3 Upsets That Will Happen in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

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One of the best parts about March Madness is picking upsets and predicting the next Cinderella story. Will it be another tried and true 12 over a 5? Or will a 16 seed win for the first time ever? Here are my upsets to look for in the 2nd round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Stephen F. Austin Over Utah

The Lumberjacks won their first ever NCAA Tournament game last season, and are hungry for more. After starting the season 1-3, the Jacks have gone 28-1, almost sweeping through the Southland Conference and Conference Tournament undefeated. All three of SFA’s early season losses were to teams in the NCAA Tournament, including a 79-77 overtime loss to a very good Northern Iowa team. The Lumberjacks duo of Thomas Walkup and Jacob Parker are both long and athletic and could be difficult for undersized Utes like Brandon Taylor to defend. Utah comes into the NCAA Tournament 3-4 in there last 7 games and will face a Lumberjacks team that believes they can win.

Why the Utes win – While S.F.A. is athletic, the Utes have 7 footer Jakob Poeltl and should dominate inside. The Lumberjacks impressive record doesn’t include a single win over a team in the NCAA Tournament, Utah beats up the Jacks in the paint.

Buffalo over West Virginia

The Buffalo Bulls have been on the rise over the last 3 years and come into the NCAA Tournament brimming with confidence. The Bulls played 2 of the tournaments #1 seeds early in the season, both on the road. Yes the Bulls lost to both Kentucky and Wisconsin, but played respectable games that gave them the opportunity to measure themselves against the top talent in the country. A measurement that showed that Buffalo wasn’t that far off. Buffalo’s junior forward Justin Moss averages just shy of a double-double and matches up well against a Mountaineers interior that lacks any real size advantage. This is the first ever appearance by the Bulls in the Big Dance and they have all the talent to turn it into their first ever NCAA Tournament win.

Why the Mountaineers win – While West Virginia has had an up and down season, all 9 of their losses came to teams in the NCAA Tournament. Bob Huggins remains one of the nations’ best coaches and will have his inconsistent team ready to play come gametime.

Harvard over North Carolina

Harvard comes into the NCAA tournament on an unbelievable high. Knocking off arch-rival Yale in an Ivy-League playoff to win the conference and gain an NCAA Tournament bid is about as good an ending to a basketball season for Crimson fans as there could be. But don’t expect the boys from Cambridge to be content. The Crimson are playing in their 4th straight NCAA Tournament, and have posted 2nd round wins in each of the last two years. They post a team that is almost entirely upperclassmen, and will have the experience and drive to take down a good, but not great North Carolina team. Seniors Steve Moundou-Missi and Wesley Saunders will have to have great games, but the fact that they have done it twice before, is reason enough to pick the Crimson once again.

Why the Tar Heels win – While North Carolina hasn’t had a stellar season by their standards, they are playing their best basketball in the last two weeks. After losing 6 of 10 games to end the regular season, the Tar Heels picked up wins over Louisville and Virginia in the ACC Tournament and Roy Williams has his talented squad finally clicking. Harvard doesn’t handle the emotion well and falls off in the 2nd half.

Hampton over Kentucky

Just kidding.

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The 5 Teams who can beat Kentucky

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So you are taking a last look over your 2015 NCAA Tournament Bracket and you are wondering if picking Kentucky to win it all is the right move. I’m going to come out and say it, yes, Kentucky doesn’t look like they are going to lose any time soon. But if you are looking to pick an upset, there are 5 teams in the tournament who would have a solid chance against the Wildcats if they faced them in the big dance.

1. Wisconsin Badgers – The first chance the Badgers would have to face the Wildcats would be in the Final Four, something the two teams did only a season ago. In that game, Wisconsin came in as the higher seed, and the favorite. But the Wildcats pulled out a thrilling 1 point, come from behind victory in one of the best games of the season. If the Badgers are going to have any chance against an even better Kentucky team this year, they will have to do it on the defensive side of the ball. Wisconsin finished the regular season in the top 10 in points allowed per game and play unbelievable team defense. They will likely have to take that defense up another notch against a Kentucky team that is taller and longer than any team they have faced all season.

2. Villanova Wildcats – Nova is out to prove that they aren’t just the other Wildcats in the bracket. They played significantly tougher conference competition in the Big east than Kentucky faced this season. What has Villanova fans hopeful, is the way that they have played against teams with similar size as Kentucky. Kentucky is used to utilizing their height advantage to get easy looks near the basket. While Nova isn’t as long as Kentucky, they are solid, and have beat up teams with height advantages (see 105 points against St. Johns). No St. Johns isn’t nearly the team Kentucky is, but if any team has a chance against Kentucky, it might be Villanova. The two Wildcats clubs would have to meet in the National Championship.

3. Virginia Cavaliers – The Cavaliers have all the tools necessary to beat Kentucky. While many teams have attempted to slow down Kentucky and control the pace of the game, forcing the Wildcats into a half-court offense, Virginia has the talent to actually do it. Their defense in the paint is better than anyone that Kentucky has played and could keep the Wildcats from getting easy looks near the basket. The fear for Tony Bennett’s team would be injuries. The health and effectiveness of Justin Anderson will likely make or break Virginia in the tournament. If Anderson is healthy, the Cavaliers have a great chance of making their way to Indianapolis for a potential matchup with the Wildcats.

4. Arizona Wildcats – Arizona has had a fantastic season and are one of the few teams in the NCAA Tournament field that can match Kentucky’s size, with the 7 foot duo of Dusan Ristic and Kaleb Tarczewski. Arizona stormed through the Pac-12 tournament relatively unchallenged and seem to be playing their best basketball down the stretch. Arizona has been able to get quality shots on a consistent basis and rank 6th in field goal percentage in the nation. They will have to rely on easy looks to maximize every possession against the defensive juggernaut that is Kentucky.

