Teams with Upset Potential in Round One

Charleston led by Pat Kelsey ready for first round upset in NCAA tournament.

This week is one of the best weeks of the entire year. Everyone gets a few days to fill out their bracket and claim theirs is the first perfect bracket ever. We all get to pretend to work on Thursday and Friday when in reality, we’re watching games on our phones. Fueling the madness are the upsets. No matter the year there are always surprise teams that pull off an upset. This year will be no different.

Teams with Upset Potential in Round One

(12) Charleston vs (5) San Diego State

This matchup is likely to be one of the most picked tournament upsets over the next few days. Charleston won a school record 31 games while only losing 3 games all season. The Cougars went on to win the CAA Tournament and punch their first ticket to the dance since 2018. Charleston doesn’t have a game-changing type of player, but they are a deep team with five players averaging double figures. Ryan Larson leads their defense and was also a member of the 2019 Wofford team that pulled an upset on Seton Hall. The Cougars also outrebound their opponents by nearly seven rebounds per game.

San Diego State has been a staple in the NCAA Tournament over the past few seasons, but still have no wins to show for it. The Aztecs lost in the first round in the prior two seasons, once as an 8-seed and once as a 6-seed. San Diego State plays a very slow-paced game as they rank 252nd in possessions per game and 257th in adjusted tempo. They’ll need to shoot efficiently in order to neutralize the rebounding ability of the Cougars or else the Aztecs could fall behind quickly. Combining all of this information with the magic that is a 12-seed, the Charleston Cougars are in a prime position for a cinderella run.

(12) Drake vs (5) Miami

Drake finally won the MVC Tournament after coming up just short in prior seasons. Led by a father-son duo Darian DeVries and Tucker DeVries, the Bulldogs averaged 75.3 points per game and allowed 63.9 PPG. Alongside Tucker, are four seniors which is a perfect recipe for a tournament upset. Drake doesn’t turn the ball over often and rarely gets in foul trouble as they rank top 30 in both metrics.

The Hurricanes won a share of the ACC regular season title but lost to Duke in the ACC Tournament. Miami is led by their guard play, specifically Isaiah Wongwho led the team in PPG and APG. However, they don’t have much bench depth and use a very shallow 8-man rotation (and sometimes only 7-man). Also, the Hurricane defense has been below average as of late. Over their last eight games, the Hurricanes have allowed 79.0 PPG. Matching up against a Drake team that shoots very well will be an issue for Miami.

(13) Louisiana vs (4) Tennessee

The Ragin Cajuns won the Sun Belt tournament to clinch their bid to the NCAA Tournament. Louisiana is led by star forward Jordan Brown who led the team with 19.4 PPG and 8.7 rebounds per game. Thanks to Brown, Louisiana was ranked 57th in adjusted offensive efficiency. The defense has also been playing well as the Ragin Cajuns have only allowed 62.2 PPG during their five-game winning streak. Louisiana is also a great rebounding team which will help limit second chances for Tennessee.

Tennessee limped into the tournament by finishing the season 5-7 since the start of February. Additionally, the Volunteers lost starting point guard Zakai Zeigler to a knee injury on February 28th. Zeigler was a key contributor for the Vols as he averaged 6.5 assists per game in conference play. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes has only advanced to the Sweet 16 once in his last 10 tournament appearances and four times has lost in the opening round. This isn’t a popular upset but with all things considered, anything can happen in March, including the unexpected.

2 Bonus “Upsets”

(9) West Virginia vs (8) Maryland

A 9-seed beating an 8-seed isn’t much of a tournament upset especially when the 9-seed is favored. The Mountaineers rank 17th according to KenPom which is higher than 3-seeded Kansas State, 4-seeded Indiana, and 4-seeded Virginia. West Virginia has a great chance to not only beat Maryland but would set up a thrilling game against top overall seed Alabama.

(10) USC vs (7) Michigan State

Similar to the 9-seed upset, a 10-seed upset is not much of an upset. Both teams went one-and-done in their conference tournaments and are looking to turn the corner at the right time. USC got bounced in the first round last year but made the Elite 8 the prior year. The Trojans have a solid core and could not only beat the Spartans but could also be a tough matchup for an undersized Marquette.