Teams on Upset Alert in Day 3 of 2023 Men's NCAA Tournament

Alex BallentineMarch 18, 2023

Teams on Upset Alert in Day 3 of 2023 Men's NCAA Tournament

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    Gradey Dick and Kansas should be on high alert Saturday.
    Gradey Dick and Kansas should be on high alert Saturday. AP Photo/Morry Gash

    Upsets are the lifeblood of the first two weekends of the men's NCAA tournament. The 2023 version delivered a few magical upsets on opening day.

    No. 15 seed Princeton delivered the biggest one of the day. The Tigers smashed brackets and broke hearts with their 59-55 win over No. 2 seed Arizona.

    In all, three teams seeded 10 or lower moved on to the round of 32 on Day 1 of the tournament. Saturday's slate now provides more opportunities for stunning results as those double-digit seeds will be joined by the likes of No. 8 Arkansas, No. 9 Auburn and No. 8 Maryland in an attempt to shake things up.

    Thursday's results reminded us just how hard it is to navigate the bracket—even as a favorite. As we move on to Saturday's slate, these five teams who are favored by the betting odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and seeding should be on upset alert.

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Houston Cougars (Midwest Region, No. 1 Seed)

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    Jamal Shead needs to be healthy for the Cougars to be their best.
    Jamal Shead needs to be healthy for the Cougars to be their best.AP Photo/Butch Dill

    Opponent: No. 9 Auburn

    Moneyline: Houston -250

    It's only one game into the tournament, but it's hard to feel good about the Houston Cougars right now. They came into the Big Dance off a 10-point loss to the Memphis Tigers in the AAC Championship Game.

    The Tigers went on to be an eighth seed in the tournament. Now, Houston faces a dangerous No. 9 seed in Auburn. The Tigers were part of a strong opening day for the SEC. Five of the six teams from the conference who played Thursday advanced to Saturday.

    Houston struggled to completely put the game out of reach against No. 16 seed Northern Kentucky, winning 63-52.

    More concerning is the fact that Marcus Sasser—the Cougars' leading scorer—was pulled from the game after re-aggravating the groin injury that kept him out of the loss to Memphis. To make matters worse, Jamal Shead hyperextended his knee against the Norse. Head coach Kelvin Sampson showed some concern for the team's health heading into their second-round matchup.

    "We got to go see how many healthy bodies we have right now," he told media after the game. "That's probably our most important thing."

    Now they have to play Auburn in Birmingham with a potentially hobbled lineup. It's a much more difficult scenario than most No. 1 seeds see in the second round.

Kansas Jayhawks (West Region, No. 1 Seed)

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    Jalen Wilson of Kansas
    Jalen Wilson of KansasMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Opponent: No. 8 Arkansas

    Moneyline: Kansas -175

    Kansas' appearance on this list doesn't have anything to do with its performance in the first round. The Jayhawks did what a No. 1 seed is supposed to do, beating No. 16 seed Howard 96-68.

    This has everything to do with an Arkansas team that could be better than its seed would indicate. The Razorbacks were in control for most of their 73-63 win over Illinois. They held the Illini to 38.5 percent shooting from the field, including 27.3 percent from three-point range.

    Arkansas doesn't shoot the three enough to be your typical upset candidate, but it is incredibly physical. The Razorbacks dominated the offensive rebounds, securing 11 extra possessions while limiting Illinois to just three offensive boards. They also showed how good they are at getting to the line, getting 29 free-throw attempts.

    A week ago, this Kansas team lost to Texas in the Big 12 tournament final by 20 points. In that game, it shot just 23.5 percent from three and let the Longhorns grab 10 offensive rebounds. Arkansas could follow suit.

    The Razorbacks aren't as good as Texas, but their play style and star power with Nick Smith Jr., Ricky Council IV and Anthony Black are good enough to give Kansas all it can handle in the round of 32.

Missouri Tigers (South Region, No. 7 Seed)

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    D'Moi Hodge of Missouri
    D'Moi Hodge of MissouriThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Opponent: No. 15 Princeton

    Moneyline: Missouri -275

    Missouri was supposed to be the team hunting for an upset in the round of 32. Princeton had other ideas, though, shocking Arizona in the round of 64. Now the SEC Tigers will be the ones hunted by the upset-hungry Ivy League Tigers.

    Missouri played a great game against a good Utah State team. There's no concern there. The Tigers were in control for most of the game, made 40 percent of their three-pointers and forced 15 turnovers to disrupt the Aggies offense.

    They are on upset watch because of what Princeton did to Arizona and what we've seen can happen after an upset of that magnitude. Saint Peter's rode an upset of Kentucky as a No. 15 seed all the way to the Elite Eight.

    What makes Princeton scary is that nothing jumps out on the box score of its win over Arizona. The Tigers didn't get hot from three (4-of-25), they didn't hold a sharp rebounding advantage (38-37) and they only shot five free throws (making three of them).

    What they did was play great team defense, limiting Arizona to 42.1 percent shooting and forcing 13 turnovers. They also didn't give up. They trailed by 10 points with eight minutes left and just continued to battle.

    Belief is a dangerous thing this time of year. Mitch Henderson's team seems to have plenty of it, and Missouri can't afford to take Princeton lightly.

San Diego State Aztecs (South Region, No. 5 Seed)

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    Matt Bradley of San Diego State
    Matt Bradley of San Diego StateLance King/Getty Images

    Opponent: No. 13 Furman

    Moneyline: San Diego State -240

    The San Diego State Aztecs were on upset watch in the first round against an experienced College of Charleston team that hadn't lost in six weeks. The Cougars made things interesting, but the Aztecs closed the game by scoring 10 of the last 14 points to win 63-57.

    That was something Virginia wasn't able to do against the Furman Paladins. The No. 13 seed had a steal and three-pointer to take the lead with just 2.2 seconds left.

    The Southern Conference champions are an efficient team on offense (32nd in KenPom's offensive efficiency), and that can be a problem for a team that likes to play as slow as Virginia. San Diego State isn't quite as deliberate as the Cavaliers, but they do rank 253rd in KenPom's adjusted tempo metric.

    The Aztecs couldn't pull away from Charleston despite limiting them to 32.1 percent shooting from the field.

    Furman's offense has been better than Charleston's statistically throughout the season. The Paladins aren't afraid to hoist up a ton of threes. San Diego State is going to have to fly around on defense to keep this one on lock.

    The Aztecs will likely be sweating this one out in the end.

Texas Longhorns (Midwest Region, No. 2 Seed)

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    Sir'Jabari Rice and Marcus Carr of Texas
    Sir'Jabari Rice and Marcus Carr of TexasMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Opponent: No. 10 Penn State

    Moneyline: Texas -230

    The Longhorns are one of the hottest teams in the country. The problem is that the Nittany Lions are too.

    Penn State caught fire in the Big Ten tournament, getting to the final as the No. 10 seed. That momentum carried over to the first round of the NCAA tournament in its 76-59 win over Texas A&M. That's an Aggies team that made it to the SEC tournament final.

    The Aggies didn't really stand a chance with Andrew Funk connecting on eight of his 10 three-point attempts and guard Jalen Pickett doing his thing with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

    The Nittany Lions' offensive capabilities are going to make them a dangerous team as long as they are in the tournament.

    That's even true for a Texas team that won the Big 12 tournament championship game by 20 points and did the same to Colgate.

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