If you have paid any attention to the NCAA Tournament at all over the years then you know that the 5 vs. 12 line on the brackets is a fruitful one - both in terms of potential upsets and nice underdog payouts. Since the team expanded to the 64-team format in 1985 there have been 124 of these matchups. The underdog No. 12 seeds have a pretty solid 44-80 record in those games - upsets come at a 35.5 percent rate. There are plenty of ways to make some money when upsets happen that often. The No. 12 teams had been rolling along at an even better clip in recent times until their rough year last year - they lost all four games.
So, what do these games have in store for us this year. Here's some March Madness Brackets help with the 5s vs. 12s:
South Region, Maryland vs. South Dakota State: Maryland was a team that looked like they were going to be highly-seeded and very dangerous a month ago. But then they lost five of their last eight games and a whole bunch of cracks were suddenly visible. They have some very good players - Diamond Stone, Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon are all special in their way. They struggle to play all moving in the same direction, though, and that obviously makes them vulnerable. They could get it back together and make a run all the way to the final weekend of this tournament. Or they could lose this opening game. Neither one would be completely surprising. South Dakota State is an interesting team - how many teams out there have their leading scorer coming off the bench? That's what Mike Daum does - he's a freshman who was the conference's Sixth Man of the Year. He's part of a deep core that runs a half-court offense that is very tough to play against. If they are on their day - and Maryland isn't - then this could be a solid upset.
West Region, Baylor vs. Yale: Baylor is a very good team - athletic and talented, and they can score like crazy when they are in form. What's interesting about the team, though, is that while they have some very strong players they don't actually have one that requires a double team from an opponent on a consistent basis. They don't create mismatches regularly, and that is what makes them vulnerable. Yale is making their first tournament appearance since 1962, so they are not at all familiar to the tournament pressure, but they are an older team and a deep one, and they have the chance to control the game and do some damage. The gap in talent here is significant, and Baylor will likely win, but Yale could get things moving in the right direction and come out with the win.
Midwest Region, Purdue vs. Little Rock: The Boilermakers had a strong regular season, and then made a big run in the conference tournament, narrowly losing to Michigan State in the final game. A.J. Hammons is a beast of a player, Caleb Swanigan is very good, and they have really good depth. They are the type of No. 5 that could easily make the second weekend of the tournament - and really not be shocking there. They are pretty dependent on matchups, but if things fall right for them then they could be dangerous. Little Rock is a strange team. They are deep, and they are disciplined on defense, but they can be sloppy at times, and they have not played at this level of competition often. They have shown a lot of resilience - they have come back from deficits with grittiness and determination many times. Purdue has the clear edge here, but they can't afford to rest even a little bit here.
East Region, Indiana vs. Chattanooga: Indiana is a tough team that did very well in a deep Big Ten during the regular season. But then they managed to lose to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. That was an ugly loss - Michigan just isn't very good and should not be able to beat Indiana if the Hoosiers are anywhere near the best. That vulnerability is reason for concern. Chattanooga doesn't have talent or depth to match the Hoosiers, and they haven't played a great schedule, but they do have something strong going for them - they are extremely well-coached. That makes them tough. If Indiana draws from that frustrating tournament experience and uses it as motivation then the Mocs are probably in trouble. If they make the same mistakes that they did in that game, though, then this one could certainly be interesting.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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