cavs to start taking quick shots, they can control this game.
Pastner knows how to handle teams like this, and although he has yet to face one of Virginia’s quality, the Tigers could absolutely pull the upset.
Nearly every observer expected both Kansas and Virginia to find their way into the Sweet 16, but they upstart teams could stop that all from happening.