If everything went according to expectations in the NCAA Tournament then the Sweet 16 would be made of four No.1 seeds, four No.2s and four each of three and four seeds. That's the plan, but of course it never works out that way. Some years it's close. Other years the Sweet 16 is total chaos. Most years we see at least one team from the bottom quarter of the bracket make it through to the second weekend - and often more than that. Our job here, then, is to look for those underdogs which have a chance to shine - and to create some nice profits along the way. Here are four potential upstarts - one per region:
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Iowa, No. 7: Jarrod Uthoff is a very special player. He is just the kind of guy that can get hot in the tournament and carry his team through a win or two. Peter Jok is a bit of a weapon, too. Those two are bad news for any team that has drawn to play Iowa. This team has lost six of their last eight games, so they are hardly entering in top form. If you look at them before that, though, they were an elite team that was fighting both to win the Big Ten and to be a No. 1 seed in this tournament. Issues were exposed, and teams figured out how to beat them. The tournament can be a chance to reset, though, and we have often seen teams reverse their form heading into the Big Dance. If Iowa can remember who they were and forget who they have become then they have the ability to punch way above their weight in this tournament. It's hard not to like their pairing, too - Temple is just a team, and Villanova is the most vulnerable of the Top 8 seeds in the tournament.
St. Joe's, No. 8: I hate picking a No. 8 for a Sweet 16 upset because in order to get there they have to knock off a No. 1. This tournament is so wide-open and far from top-heavy, though, that it is worth a shot here. : The Hawks stumbled a bit down the stretch of the regular season but rounded back in form to win the A-10 tournament. They didn't take as much out of themselves as they could have in doing so, either. What makes this team so dangerous in tournament play is that they are basically allergic to turning the ball over. If they get the ball they are going to get a shot. That means that they only need to be shooting reasonably well to have a very strong offensive day. That doesn't guarantee anything by any means, but it is a good formula for tournament success.
Notre Dame, No. 6: I'll be completely honest - there isn't an underdog in this group that I really like much as an upset pick. I like the higher seeds well enough, and don't have a lot of time for many lower seeds given their matchups. So, Notre Dame is the best of a bad bunch in this region instead of a lower seed that actually has a big chance of making it deep in my mind. Neither Michigan nor Tulsa - their potential first round matchups -a re particularly strong teams. The Irish would have the edge. West Virginia is a good team when they are on their best, but they aren't necessarily a team that can be trusted at all times. It is at least feasible that the Irish could win that game. You can tell that I don't have a lot of enthusiasm for this pick, but it is what it is.
Gonzaga, No. 11: The Bulldogs were disappointing until the end this year - they are better on paper than they have been on the court. They got hot at the end to win their tournament yet again, though, and they have landed in a spot that is a nightmare for opponents. Kyle Wiltjer is playing in what I believe is his 73rd NCAA Tournament - the guy has been around forever. He has all sorts of talent and is just the kind of guy who can step up and deliver a win for his team. Domantas Sabonis is every bit as good as Wiltjer - and probably better. When a team has two of the very best players in their region, they are going to be a threat. When they are a No. 11 seed they really need to be respected. They don't have an easy task in their opener facing Seton Hall, but I am concerned that the Pirates could have left too much on the court in their conference tournament when they beat Xavier and Villanova for the title. Win that and Gonzaga moves on to likely face Utah - a team that only has one future pro to Gonzaga's two.
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