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Teams on Upset Alert on Sunday in the 2017 NCAA Tournament

Scott PhillipsFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2017

Teams on Upset Alert on Sunday in the 2017 NCAA Tournament

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The first round of the NCAA tournament might not have produced the number of upsets some fans were looking for, but Saturday's second-round action got the underdogs back on track.

    Sunday's contests could see even more of the same, as there are a number of scary situations for higher-seeded teams.

    Indianapolis is going to be the place to watch for potential upsets. No. 2 seeds Louisville and Kentucky both draw difficult matchups in the Midwest and South Regions, respectively.

    While the Bluegrass rivals are high on upset alert, a couple of Pac-12 schools should also be on the lookout for a close game. UCLA and Oregon will both face stiff tests as No. 3 seeds.

    Here are the matchups to keep an eye on with regards to Sunday upsets.

Oregon

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    Dillon Brooks
    Dillon BrooksThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 11 Rhode Island (Midwest Region)

    Can Rhode Island continue its magical run and make it back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1998?

    That's what the Rams are hoping for. They've won nine consecutive games entering Sunday's second-round clash with Oregon.

    Playing in postseason mode over the final few weeks of the season when it was still fighting for an at-large bid, Rhode Island appears to be peaking at the right time, and it has the interior depth to give the Ducks some issues.

    Since Oregon is still adjusting to the loss of senior big man Chris Boucher, who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the Rams could hope to wear down the Ducks on the interior by getting guys like Jordan Bell and Kavell Bigby-Williams into foul trouble.

    Rhode Island is a poor perimeter-shooting team, ranking No. 257 in three-point percentage at 33.4 percent on the season. The team is going to look to get to the basket behind attacking guards like E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell, while veteran big men like Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson can handle things on the interior.

    Oregon can counter Rhode Island's offensive attack with its No. 1 block rate on defense, but that was also accumulated when the Ducks had the added benefit of Boucher in the rotation as another strong rim protector. With a depleted interior, Oregon could be susceptible to an upset if Rhode Island can get its offense going toward the rim.

UCLA

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    Bryce Alford
    Bryce AlfordRich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 6 Cincinnati (South Region)

    The extreme contrast in style of play will be the key factor to watch in this one as the high-flying Bruins battle Cincinnati. 

    UCLA has one of the best offenses in the nation: It comes into Sunday's matchup ranked No. 2 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Not only can the Bruins put up points, but they also like playing fast, often trying to play as many offensive possessions as possible. They rank No. 13 in adjusted tempo this season because they prefer to play at a breakneck pace that gets them easy looks early in the shot clock.

    Cincinnati will want the exact opposite tempo-wise. The Bearcats have traditionally been a slower team under head coach Mick Cronin, and this season is no different. The team is No. 328 in the nation in tempo.

    Playing slower and with physicality is going to be very important if the Bearcats want to throw UCLA off its rhythm. If Cincinnati can get on the offensive glass and extend possessions, it would also do a lot to help the team hang with the Bruins.

    While the Bearcats rank No. 21 in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage at 35.7 percent, the Bruins have been average at keeping opposing teams from getting the ball back off the glass. They're No. 159 in opposing offensive rebounding percentage.

    A few offensive rebounds and some slower possessions from Cincinnati means UCLA might have to grind this one out if it hopes to move on to the Sweet 16.  

Kentucky

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    Malik Monk
    Malik MonkMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 10 Wichita State (South Region)

    This contest in Indianapolis is a second-round NCAA tournament rematch from three years ago, when No. 1 seed Wichita State saw its unbeaten season end at the hands of No. 9 seed Kentucky during a thrilling game in St. Louis.

    Most of the players have changed since that matchup, but the intrigue surrounding this game is still very much in place. This time, it's Kentucky playing the role of higher seed and national title contender as the young Wildcats hope to continue a recent hot streak.

    Facing a 10th-seeded Wichita State team that many feel was grossly under-seeded by the committee won't be easy for Kentucky.

    "[They're] like a 4-seed, like a 4- or 5-seed maybe," Dayton head coach Archie Miller said after losing to the Shockers in the first round, per Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com. "Thirty-some wins, and you look at the numbers across the board. I mean, every coach studies the analytics.

    "They're a team that can beat anybody on a neutral court at any time, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were pushing toward another second weekend. They're a great team, and they're really well coached, maybe as fun of a team to prepare for as we've had."

    It's hard to know how Wichita State will handle an elite squad like Kentucky since Dayton was the first 2017 NCAA tournament team the Shockers have defeated this season. But Miller has a valid point.

    KenPom rates the Shockers as the No. 7 team in the country based on its advanced metrics, while Kentucky sits just two spots ahead of them at No. 5. 

    The computer numbers are certainly strong for Wichita State, but the Shockers making three-pointers could be the key to beating Kentucky. Wichita State ranks as the No. 8 three-point shooting team in the country at 40.5 percent overall, while the Wildcats have the No. 10 three-point defense, allowing only 30.5 percent of opposing threes.

    If Wichita State can knock down perimeter shots, it'll have a shot at getting revenge by taking down Kentucky.

Louisville

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    Donovan Mitchell
    Donovan MitchellMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 7 Michigan (Midwest Region)

    This clash in Indianapolis might be the most entertaining game of the day. 

    Louisville remains dangerous as a No. 2 seed, but it's running into a red-hot Michigan squad that has won six consecutive games, including four straight wins over NCAA tournament teams.

    The phrase "Team of Destiny" is repeatedly being thrown around with regards to the Wolverines. They've come together for a great postseason run after a scary incident grounded the team plane in high winds last week before the Big Ten tournament.

    Destiny aside, Michigan senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. is playing at an elite level and has been the engine that makes the Wolverine offense go. Over his last six games, Walton Jr. is averaging 21.0 points, 8.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. He's gone head-to-head against top point guards like Minnesota's Nate Mason and Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans and come out on top.

    Besides Michigan and Walton's recent strong play, this could be a tough matchup for Louisville because of the way the Wolverines space the floor with their big men.

    Michigan ranks No. 4 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 35 in the nation in three-point percentage. It can take Louisville big men Mangok Mathiang and Anas Mahmoud away from the rim using certain floor-spacing lineups. Louisville has a very respectable three-point defense at No. 31 in the country, and it also protects the rim at an elite level with the No. 7 overall block rate (15.3 percent).

    If Michigan big men Moe Wagner, D.J. Wilson and Duncan Robinson knock down shots, while also holding their own inside on the other end, they could neutralize Louisville's shot-blocking advantage at the rim and help the Wolverines advance.

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