Giants will fall: which double-digit seeds are likely to pull off huge upsets

Murray State could play deep into March if star Ja Morant gets hot Image By: Courtesy of Creative Commons

Life isn’t fair, and neither is the NCAA tournament.

337 Division 1 universities battle each other for five months, grinding out over 11,000 combined games in the hopes that, come March, they’ll be dancing in the NCAA tournament. But not all dances are created equal, and every year top teams promptly lose to lowly double-digit seeds on the first weekend.

Not all double-digit seeds can beat top programs, but here are three that could make a deep tournament run this March.


Murray State

This one is pretty obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention to college basketball this year. 12-seed Murray State (27-4 overall, 16-2 Ohio Valley) has one of the country’s most electrifying players in Ja Morant, a shifty guard that leads the Racers in almost every statistical category.

Morant lead Murray State in all statistical categories seven times this season, and failed to be his team’s leading scorer only five times, twice because he left the game early with an injury.

Morant has drawbacks though; he’s been turnover prone all season (5.2 per game) and doesn’t have the most consistent three-point shot (33.6% from deep), but hey, these are upset picks, right?

While Murray State doesn’t really have much outside of Morant, it doesn’t mean the Racers can’t make a deep run. They first face off against 5-seed Marquette who pose a significant threat to the Racers cinderalla status, but their star Markus Howard is dealing with a wrist injury, and the Golden Eagles have looked shaky without him.

If the Murray State can pull off the upset against Marquette, they’ll most likely face Florida State and then Gonzaga in the following rounds, a tough but not impossible stretch of games.

If Morant gets hot, don’t be surprised if the Racers make the Elite 8.


Belmont

A second trendy upset pick? From the same non-power 5 conference? You’re darn right.

Belmont (26-5 overall, 16-2 Ohio Valley) snuck into the NCAA tournament as an at-large 11-seed, and had to beat Temple Tuesday to make the official 64 team field.

But don’t be fooled, Belmont is the real deal. They score an eye-popping 87.4 points a game and shoot 57 percent (!) from two.

Belmont is led by 6-foot-8 forward Dylan Windler, who averages over 21 points per game, and has a solid 3-point stroke (43 percent) on the year.

Plus, the Bruins have the advantage of playing one of the coldest teams in the nation in 6-seed Maryland. Maryland started the season 16-3, but stumbled to a 6-7 finish after losing to a bad Nebraska team in the Big Ten tournament.

If Belmont can pull off the upset against the Terps, they’d then face 3-seed LSU, who has been good all year, but who also doesn’t play defense, giving up over 73 points a game. That’s a recipe for disaster against a team who is as efficient at scoring as the Bruins are.

When the dust settles on the first weekend of play, Belmont has a real chance of dancing in the Sweet 16.


UC Irvine

Why UC Irvine chose their mascot to be an anteater is beyond me.

But, mascot aside, the fearsome Anteaters (30-5 overall, 15-1 Big West) have gobbled up their opponents in the last three months, posting 16 straight wins en-route to a Big West tournament championship, and a 13-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Nothing against the vermin-eaters from SoCal, but the reason they have huge upset potential is because of the weakness of their opponents, not the team’s inherent strength.

Irvine will first play 4-seed K-state, who would have been a terrifying draw if their unquestioned leader, and second leading scorer, Dean Wade was playing. Fortunately for the Anteaters, Wade suffered a foot injury late in the season, and will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

K-State isn’t the same team without Wade, and UC Irvine is good enough to take advantage of that and pull out a win.

In the second round they would (hopefully) face the Badgers, who have had trouble on the offensive end all year. Irvine holds opponents to just 63 points-per-game, and if Wisconsin goes cold, they might not make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for just the second time since 2010.

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