The first round of the NCAA Tournament is ready to be harvested.
The product that college basketball fans hope to get their hands on is the classic upset. When it comes to the Big Dance, there are two kinds of upsets. For many fans, an upset takes place when a seed with a higher number defeats an opponent with a lower number.
For example, if 12th-seeded Davidson defeats perennial power and fifth-seeded Kentucky, that's an upset.
However, basketball handicappers are looking for the point-spread upset. Butler is a 1.5-point favorite over Arkansas, even though the Razorbacks are the seventh seed and the Bulldogs are the No. 10 seed. If the Razorbacks win the game, it would be considered an upset from a handicapping perspective but not from a bracket-breakdown perspective.
For the purpose of this piece, we will look at the traditional bracket-busting upset as well as the point-spread upset. In most cases, the higher-seeded team is the favorite, but as we pointed out with Butler and Arkansas, that is not always the case.
Point spreads provided by OddsShark; all times Eastern.
Loyola-Chicago (11) vs. Miami (6), March 15, 3:10 p.m., Dallas; Miami (-2.5)
The Hurricanes have a strong ACC pedigree while the Ramblers are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985.
Loyola won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title as well as the conference tournament, and head coach Porter Moser has a solid, hustling team that is capable of playing hard-nosed defense and getting the job done by employing solid team basketball on offense.
The Ramblers allow 62.2 points per game, ranking fifth in the nation. They are led by Clayton Custer who is averaging 13.4 points per game and shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Donte Ingram is scoring 11.6 points per night, while Marques Townes is adding 11.2 points per game. Additionally, the Ramblers have two other contributors in double figures in Aundre Jackson and Cameron Krutwig.
The Ramblers come into this game having won 10 straight games, while Miami is just 4-4 in its last eight games.
Prediction: Loyola-Chicago 69, Miami 61
Providence (10) vs. Texas A&M (7), March 16, 12:15 p.m., Charlotte, NC; Texas A&M (-3.5)
The Friars are coming off a great run in the Big East tournament as they made it to the championship game against Villanova and extended the Wildcats to overtime before dropping a 76-66 decision.
Prior to facing Villanova, the Friars beat Creighton and Xavier, and the Musketeers have been awarded the top seed in the West regional.
The Friars are led by Rodney Bullock, who is averaging 14.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per night. Alpha Diallo is a game-changing player who scores 13.0 points and comes down with 6.6 rebounds per night. The Friars have confidence based on their performance in the Big East Tournament, and they should be ready for a peak performance.
Texas A&M has lost four of its last seven games, and they have struggled in the second half of the season.
Prediction: Providence 77, Texas A&M 75
Butler (10) vs. Arkansas (7), March 16, 3:10 p.m., Detroit; Butler (-1.5)
The Bulldogs are the lower seed, even though they are the favorites in this game. This is an upset possibility because head coach LaVall Jordan should be able to rally his team to a peak performance in this first-round NCAA Tournament game.
Butler has beaten Seton Hall, Creighton, Providence and Ohio State this season, and the Bulldogs are a strong offensive team averaging 79.1 points per game. Forward Kelan Martin is averaging a team-high 20.8 points per game, and he connects on 44.1 percent of his shots from the field.
Guard Kamar Baldwin is scoring 15.5 points per night, and guard Paul Jorgensen is adding 10.5 points per night.
Arkansas has struggled on defense, as the Razorbacks are giving up 75.5 points per game.
Prediction: Butler 83, Arkansas 78