Fans will be looking for surprises and fantastic finishes this week as the 2023 NCAA Basketball Tournament gets underway. In fact, upsets are one of the big reasons that many people refer to the tournament as March Madness.
There are all kinds of stats that point to the fact that unexpected outcomes are what drive the interest in the tourney. For example, all four No. 2 seeds have reached the Sweet 16 just twice in the past 25 tournaments. A double-digit seed has advanced to the Sweet 16 in 14 straight tournaments and there has never been an Elite Eight without at least one No. 1 seed. So as you work on your bracket, be mindful of teams that could help you as an underdog but also make sure you respect the favorites too.
Here are some of our teams who could spring a surprise or two in the first round.
East Regional upset special
As of Monday night, #9 seed Florida Atlantic was a +2 point underdog to the #8 seed Memphis Tigers. Memphis is coming off an emotional victory over Houston in the AAC Tournament on Sunday. FAU ranks in the top 10 nationally in offensive rating, shooting over 37% from beyond the arc as a team.
Another game to keep an eye on: Oral Roberts +6.5 over Duke. ORU went 30-4 this year and won’t be intimidated by the Blue Devils.
Don’t discount the Wolfpack (+5.5) in the South
I’m always leery about supporting teams with such a mood swing. In last week’s ACC tournament NC State beat Virginia Tech by 20 points, then came back the next night and lost by 26 to Clemson. They’ve beaten Duke and Miami and could be ready for another surprise against Creighton -5.5.
Kent State (+4.5) to Spring a Surprise in the Midwest
A 49-44 loss to Houston and a 73-66 setback to Gonzaga tells me that Kent State can hang with the Big Boys. They play very tough defense and there’s no reason they can’t take slow down and stun Indiana.
West Coast could see a seismic surprise
There seems to be a 12 over 5 upset every year and we like VCU (+4) to send Saint Mary’s packing. VCU is another defensively tough mid-major team with wins over Vanderbilt and Arizona State. They’ve won nine straight.