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs – Gonzaga has had just about as quiet a season as you could have and finish with only 2 losses. The Bulldogs lost at Arizona by 3 points in overtime, and to a good BYU team. Outside of those two games, the Zags have dominated, playing very few close games, winning by double digits more often than not. The key this season for Gonzaga has been their ability to get quality shots. Gonzaga ranks 1st in the nation in field goal percentage, and 6th overall in assists. The Bulldogs know how to get good looks at the basket and swing the ball as well as anyone in the nation. They also are 2nd in the nation in rebounding, which could be key to keeping Kentucky from having multiple shots each possession. The Bulldogs key player is 6’10 Kyle Wiltjer, a transfer from Kentucky.

If you sensed a theme between these teams, then you are right. All 5 of these teams play fantastic team defense and all have the inside presence to hold the Wildcats off in the paint. If any one of them gets a chance, they will have to hope that they are able to continue that restless defense inside, against the most athletic team in the NCAA.

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Top 2015 NCAA Tournament Matchups

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The question on everyone’s minds coming into the 2015 NCAA Tournament, is will Kentucky run the table, and finish a perfect season? Despite playing numerous close games in a weak SEC, the Wildcats are by far the favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis this year. But focusing on Kentucky will mean missing out on some fantastic opening round matchups. Here are my picks for the top matchups in the 2015 NCAA Tournament opening rounds.

First Round

BYU vs. Ole Miss – While many people disregard the opening round of the NCAA Tournament as a “play in game for teams no one has heard of,” the truth is the opening round has provided some fantastic basketball over the last couple years. This year the most exciting matchup looks to be BYU vs. Ole Miss. The Rebels come into the NCAA Tournament having lost 4 of their last 5 games, but have posted some impressive wins over the course of the season. Ole Miss gave Kentucky just about all that they could handle in a 89-86 overtime loss, and has beaten fellow tournament teams Cincinnati, Oregon, and Arkansas. They will take on a Cougars team that is largely an enigma. BYU has one of the highest powered offenses in the country and the Cougars have won 8 of their last 9 games coming into the Big Dance. The question surrounding the Cougars this season was always if they had played quality competition, they will have plenty in Ole Miss on March 17th.

Runner up – Boise State vs. Dayton

Midwest Region

Texas vs. Butler – The Texas Longhorns came into the 2015 season riding hopes of a final four. They returned all 5 starters from last year’s tournament team and added probable NBA lottery pick Miles Turner. The Horns are one of the tallest teams in the nation and block shots at a furious rate. But the team has been plagued by turnovers, cold shooting, and just plain uninspired basketball. Down the stretch Texas found itself fighting for its NCAA Tournament life and ended up playing some of its best basketball of the season. They will take on a Butler team that has all the qualities that have given Texas fits this season. After being picked to finish 8th in the Big East to start the season, the Bulldogs put together quality win after quality win to finish 2nd in the tough conference. Where Butler lacks in athleticism they make up for in discipline and watching their offense click is a thing of beauty. Both Butler and Texas have played numerous close games over the course of the season and this one looks to be no different. Expect a back and forth battle until the final buzzer.

Runner up – West Virginia vs. Buffalo

West Region

North Carolina vs. Harvard – Okay this pick is a little out there, but hear me out. Everyone knows that the Tar Heels are good. Not only that, but Roy Williams squad is playing its best basketball down the stretch, picking up wins over Louisville and Virginia in the ACC Tournament. Junior Brice Johnson has been one of the most dynamic players in the ACC all season and will likely give the Crimson fits. But Harvard comes into the NCAA Tournament riding a high. A loss to arch-rival Yale in the 2nd to last game of the season looked like it would keep Harvard out of the NCAA Tournament. But a surprise Bulldogs loss setup an Ivy League playoff, with the Crimson taking down Yale in a fairy tale ending for Harvard fans. While beating their arch-rival in a playoff to win the Ivy League, and make the NCAA Tournament will have Harvard clicking on an emotional level, the team is incredibly experienced in the NCAA Tournament. Seniors Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi will be playing in their fourth NCAA Tournament and will know how to handle the pressure and emotion. Look for this game to be much closer than anticipated and for the with the Crimson believing they can upset the Tar Heels.

Runner up – VCU vs. Ohio State

East Regional

NC State vs. LSU – This is by far the most exciting 8 vs. 9 mathcup in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. NC State has proven that they are capable of beating anyone in the nation this season and have picked up wins over top teams like Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina. What has plagued the Wolf Pack has been consistency. After beating Duke they proceeded to lose 4 of their next 5 games. Inconsistency has also plagued the Tigers, but LSU has quietly played some fantastic basketball this season. The Tigers have impressive road wins at West Virginia and at Arkansas. Both LSU and NC State average more than 70 points per game, and both are in the top 20 in the nation in blocks per game. Look for both the Tigers and Wolf Pack to play inspired basketball and for this to be a back and forth battle.

Runner up – Michigan State vs. Georgia

South Regional

Iowa vs. Davidson – No this Davidson team doesn’t have Steph Curry, but the Wildcats are an exciting team to watch. In the top ten in both points per game, and assists per game, Davidson knows a thing or two about scoring and the A10 regular season champs enter March Madness after winning 10 of their last 11 games. The last time Davidson was a 10 seed they were the darlings of the tournament, and they are talented enough in 2015 to do it again. They will take on an Iowa team that played its best basketball down the stretch. The Hawkeyes roared through their final 7 games, picking up 6 wins, and going from Tournament outsider to a 7 seed. The Hawkeyes are used to playing sharpshooting teams like Davidson and will look to rely on their superior inside presence.

Runner up – SMU vs. UCLA

What are games are you looking most forward to in the opening round?

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