There are so many things that are great about the NCAA Tournament. Chief among them, perhaps, is the inevitable upsets that make the first round both so haywire and so exciting. Those upsets are so much fun to watch, and they can also be very profitable for bettors who correctly pick them out, too. Of course, it's not like they are easy to spot. All you can really do is make a series of educated guesses and hope for the best. Here are four lower seeds that have a chance to exceed expectations - in the case of double-digit seeds those expectations are to lose their first game and go home.
Yale (No. 12, West Region): Yale is making their first tournament appearance since 1962, and they have not won a single tournament game in their long history. This is a team that is better than that would suggest, though. They have three very solid offensive players, and they are able to maximize their impact because they are very good at controlling the pace and setting up their best situations patiently. They are up against Baylor team that is good when in form but isn't in any way consistent. Yale could easily win that game. The 5-12 game isn't exactly a super bold spot to look for upsets - about a third of all 12 seeds have won the games over the years. This is one of those 12-seed teams - older, talented, a little unique - that could have a very good start to their tournament.
Gonzaga (No. 11, Midwest Region): Mark Few hasn't exactly dominated the NCAA Tournament over the years, but he has won 19 tournament games with Gonzaga, so he obviously has the potential to win here. The season has been a bit of a disappointment for the Bulldogs, but there is still a lot to like here. Most significantly, I like to look for lower seeds that have a very good player on their team - not just a pretty good player, but one who is able to dictate the pace of a game and control the outcome single handedly when they are at their best. Gonzaga has two such players - Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. That makes them immediately dangerous. In their opening game they face a Seton Hall team that is obviously dangerous - they just beat Villanova - but which struggles for consistency. They could then face a Utah team that has a great player in Jakob Poeltl but less consistent depth behind that. Gonzaga has been dangerous as a higher seed over the last few years, and often dangerous as a lower seed before that, so they are obviously a team to watch here.
Chattanooga (No. 12, East Region): I've seen Chattanooga play twice this year. Both times I have been struck by the same thing - this isn't a team that has a profoundly impressive player, and they aren't massively talented, but they stand out as a team that is exceptionally well coached. When you see a mid-major like that you assume that they have a grizzled veteran coach who has been around forever and has his system highly dialed in. It is amazing to me, then, that Matt McCall is in his first season with this team. He is the real deal - good enough that the Mocs should enjoy him while they have him because he isn't likely to stick around for long before taking a step or three up the ladder. Dangerous coach + strong No. 12 + No. 5 that could be vulnerable (Indiana just lost to a weak Michigan team in the Big Ten Tournament) = a dangerous lower seed.
Hawaii (No. 13, South Region): The Warriors are a fun team, and they have a toughness about them that comes from having to deal with such hideous travel during a season. They are a team that is capable of winning a game in the tournament. They have a very good player in Stefan Jankovic and some nice supporting parts. As much as I like things about this team, though, they are on this list mostly because of their first-round matchup. Cal has remarkable talent, but they are very young and inexperienced. When they are good they are extremely good, but they have the ability to just disappear as well. They are going to feel a whole lot of pressure heading into the tournament here, and with a core of very young players they may not handle that very well. This is a potentially vulnerable higher-seeded team, and Hawaii is good enough both to force some issues and to exploit them. Hawaii could very easily win a game.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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