by Trevor Whenham - 03/14/2006
The best feeling in filling out a bracket is picking an upset and having it come true. Upsets are always going to happen, but the trick is picking games that have the potential to go your way and avoiding the ones that have no chance. The thing you have to remember is this: if you pick lots of upsets, you are going to be wrong more often than you are right. You have to be strategic about when to pick upsets and when to follow the crowd. Also, a No. 10 beats a No. 7 at least once every year and often more, so picking that doesn't count as an upset and people who know basketball will mock you if you say it does.
If you're looking for the big upset then you might want to have a look at these six games that have the potential to create a new Cinderella team:
No. 11 Wisconsin-Milwaukee over No. 6 Oklahoma - Oklahoma is not as strong as its seed would indicate. Its last two games included a crushing 24-point loss to Texas and another bad loss in the Big 12 Tournament to Nebraska. Taj Gray is a solid player, but if he is shut down there aren't a lot of other guys that can pick up the slack. Wisconsin-Milwaukee made it to the Sweet 16 and turned Bruce Pearl into a coaching star. Now he's gone to Tennessee, but UWM returns four starters, including a senior forward with a scoring touch in Joah Tucker. The Panthers play great defense and they have experience and leadership to fall back on. If Oklahoma isn't at its best, Wisconsin-Milwaukee could be moving past the first round for the second-straight year.
No. 11 San Diego State over No. 6 Indiana - San Diego State is a solid team and Brandon Heath, its leading scorer, is the best player in the Mountain West Conference by a long shot. That's doesn't matter, though, because this pick is all about Indiana. The Hoosiers are a circus. Coach Mike Davis resigned and then stayed on, causing all sorts of commotion and confusion along the way. They won five in a row before losing to Ohio State to end the season, but each of the teams they beat had problems of their own. Somehow the Hoosiers have managed to keep it together, but that has to end and there is a very good chance that that will happen under the pressure of the tournament. Indiana is vulnerable and San Diego State, if at its best, can exploit that vulnerability.
No. 12 Texas A&M over No.5 Syracuse - Before the Big East tournament started, Syracuse had been virtually written off and called underrated and a disappointment. Then Gerry McNamara was bitten by a radioactive spider and he led his team on one of the most impressive runs in a conference tournament in years. The Orange are playing over their head and certainly aren't good enough to justify their seed. Texas A&M is competent, winning eight in a row before a loss in the conference tournament, including two wins over Colorado and a win over Texas. McNamara may be able to spin his magical web again and lead Syracuse on to the second round, but if he falters the Aggies will be ready to take advantage and move on.
No. 13 Pacific over No. 4 Boston College - Pacific has won first round games two years in a row and could do it again this year. If you haven't had the chance to see this team play, you have missed seeing Christian Maraker. That also means you don't really know how talented, and difficult to match-up with, the Swedish forward is. Boston College has to travel all the way to Salt Lake City and could easily be looking past the Tigers to big match-ups against Nevada and Villanova in later rounds. That's exactly the kind of situation where a No. 13 seed can sneak up and wreck a pile of brackets. Boston College is getting way more media attention leading up to the tournament than its seed or its record deserves and it could be vulnerable.
No. 15 Winthrop over No. 2 Tennessee - I can't remember a more suspect No. 2 seed than Tennessee. They looked great until Valentine's Day, but then something went wrong. They have lost four of six since and looked tired and listless doing it. Bruce Pearl has gotten a lot out of his team, but his high energy, hard working style may have worn down this team that is not full of the type of players he would recruit. On the other side you have Winthrop, which has made six of the last eight tournaments. The Eagles have yet to win a game in the Big Dance, but they keep getting invited and they are working hard at improving. They played an impressively difficult non-conference schedule that included a win over Marquette and losses to Alabama and Memphis, so they have had a taste of top competition. Unless Tennessee gets back on track, Winthrop could surprise them.
No. 16 Oral Roberts over No.1 Memphis - A No. 16 has never beaten a No. 1 and it isn't likely to happen this year. That being said, Oral Roberts has as good a chance as any No. 16 has had in a long time. That has nothing to do with Memphis. It is a solid, impressive team coming into the tournament playing well, even if some feel that a No. 1 seed is a spot or two higher than it deserves. This pick has to do with the fact that, unlike most No. 16 seeds, Oral Roberts is actually good. Caleb Green puts up 21 and 9, junior guard Ken Tutt shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc and Larry Owens is physical and has a nice touch. Memphis is a better team, but Oral Roberts can take advantage of them if they are off their game. Don't pick Oral Roberts if you are only doing one bracket, but if you are filling out several it might be worth the bragging rights if you're right to pencil them into the second round on one of them.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's college basketball picks service.