Hey everyone, welcome back to the blog. Today I’ve got three possible upsets that could bust some brackets early. Now, a quick disclaimer, I know that some of these will be wrong. It’s just how the bracket works. Yet in the NCAA Tournament everyone knows there’s always some upsets even if they seem the most improbable in the whole field (15 seed Oral Roberts downing 2 seed Ohio State last year). These are the upsets I have the most faith in, the ones I feel have the highest probability of occurring. Don’t worry though, these picks are backed by stats, models, and recent form, actual numbers and data, not just “I’m feeling it,” or “I like this mascot!” Let’s dive in.
Upset: (10) Loyola Chicago vs (7) Ohio State
Loyola closed out the season on a high note, by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Their defense locked up their 3 tournament opponents, giving up on average a miniscule 50.3 PPG. The Ramblers’ defense the whole season has been strong, ranking 17th in the nation in PPG allowed and 21st in defensive efficiency. They deny opponents 2nd chance opportunities, ranking 19th in opponent offensive rebound percentage, and will have ease doing so against an Ohio State team 233rd in offensive rebounding. Ohio State ended their year with a 19–11 record and a disappointing first round exit in the Big Ten Tournament after losing to Penn State. While Ohio State is more efficient on offense, Loyola is not too far behind, ranking a solid 31st compared to Ohio State’s 19th. The Ramblers also own a great eFG%, 56.3% compared to the Buckeyes’ 54.8%. Loyola Chicago has the experience and the metrics have shown that they are a team of good quality. I’ve got them squeezing by the Buckeyes and pulling off the small 7–10 upset.
Upset: (11) Virginia Tech vs (6) Texas
Virginia Tech ended the season 23–12, and overcame tough odds to win the ACC Tournament. They knocked off formidable foes North Carolina and Notre Dame, and surprised everyone with their 15-point victory over Duke in the ACC title game. The Hokies averaged 79.3 PPG during the 4-game tournament run, and are playing their greatest basketball at the best time. They are 3rd in the country in 3PT%, and rank 22nd in offensive efficiency. The Longhorns had a pretty solid year, finishing 21–11, but faltered in the 1st round of the Big 12 tournament. They live by defense, allowing a stout 59.6 PPG, ranking 11th in defensive efficiency, and forcing turnovers at a 20.2% rate. Texas definitely has a sound squad and great defense, but their offensive troubles and inability to prevent 2nd chance opportunities for opponents (232nd in Opponent Off. Rebound %) will haunt them. The Hokies are rolling right now, and they’re a hard train to derail in their current form.
Upset: (13) South Dakota State vs (4) Providence
This one is a bit ambitious, but these Jackrabbits don’t mess around. South Dakota State is the perfect definition of what a sound upset should be. A team with some sort of superpower, something that makes them stand out, something that can be dangerous in March. The Jackrabbits have that special thing that makes them stand out from the other low seeds. Offense. This isn’t just any offense, this is a team ranking 1st in offensive efficiency, 1st in effective FG%, 1st in 3PT%, 2nd in PPG, and 2nd in FGM per game. They finished their season only losing 4 games, and literally are on fire. Providence came out on top of the Big East, but are too variable (1st in Kenpom’s luck rating at +.194) to trust in a tournament where if you lose you’re sent home. South Dakota State has the HUGE offensive advantage, and while their defense is definitely a weakness, Providence’s offense isn’t explosive enough to take advantage. The Jackrabbits actually force more turnovers (14.1% compared to 13.7%) and deny more offensive boards to opponents (22.1% compared 25.1%) in comparison to the Friars. Providence’s luck could definitely run out against a team with this much offensive firepower. Take the Jackrabbits for a bold upset to set you apart from your office pool.
And there’s my confident upsets for this year’s tournament. It should be a great one with plenty of great games, I hope we’ll all be able to spend at least some time huddled around a TV cheering for our teams. March is one of my favorite times of the year because of this tournament, so I’m stoked for the kickoff of March Madness tomorrow. Who do you guys got cutting down the nets in the championship? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you guys think of this year’s field of 64. Personally, I like Arizona. Well, that’ll be all for now folks. Thanks for reading, and see you guys in the next article.
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