As we’re all filling out our NCAA Tournament brackets in the days leading up to the beginning of March Madness, it’s natural to wonder about the best picks for a major upset. After all, it’s no fun picking all of the favorites to advance to the later rounds; the thrill and magic of the tournament come from the fact that it only takes one strong performance for a no-name program to knock off a perennial powerhouse. Not every single year will feature a school quite like George Mason in 2006, who came out of nowhere as a 12 seed and stunned team after team on the way to an improbable final four run. But even so, someone will step up as the Cinderella and certain favorites will be forced to make an early exit. But if you like to bet on college basketball which are the best picks? Here are a few of our picks.
#12 Richmond vs. #5 Vanderbilt
The Richmond Spiders are certainly hot, riding a seven game winning streak and an Atlantic-10 Tournament Championship in which they are also 7-0 ATS. They shoot well, play aggressively, and could certianly outplay a disappointing Vanderbilt team who flamed out of the SEC tournament and disappointed down the stretch.
#11 Marquette vs. #6 Xavier
Any team that plays in the incredibly deep Big East is battle tested, and Marquette certainly has the talent to deal the Muskateers a first round upset. Although Marquette did lose big to Louisville in the Big East tournament, they hold wins over Notre Dame, Syracuse and UConn. Xavier is certainly a good team, but I think Marquette will come out of the gates incredibly hard to avenge their Big East Tournament defeat and knock Xavier out of the tournament.
#12 Memphis vs. #5 Arizona
A lot of people thought Josh Pastner’s talented Tigers squad would do better this year, but they did battle back to win the Conference USA tournament and they have a lot of firepower. Arizona, on the other hand, struggles with their two-point defense and defensive rebounding, and the Pac 10 was a very weak conference again this year. It was only a couple years ago that Memphis went all the way to the NCAA Championship game, and although there’s no Derrick Rose this year, freshman guards Will Barton and Joe Jackson have shown flashes of brilliance.
#10 Penn State vs. #7 Temple
Although 10-7 matchups aren’t considered quite as big of an upset as some others, Penn State is a team that not many people thought should be in the field. But senior guard Talor Battle is a prolific scorer, and if he gets hot, the Nittany Lions can beat anyone. They recently made Wisconsin, ranked up to the top-10 in the country, look laughable in the Big Ten tournament, and then turned right around and beat Michigan State. Don’t be surprised if Battle leads them to a big win over Temple.