Potential Upsets for Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament

Written by :
Published on : March 16, 2017

 

While the weather across much of the Midwest and Northeastern parts of the country would suggest otherwise, spring is just around the corner here in the United States and that can only mean one thing—March Madness has arrived.

 

A couple of storylines take center stage in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Defending champion Villanova looks to become just the 3rd back-to-back champ in the past 25 years, Northwestern makes its NCAA Tournament debut after making the tourney for the first time in their history, and possibly the feel good story of the tournament, Michigan battles on after quite the scare when their team plane heading to Washington D.C. for the Big Ten Tournament slid off the runway. Michigan went on to win the conference tournament and isn’t a team anybody wants to see right now.

 

But of course, as always with the NCAA Tournament, new storylines seem to be born every round, and upsets can come from anywhere, just ask Michigan State. So as you take a final look at your bracket, desperate to find that Cinderella that’s going to keep your bracket from being busted during the opening weekend, take a look at these potential underdogs that can make you look like a true Bracketologist.

 

For starters, with all the magic that is March Madness, it’s hard to define what is and what isn’t an upset, who is or who isn’t a Cinderella. For the sake of this article, nothing under an 11-seed will qualify as an upset so if you want to boast around the office about how you predicted a 9 or a 10-seed winning on opening weekend, save it.

 

Here are my 5 most likely big upsets for Round 1 (Thursday and Fridays games).

 

5. (#13) East Tennessee State over (#4) Florida

 

The Gators are the last team to win back-to-back NCAA Championships when they did it in the early 2000’s, and are set to face the defending champs Villanova in the Sweet 16, should both teams make it that far. However, both teams would be wise to not look ahead to that potential matchup as they both have a tough road to the Sweet 16. For Florida, they better not look beyond even their first game as East Tennessee State is looking to steal one. The Gators are without their big man in the middle (John Egbunu) which takes away a dynamic shot blocker. On the other side, East Tennessee State has the ability to shut down the paint defensively and they have a big-time scorer in T.J. Cromer.

 

Upset confidence points: 3/10

 

4. (#12) Florida Gulf Coast over (#5) Florida State

 

Who doesn’t remember when Florida Gulf Coast shocked the world by defeating 2-seed Georgetown in 2013, introducing us all to “Dunk City?” After making the tournament last year as well, Florida Gulf Coast is becoming even more of a household name this time of year and are set for a very interesting all-Florida matchup against Florida State in Orlando. Oh how the selection committee has a way of putting these regions together. Florida State was a team I loved going into the season, as I expected them to be major players in the ACC. After tying for 2nd place in the conference, the Seminoles lost a close game to eventual conference tournament champion, Duke in the ACC Tournament. The dynamic duo of Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon can light up the gym but the Seminoles all too often get their lights knocked out when the spotlight is on.

 

Upset confidence points: 4/10

 

3. (#12) UNC Wilmington over (#5) Virginia

 

A year ago, UNC Wilmington almost pulled off a major upset when they gave Duke all it could handle before the Blue Devils eventually pulled out an opening round win. One year later, UNC Wilmington is looking for redemption against another ACC foe. Coach Tony Bennett has built a fantastic program at Virginia in recent years centered around defense. The Cavaliers are not flashy and may even have a tendency to put you to sleep, but for the past few years it has gotten results. UNC Wilmington is the exact opposite as they get up and down the floor quickly. This is your classic “something has to give” matchup as two very opposite styles try to get their opponent to play to their pace. UNC Wilmington protects the ball well, and attacks the offensive glass. Second chance points for the Seahawks and Virginia’s inability to match offensively I think is the difference.

 

Upset confidence points 5/10

 

2. (#11) Rhode Island over (#6) Creighton

 

A couple of smaller schools match up here in the Midwest Region on Friday afternoon with the Rhode Island Rams and the Creighton Blue Jays. For both teams, they entered the season with very lofty expectations and both had disappointing finishes. For Rhode Island, a preseason ranking was followed by a shaky of 10-6, but they wound up winning 14 of their final 17 games. On the contrary, the Blue Jays got off to an incredible 18-1 start but limped to the finish line going 7-8 down the stretch. The downfall seemed to begin when point guard Maurice Watson (who at the time led the NCAA with 8.8 assists per game) went down with a torn ACL. Sometimes in March, it’s all about who enters the Big Dance with more momentum and the Blue Jays seem to have the momentum of a flightless bird.

