Teams on Upset Alert in Day 2 of the 2019 NCAA Men's Tournament
It's Bracket 101 to choose at least a few No. 11 and No. 12 seeds to win their first-round games.
The No. 11 seeds in the NCAA men's basketball tournament have won 51 times in 136 opening matchups, according to NCAA.com, good for a 37.5 percent win rate.
The No. 12 seeds are not far behind with a 34.6 percent win rate. Just five times in the past 34 years has at least one 12th seed failed to advance beyond the first round.
Not surprisingly, in our Day 1 upset alert article, we focused exclusively on the two No. 5 seeds and two No. 6 seeds that were in action.
Day 2 is a bit trickier.
Buffalo and Iowa State both look like No. 6 seeds that are not only safe bets to win their opening game, but also legitimate candidates to make a deep tournament run.
As a result, we have widened our scope a bit to include a pair of No. 4 seeds that should be anything but comfortable as the tournament get underway.
Kansas State (South Region, No. 4 Seed)
Opponent: No. 13 UC Irvine (30-5, NET: 68)
Point Spread: Kansas State (-4½)
The health of 6'10" sharpshooter Dean Wade was a major question mark during Kansas State's surprise run to the Elite Eight last season.
Things seem a bit more cut-and-dry this time around.
"He's made some progress, but I would say he’s doubtful," coach Bruce Weber told reporters. "We can’t put him in jeopardy. He’d love to play, it’s not him at all. The injury was more severe than we ever anticipated. It's going to take a little time."
Wade re-injured his right foot in the Big 12 tournament against Oklahoma, after missing six games earlier in the season.
That's a huge blow to the Wildcats. Not only do they lose a player who averages 12.9 points per game on 41.8 percent three-point shooting, but also a senior leader who can create opportunities for his teammates.
That leaves a good UC Irvine team well-positioned for a potential upset. The Anteaters had nonconference road wins against Saint Mary's and Texas A&M, and their defense can be a real problem for opponents.
Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller wrote: "The Anteaters lead the nation in two-point field-goal defense. But they also have one of the lowest defensive three-point rates, meaning they are great at baiting opponents into trying to score against that great interior defense."
If you want to pick against a No. 4 seed, this is the matchup.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (East Region, No. 5 Seed)
Opponent: No. 12 Liberty (28-6, NET: 58)
Point Spread: Mississippi State (-6½)
The Liberty Flames have the offensive efficiency and balance to keep up with a major conference team.
The Atlantic Sun champions shot 49.1 percent from the field (12th in NCAA) and 58.5 percent from inside the arc (fourth in NCAA)—all while taking care of the basketball (just over 10 turnovers per game).
They don't solely operate inside the arc, either. The Flames shoot a respectable 36.8 percent (63rd in NCAA) from deep and boast five different players who average at least one made three-pointer per game.
All of that could pose a problem for a Mississippi State team that has seemingly been coasting for months: After scoring nonconference wins over Cincinnati, Clemson, Dayton, Saint Mary's and Wofford, they went 0-5 against the top three teams in the SEC and 10-8 overall in conference play.
The Bulldogs can also get sloppy, as they average 13.3 turnovers per game, which could lead to some costly momentum swings against a disciplined opponent.
Seeded above a No. 16 for the first time in school history, the Flames have their sights set on an upset.
Virginia Tech Hokies (East Region, No. 4 Seed)
Opponent: No. 13 Saint Louis (23-12, NET: 103)
Point Spread: Virginia Tech (-10½)
A team that's a 10½-point favorite is on upset alert?
Despite a NET outside the top 100, Saint Louis should not be taken lightly. The Billikens upset Dayton (NET: 69) and Davidson (NET: 75) to win the A-10 tournament as a No. 6 seed in the conference tournament.
That's far from the only feather in their cap, though.
The Billikens beat Seton Hall on the road and played close games with Houston (four-point loss), VCU (six-point loss).
Michigan State transfer Javon Bess led the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game during the regular season, and he's capable of going off for 30 points.
Virginia Tech plays at a snail's pace, ranking 337th in KenPom's adjusted tempo, but they won't be able to lull the Billikens to sleep as they also play slow (252nd in tempo).
As long as NBA prospect Nickeil Alexander-Walker doesn't go off for the Hokies, the Billikens should be able to keep it close and potentially steal a win.
Wisconsin Badgers (South Region, No. 5 Seed)
Opponent: No. 12 Oregon (23-12, NET: 51)
Point Spread: Wisconsin (-2)
Can this one even be considered an upset at this point?
Wisconsin is only a two-point favorite over Oregon, despite this being a No. 5 vs. No. 12 seed game.
The Badgers are one of the best defensive teams in the nation, checking in at No. 3 in KenPom's defensive efficiency while holding opponents to 39.3 percent shooting (11th in NCAA) and 61.4 points per game (9th in NCAA).
That said, Oregon plays excellent defense as well: The Ducks rank 18th in defensive efficiency and allow just 62.9 points per game (17th in NCAA).
In other words, Oregon will not be intimidated by Wisconsin's slow-down, grind-it-out style.
The Ducks have won eight in a row, punching their ticket to March Madness with a run through the Pac-12 tournament that culminated in a 20-point blowout of Washington in the title game.
As always, there are a lot of potential upsets in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This looks like the most likely of them all, though.