Potential NCAA Tournament Upsets
by Trevor Whenham - 03/18/2009
The best part of the early rounds of the NCAA are the upsets, and the best part of filling out your bracket is deciding which games you think are potential heartbreakers for the higher seeded teams. Here are eight potential upsets that wouldn't shock me this year:
No. 12 Arizona over No. 5 Utah - The Wildcats are a controversial inclusion in the tournament, but they are better than their record indicates. They have a very talented trio in Wise, Hill and Budinger, and they are explosive offensively. Utah is a solid team, but they have fallen into slumps from time to time. Utah might be slightly too high at No. 5, and Arizona is more talented than a lot of 12 seeds.
No. 10 USC over No. 7 Boston College - The Eagles can be a tough team - they beat UNC, Duke and Florida State this year. Unfortunately, they are wildly inconsistent - they lost to Harvard, and they dropped five of their last nine. USC knows all about underachieving, too, but they got hot at the right time and won their conference tournament to get an unlikely tournament bid. If they revert to their regular season form then they will lose here. If they keep playing like they did in their tourney, though, then this might not be the only game they win.
No. 11 Utah State over No. 6 Marquette - The Golden Eagles had a great start to the season, but they had the bad misfortune of losing the very valuable Dominic James. Without him the team has struggled badly down the stretch and are certainly vulnerable. The Aggies are a hard team to judge - they won 30 games and the WAC title, but they really haven't played many teams of note. If they are half as good as their record then they could pull the upset.
No. 10 Maryland over No. 7 Cal - I frankly don't even think that this one would be much of an upset. The Pac-10 didn't have a great year, so Cal isn't particularly battle-tested, and they lost four of their last six. Maryland had struggles of their own at times, but they also beat some very good teams - Michigan State, UNC and so on. They have a good chance of thriving under the pressure here.
No. 12 Wisconsin over No. 5 Florida State - This seed matchup always seems to be the site of the big upsets, and this could be yet another. The Badgers didn't get nearly enough respect from the selection committee - they were fifth in the Big Ten, yet they were seeded two spots below two teams behind them in the standings. Wisconsin didn't live up to expectations, but they still play smothering defense and can be dangerous. Florida State is coming off a huge conference tournament run, but they may struggle with focus and maintaining their momentum.
No. 13 Portland State over No. 4 Xavier - The Vikings are the Big Sky champions, and they could be dangerous. They haven't played a lot of top competition, but they do have an impressive win at Gonzaga to their credit. Xavier is a team I like a lot, but they can be frustrating. They have a bad habit of overlooking teams that they should be able to beat with ease - three of their six losses came against decidedly inferior opponents. They rely heavily on a freshman point guard, and he might have slight problems with the intensity of this tournament. That could be enough for Portland State.
No. 11 Temple over No. 6 Arizona State - The Sun Devils have one of the most impressive players out there in James Harden. He deserves more credit and attention than he gets, and a big tournament performance could help him get that. They will have to be at their best to get past Temple, though. The Owls won a deep and tough A-10 conference tournament, and they had a couple of solid non-conference wins. They are a feisty team that won't be afraid to stand up to the Sun Devils.
No. 10 Michigan over No. 7 Clemson - Michigan is a frustrating team to be a fan of. When they play their game they are as good as any squad out there - ask Duke or UCLA. If they don't play with focus and determination, though, then they can be incredibly lousy. They have been able to lift their game up when it matters, though, and they could do it again here. Their 1-3-1 defense can also give opponents fits if it is working well. Clemson had a great non-conference run, but they didn't play too many teams of note. In conference play they had a win over Duke but they lost to the rest of their top opponents. They are not a bad team, but they are a vulnerable one.