 

Upset confidence points: 6/10

 

1. (#12) Middle Tennessee State over (#5) Minnesota

 

With possibly the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history under their belts after defeating 2-seed Michigan State last year, the Blue Raiders are out to show the world they aren’t a fluke. While they flew under the radar a bit last year, Middle Tennessee State probably has a better team this year and won’t be satisfied with just a first round victory this time around. Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw were enough to knock off the Spartans last year but the addition of JaCorey Williams gives them the realistic possibility of making a Sweet 16 run. Minnesota has enjoyed quite a turnaround this year as the Golden Gophers went from an 8-23 season last year, and having only 2 conference wins to finishing 4th in the Big Ten this year with a 23-8 record overall. Richard Pitino has a very talented young team led by point guard Nate Mason who has big game ability. Minnesota however does not have a ton of depth and the Red Raiders will look to expose that by getting the Golden Gophers into foul trouble. Expect to see Middle Tennessee State wreck another Big Ten team’s season, and avoid seeing them wreck your bracket again. Go with Middle Tennessee State.

 

Upset confidence points 7/10

 

So there you have it. Five big games to watch that have the potential to either make or break your bracket. Tread carefully, but if you’re looking for a little more spice or sizzle for your bracket, needing to find some upsets to shake things up, then look no further. A 12-seed over a 5-seed is almost a gimme as is the popular 11-seed over a 6-seed. This year I see a great chance to have as many as three 5-seeds fall. When the dust settles I think the cream will rise to the top and the Final Four won’t be anything too surprising but the opening weekend could be one to remember. Good luck and enjoy the dance.

 

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 8

Written by :
Published on : November 7, 2015

 

As we reach the halfway point of the NFL season, and the first college football playoff rankings are revealed, we crown a true champion in this week’s Champ and Chump. The World Series is over, the dust has settled on the infields soon to be covered by snow in many parts of this nation and we bid farewell to America’s past-time for 4-5 months. This week we welcome a couple first timers to our Champ and Chump section, but also see a familiar face. Spoiler alert: My Detroit Lions are the definition of “Chump”. Alex always said in his NFL Spread picks, “Always bet on the Packers”, well you might as well always bet against the Lions. But before I go on a 6-page tangent that goes through all the feels, six beers, and a box a Kleenex, I’ll just cut to the picks for Champ and Chump this week.

Champ: Kansas City Royals

The Royals getting hype in the 9th inning of their series winning game 5 matchup with the Mets.

 

Not too much of a surprise here. Let’s face it, if you win the World Series, or any championship for that matter, you have a great shot at finishing as my Champ of the week. A year after losing Game 7 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, the Royals had one goal all season long, and for the most part they played pretty consistent baseball to get there. As a Tigers fan, I know all too well how good these Royals are and have been the past few years. Often described as a gnat, or pest, that just won’t go away, they battle for 9 innings, and most times end up on top. They made great moves at the trade deadline, and I declared them winners there, and a few months later, those moves paid off. A quick 5 game dismantling of the New York Mets gave the Royals their first World Series title since 1985. Hats off to them.

 

Honorable Mention:

Drew Brees- 39-50 for 505 yards with 7 touchdowns. 91.7 QBR and a passer rating of 131.7 begs the question, “Is this a video game?” Big win over the Giants and Eli, mentioned below

Eli Manning- Weird to have a loser from a game in the same “Champ” category but what else could you have asked Eli to do vs the Saints? 30-41 for 350 and 6 touchdowns with zero turnovers. QBR or 94.1 and a passer rating of 138.2, insane.

Andre Drummond- Pistons fans haven’t had much to cheer about the past six or seven years but they have an absolute star in the making at center. Through four games, Drummond is averaging 20/20 a game following a monster performance vs Indiana where he scored 25 and ripped down 29 boards.

 

 

Chump: Minnesota Golden Gophers’ late 4th quarter clock management

Because of the terrible clock management, Michigan once again holds the Little Brown Jug.

