What’s more fun than getting to brag to all your friends that you CALLED that amazing upset? Getting to brag to all your friends that you called that amazing upset AND getting paid in the process. I can’t guarantee any of these underdogs deliver a straight-up One Shining Moment, but these are my three favorite upset bids for the opening round – and therefore my favorite plays with the points.
And at the risk of regretting it (because there is always one ridiculous, no one saw it coming, 19-years old kids playing at odd start times in odd gyms missing shots-upsets) I’ll also include my “upsets people like that I just don’t see happening” list as well.
Good luck everyone – let’s have an awesome Tournament!
FAVORITE UPSET PLAYS:
#1 – UNC Wilmington +8 over Virginia Cavaliers (Thurs 12:30pm) – I know, Virginia was one of my value plays in another column. But that doesn’t mean “bad Virginia” doesn’t still exist. No good team in the country can go colder for longer than the Wahoos at their worst. If they were to find some offensive icicles at the early Thursday 12:40 pm start time, the tournament could get off to a really interesting beginning.
Virginia has wins over some elite foes, but are also just 6-7 in their last 13 games. Meanwhile, UNC Wilmington has a lofty seed for a non-auto qualifier, and that seed was earned largely on the strength of a 29-5 record and wins over ETSU and close losses at MTSU. UNC Wilmington will need to get shots off quickly as UVA will pressure them in the halfcourt at the arc more than they are used to, but I think they can keep this game close.
#2 – Florida Gulf Coast Eagles +12 over Florida State Seminoles (Thurs 9:20pm) – I don’t think we will see 2014 Dunk City, but I do think the Eagles can compete. Florida State was DREADFUL this season in non-home games and FGCU isn’t new to this stage. They played a good non-con schedule and have some athletes to compete in this game. I like this one to stay closer than expected.
FGCU enter today winners of 19 of their last 21 and played tough games early, hanging around at Baylor and nearly-winning (and kind of getting screwed) at Michigan State. This team has played TOUGH teams on the road, so don’t think the bright lights will faze them. They are playing with house money. Expect a loose and free FGCU team to give Florida State all they can handle and then some.
Meanwhile, back to this “FSU is bad away from home” theory. It’s real. Florida State is 2-6 in their last eight road games. Sure, the Orlando crowd will have a lot of FSU fans tonight, but there will also be plenty of Florida fans as well – built in enemies, and when things get tense, EVERYONE other than the home fans LOVES the ‘dog. There’s been no more lovable ‘dog in the last five years than the FGCU Eagles.
#3 – Iona Gaels +16 over Oregon Ducks (Fri 2:00pm) – Will the crushing injury to star center Chris Boucher be a crippling blow to the Ducks Final Four dreams? We will get a good test early as the high-octane up-tempo Gaels once again head to the Big Dance looking to make some noise.
Iona isn’t quite as good as last year’s squad that featured AJ English, but this still a tourney vet who has played some good competition this year. They lost comfortably at Florida State and Nevada this season, but at least they have SEEN top tier competition (FSU primarily). I don’t think they WIN this game, but 16 points is a LOT for a Ducks team to cover as they feel their way out missing Chris Boucher in the lineup.
UPSETS EVERYONE LIKES AND I DON’T KNOW WHY:
#1 – Vermont Catamounts over Purdue Boilermakers (Thurs, 7:27pm) – Vermont has won 19 games in a row! Yee Haw! I mean, yawwwwnnnn. Of COURSE they have. The best win was over Northeastern who also beat THEM once. They lost by 22 to Providence and 18 to South Carolina and 12 to Butler. Sure, those were road games, but it ain’t like Purdue is travelling to Vermont anytime soon. Purdue is way too big for Vermont. I think the Boilers win easily.
#2 – Wichita State crushing Dayton (Fri 7:10pm) – First of all, a #10 over a #7 isn’t an upset. It’s a coin flip. And that’s what makes the #10 Shockers LAYING six so surprising to me. This game isn’t a gimme for Wichita by a long shot. I’ll take the Flyers and the points. Archie Miller has his team here EVERY year, and they’ve played a MUCH better schedule than the Shockers whose ONLY Top 100 wins are over Illinois State.
Good luck everyone – let’s have a great tournament!! Feel free to chat, question and complain on Twitter @TheMarchManiacs