NCAA Tournament Betting: Which No. 12 Seeds Are Primed To Upset
by Matt Severance - 03/18/2009
The first major upset in the NCAA Tournament each year generally is in the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup in the first round. Overall, No. 5 seeds are 65-31 against No. 12s since the field expanded. That means the upset happens about every third game, and I don't need to remind you that there are four such matchups each year. Villanova and Western Kentucky both pulled off the upset as No. 12s last season.
A No. 12 seed has won at least one game in 18 of the past 20 years (no wins in 2000, 2007), and at least two games in eight of the past 10 years.
With that said, I forecast two more upsets in the 5-12 games this season. Here's a look at all four matchups:
East: No. 5 Florida State vs. No. 12 Wisconsin, Friday in Boise.
The Seminoles are just three-point Bodog favorites over the Badgers despite FSU's impressive win over North Carolina and run to the ACC final, where it lost to Duke for the third time this season.
FSU will have the best player on the court against the Badgers in Toney Douglas and has one of the biggest front lines in college basketball. If you throw out two losses to the Blue Devils, the 'Noles haven't lost to anyone else since Feb. 24. They did lose their one game against a Big Ten foe this season, to Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but this is a different Seminoles team now.
Wisconsin did win seven of its final nine games and plays outstanding defense. The Badgers definitely will want to slow this game down to a snail's pace, but they lack a go-to threat down the stretch like FSU has with Douglas. That will be the difference in an FSU victory.
South: No. 5 Illinois vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky, Thursday in Portland.
Here's upset No. 1. The Illini are 4.5-point favorites, but the Hilltoppers are Sun Belt regular-season and tournament champions. And they obviously have the experience from last season to build on, even though star Courtney Lee is now with the Orlando Magic.
Illinois will miss senior guard Chester Frazier and be one-and-done. Frazier suffered a broken right hand in a practice leading up to the Big Ten Tournament, and he sat that out. Calvin Brock is expected to get the start in Frazier's spot again, but coach Bruce Weber admitted his team missed Frazier in the Big Ten semifinal loss to Purdue.
Frazier led the Big Ten in assists during the regular season and also led the Illini in steals and minutes played. He was named to the All-Big Ten defensive team. There's an outside chance Frazier plays, but Weber said his contributions would be "minimal" at best.
Midwest: No. 5 Utah vs. No. 12 Arizona, Friday in Miami.
Upset No. 2, and in fact Arizona is a one-point favorite on Bodog. The Wildcats probably were the last at-large team in the field, but they have three stellar players in Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise - those three combine for about 70 percent of the team's scoring load.
While Arizona has little depth behind the Big 3 and lost five of its final six games, the Utes simply don't have the athletes to match up. Plus, the Wildcats feel like they have something to prove to all those who say they don't belong.
West: No. 5 Purdue vs. No. 12 Northern Iowa, Thursday in Portland.
Hard to see the surging Boilermakers falling here, and they are eight-point favorites on Bodog. This team simply is a different club when Robbie Hummel is healthy, as proven by the Big Ten Tournament crown.
Purdue also has an NCAA-best streak of having won its first-round game in each of its last 10 NCAA Tournament appearances. Although I expect Northern Iowa, the Missouri Valley Tournament champion, to cover despite being routed by Iowa in its lone game vs. the Big Ten this year.