 

A little over a week ago, Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill had to resign due to health reasons. In a very sad press conference, Kill was emotional as he knew that coaching the game he loved was taken away from him far too soon. Kill was building a very successful program at Minnesota, a tough feat to achieve. From a 3 win season in his first year, to coming one win shy of a Big Ten West title last year. He led the Gophers to a 4-2 start before having to say goodbye. Tracy Claeys, an assistant under Kill, took over the job as interim head coach and figures to have a legitimate shot to become the long term replacement. After an emotional week, the Gophers and Gopher fans were ready to “win one for the gipper” as they say. They welcomed the Michigan Wolverines for a game on Saturday night. A back and forth game had Minnesota driving deep into Michigan territory, down 3 with under a minute to play. Then with 19 seconds left Minnesota thought they had it, a touchdown pass to win the game, but it was reviewed and called down. Minnesota had the ball, first and goal at the 1-yard line. Apparently, Minnesota spent no time drawing up a play just in case their touchdown was reversed because they got to the line, the ball was spotted, the clock began and they went on to waste a dozen seconds before even snapping the ball. Minnesota’s quarterback then ran around and threw the ball away leaving them 2 seconds left. They called timeout (yes they had a timeout) and ultimately opted for a quarterback sneak which came up short, and they lost. Two things really bothered me about this complete mismanagement of the clock: For one, call timeout as soon as the play is reversed and you would have four cracks at it from the 1-yard line, and secondly, you’re down 3, kick the field goal and force OT. Michigan was down to their backup quarterback due to an injury, so trust that your quarterback can outduel him in overtime. Also to quote Brian Piccolo from the famous Brian’s Song, “When you dedicate a game to somebody, you are then supposed to go out and win it, idiot. Pat O’Brien never said let’s blow one for the gipper.”

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Detroit Lions- Congratulations to the Lions as they now suck on two continents, a tough feat. Falling to 1-7 across the pond to the woeful Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 45-10 has led to the firing of their President and General Manager, a week after firing a couple coaches. Cheers Lions fans, it literally cannot get worse (we’ve already achieved 0-16), so hang your hat on that.

Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers and NBA fans couldn’t wait for Kobe Bryant to return this season, and in what may be his final season he is far from riding off into the sunset on a high note. Sitting at 0-4 Kobe’s $25 million per year contract is easily the worst contract in sports right now… well, aside from Bobby Bonilla still getting paid in New York. The guy is shooting 32% from the field, and just 20% from 3-point land, averaging just 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. To make matters worse, first round pick Deangelo Russell appears to be struggling compared to a lot of the other top-10 picks from this past draft.

Chelsea Football Club- In England’s Premier League, Chelsea has enjoyed much success in the 21st century and have done so while having some of the most loathsome creatures take the pitch in their all blue kits. Being a Manchester United fan, there isn’t much I enjoy more than seeing Chelsea completely crumbling right now. Currently sitting in 15th place in the table, just four points from relegation, has Chelsea frantically clawing to stay above the cut. While I am sure they will avoid relegation, it is still a bit satisfying to watch them struggle.

 

 

 


2015 College Football Predictions

Written by :
Published on : September 2, 2015

 

 

The 2015 college football season gets underway this week, headlined by some marquee matchups right off the bat. Last year’s football season was one of the all time best, helped by a new college football playoff system that removed a lot of the headaches created by the former BCS system. This year, I expect another action packed, hard hitting season that won’t disappoint. Here’s a quick look at how I expect the Power 5 Conferences to unfold and what teams/players may be lifting some hardware come January.

 

ACC

Paul Johnson and his triple option could surprise some people in the ACC this season.

 

The ACC has belonged to Florida State the last couple years, who lost just one game over the past two seasons. However, with Jameis Winston now in the NFL, the conference is up for grabs. Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has been named the starter in Tallahassee. He is very talented and brings valuable experience, he also is very turnover prone. I think Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is the best QB in the conference, and I look for him to lead Clemson over visiting Florida State in a pivotal game that will ultimately decide the Atlantic Division. In the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech looks to be a step above the rest of the competition again. Paul Johnson’s success with the triple option has surprised many after he showcased it for six years at Navy. I think Johnson and the Yellow Jackets get over the hump this year, winning the ACC for the first time during his tenure.

 

Atlantic Division Winner:  Clemson

Coastal Division Winner: Georgia Tech

Conference Champ: Georgia Tech

 

BIG 12

Look for Trevone Boykin to lead TCU to the conference title.

 

Baylor or TCU. Might as well flip a coin in the Big 12 again this year. Baylor has won the Big 12 the last two seasons, but comes in ranked below TCU heading into this year. I think the conference champion will be decided when these two meet on the gridiron in late November. Last year, Baylor erased a 21-point deficit to stun TCU on the road, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of the Horned Frogs. This year, I think revenge will be served as Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin leads TCU to a win vs the Bears and ultimately, a conference title.

