2014 March Madness Handicapping: No. 5 vs. No. 12 Seeds
by George Monroy - 3/18/2014
One of the reasons that the NCAA Tournament is such a huge, national event amongst sports and non-sports fans alike is because of the upsets. As much as fans love a dominant winner, rooting for an underdog making an unlikely playoff run is one of the most exciting things in sports. And year in and year out March Madness is one of the best venues for upsets to happen simply because navigating a single-elimination tournament on the way to a championship is the most difficult thing to accomplish in sports.
Once Selection Sunday happens and the tournament seeds are set, one of the first things that fans love to do is look for spots to pick an upset. The No. 1 seed has never lost to a 16 seed since the tournament went to a 64-, and subsequent 68-team format. The No. 2 seed has only lost six times in that nearly 30-year span, while the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds win their first matchups 86 and 79 percent of the time, respectively.
However, the No. 5 versus the No. 12 seed matchup is where an upset becomes much more likely. Let’s take a closer look at the five versus 12 matchups and analyze a few stats and make some actual predictions for all four of 2014’s No. 5 versus No. 12 matchups
No. 5 versus No. 12 Upset Stats
The No. 5 seed has won only 66 percent of its games against the No. 12 seed over the last 29 years. Last year the No. 12 seed pulled off the upset in three regions, as Mississippi beat Wisconsin by nine points, California beat UNLV by three, and Oregon beat Oklahoma State by 13. No. 12 seeds are also 15-7 ATS over the last 22 games played between the seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s take a closer look at this year’s No. 5 versus No. 12 matchups and figure out which teams, if any, or primed to pull off an upset. All odds come from Sportsbook.ag.
Midwest Region: No. 5 Saint Louis vs. the winner of North Carolina State vs. Xavier
Saint Louis turned into a Top 10 team toward the end of the regular season, but a few key losses to end the year left the Billikens ranked 25th in the AP poll. Saint Louis lost in the second round of its conference tournament, after having a bye, and has dropped four of its last five matchups since the end of February. The squad is not particularly high-scoring and could get into trouble it gives up a big lead early in a game.
Saint Louis’ matchup against the winner of North Carolina State and Xavier is the type of situation where the No. 5 is primed for an upset. Both teams ended the year with solid records, 21-13 for North Carolina State and 21-12 for Xavier, and they both produced winning records over their last five games of the season.
Pick: If you are upset shopping during your bracket, this matchup is the one to look at. Expect an overrated Saint Louis team to get overwhelmed by the moment and lose this game.
West Region: No. 5 Oklahoma (-4) vs. No. 12 North Dakota State
The Oklahoma Sooners are a solid No. 5 seed and have wins over four Top 25 teams, including Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas and Iowa State. The Sooners ended the year 23-9 and second in the Big 12, but they were eliminated during their first game of the conference tournament. Oklahoma is the seventh-highest scoring team in the nation with an average of 82 points per game and has four double-digit scorers on its roster.
North Dakota State put up excellent numbers during a solid year for the team with only six losses. The Bison, however, will probably be one of those teams that gets blown out of the water once they step out of the Summit League and into the deeper waters of the NCAA Tournament. North Dakota State averaged only 32 and 11 rebounds per game, which was ranked in the upper-200 in the nation.
Pick: The oddsmakers expect this to be a close matchup as Oklahoma opened as a four-point favorite. Expect the Sooners to advance as there are no signs of an upset coming from this No. 5 versus No. 12 matchup.
South Region: No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth (-6.5) vs. No. 12 Stephen. F. Austin
The Virginia commonwealth Rams ended the year with a 26-8 record and in second place in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The team made a deep run in its conference tournament but was eventually eliminated by Saint Joseph’s. Prior to that loss, however, VCU had won six straight games and looked ready for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks went undefeated in the Southland Conference and have not lost a game since mid November. By all counts, SF Austin is a talented squad, but it might be one of those drastically overrated teams whose gaudy record in a small conference earned them at shot at playing with the big boys.
Picks: VCU has been played solid basketball over the last month of the season and will probably run right through an overvalued Lumberjacks squad. There will be no upset here.
East region: No. 5 Cincinnati (-3) vs. No. 12 Harvard
The Cincinnati Bearcats went 2-2 over the last four games of the regular season and looked out of sync after being a top-ranked team all year. The Bearcats do not score much—they are ranked 237th in scoring—but do play elite defense as they allowed only 58.3 points per game during the regular season.
The Harvard Crimson are on an eight-game winning streak and have looked fantastic heading into tournament play. Harvard is one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation with an average of 74 points per game and currently has five double-digit scorers on its roster.
Picks: Cincinnati feels like a team ready to get upset. The Bearcats are 3-3 over their last six and could have trouble keeping pace with a high-scoring Harvard offense. Take Harvard to pull of the upset.
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