 

Conference Champ: TCU

 

BIG 10

As long as they stay focused, Ohio State should roll through the BIG 10.

 

Last year, Ohio State wasn’t given much of a chance after news broke that Braxton Miller would miss the entire season due to a shoulder injury. We all know what happened after that, as the Buckeyes surprised everyone (multiple times) along the way to a national title. This season, Ohio State again looks unbeatable. By returning all three quarterbacks (though Braxton Miller has switched to wide receiver) and running back Ezekiel Elliott, they have Big 10 defenses getting ready to wave the white flag. It will be very interesting to see how Ohio State handles the pressure. Last year, while they of course won the national title, they did it without really ever having the target on their backs. This year, much like Kentucky in basketball, every team will be gunning for them. Ohio State will have to be mindful of that and make sure not to overlook anyone. The other big news in the conference is Michigan hiring Jim Harbaugh as head coach. This was the biggest hire of the year without a doubt. Harbaugh will surely bring the glory days back to Michigan, but with both of the Wolverines rivals (Ohio State and Michigan State) having some of the more successful years in their programs history it won’t be easy. In the West division, (formerly the Leaders division) Wisconsin has enjoyed a lot of recent success, making it to three of the four conference championship games thus far. Melvin Gordon heading to the NFL is a huge loss though, and road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota this season will prove to be too much. I see the Golden Gophers, led by Jerry Kill, getting the upset and winning the division this year.

 

East Division Winner: Ohio State

West Division Winner: Minnesota

Conference Champ: Ohio State

 

PAC 12

The Ducks will remain on the top of the PAC 12 this year.

 

The PAC 12 was the hardest conference to predict for me, and I feel the conference is wide open. In the North, I see it as a two team race with Oregon and Stanford, but the South has as many as four teams vying for a place in the Conference Championship game. At Oregon, Marcus Mariota finally left after an incredible career, but the cupboard is anything but bare in Eugene. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams Jr takes over at quarterback, and the Ducks are loaded as usual with speed and athleticism at running back and wide receiver. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan returns for his fourth season, and as always, a stingy defense gives the Cardinals a fighting chance in the division. On the other side of the conference, USC, Arizona St, UCLA and Arizona all will be contending for the division. I think quarterback play will be the difference, and USC’s Cody Kessler has the most experience of the group. Last year, Kessler threw for 39 touchdowns and wasn’t really talked about too much. This year I think he becomes a household name, leading the Trojans to the Conference Championship game.

 

North Division Winner: Oregon

South Division Winner: USC

Conference Champ: Oregon

 

SEC

Saban and Co aren’t headed anywhere just yet.

 

After winning the National Championship seven straight times, the SEC has now gone two consecutive years without a National Title. Last year, the SEC West showcased some of the most talented teams in all of football, giving us multiple top-25 matchups every week. This year, the division should again be strong, but not as talented top to bottom. I think the battle for the Iron Bowl will be a pivotal game again in Alabama, as the Crimson Tide visit the Auburn Tigers late in November. For both Alabama and Auburn, replacing their starting quarterback, leading wide receiver and arguably top running back all in the same season seems a bit overwhelming. Yet both teams, and the Crimson Tide especially, always seem to have an All-American waiting in the wings. I give the slight edge to Alabama. In the SEC East, Georgia lost Todd Gurley to the NFL but I love what I see in his replacement Nick Chubb. After an outstanding breakout campaign as a Freshman, Chubb has the backfield to himself and has a realistic chance at 2,000+ yards and getting the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship game.

 

SEC East Winner: Georgia

SEC West Winner: Alabama

Conference Champ: Alabama

 

 

Heisman Trophy Candidates

Keep an eye on Deshaun Watson as he challenges for the Heisman this year.
  1. Any Ohio State Quarterback
  2. Ezekiel Elliott- RB- Ohio State
  3. Trevone Boykin- QB- TCU
  4. Cody Kessler- QB- USC
  5. Deshaun Watson- QB- Clemson

Playoff Teams

  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. Oregon
  4. Alabama

 

Heisman Trophy Winner

Ezekial Elliott will end up hoisting the greatest trophy in college football this year.

Ezekiel Elliott

 

National Champion

Much to the ire of their northern neighbors, the Buckeyes will repeat as champs this season.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes

 

 


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