Upsets are part of and perhaps the biggest reason the NCAA Tournament has become what it has since the field moved to a field of 64. I mean, we've had Butler, George Mason, and VCU all make incredible Final Four runs in just the last decade. So as the action gets under way today we here at Sports Intelligentsia give you our Upset Alerts for Day 1 of the tournament proper.
So, who are we putting on upset alert? Well, we suggest you keep your eyes out for these matchups on Thursday:
(5) Oklahoma State vs. (12) Oregon: Yes, this isn't exactly going out on a limb for an upset pick, after all there's almost always a 12 over a 5 every season. However these teams are so similar in the fact that they like to score and they can play some decent defense as well. In fact both teams are within a point of each other in offense (73 to 72ppg) and defense (62 to 63ppg) scoring. However, Oregon can be a bit more patient than the Pokes, so be on the look out for this one to be one of the better games and don't be surprised if Oregon comes out a winner.
(6) Arizona vs. (11) Belmont: This pick is less about Arizona and WAAAAYYY more about Belmont. The "other" Bruins in this tournament can flat out shoot the ball and fill it up quick. It was no small feat that they went from the A-Sun to the OVC and took both the OVC regular season and tournament championships. That's not easy to do and there's a reason for it - They are second in the country in effective FG% at 56.8%. Belmont shoots 57.1% from inside the arc (the best mark in the country) and 37.6% from beyond the arc (35th nationally). Anytime you face a team like this it's ripe for an upset and Arizona isn't exactly known for their defense, but they will need to slow this game down in order to keep Belmont off their game.
(3) Syracuse vs. (14) Montana: Welcome to matchup hell if you are Syracuse. What breaks a 2-3 zone? Try shooting the rock well and that's exactly what the Grizzlies do. Now true, they don't run the ball and don't push the pace, but they are in the top 35 of the country in two point and three point shooting percentage. I don't know about you, but if I were Syracuse that scares the crap out of me. Add in the fact that they NCAA is investigating the Orange for possible violations of an academic nature, sorry but these kids will be distracted. Will the upset happen? Maybe not, but those that are picking the Orange with ease are in for a rude awakening.
(4) Michigan vs. (13) South Dakota State: By now I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but this is a matchup nightmare for the Wolverines. South Dakota State is a team that is frighteningly good from beyond the arc, shooting almost 40% (9th nationally) from three point land. That is exactly what the Maize 'N Blue struggle with. If Michigan can't stop the Jackrabbits' Nate Wolters (22.6ppg) this game is over and a lot of bracket (including my own) will be blown to pieces. Michigan has to be on it's toes and they have to pound the ball inside, something they aren't totally comfortable with. Look out for this game to be a lot closer than some think at a very minimum and don't be surprised if this one ends in favor of the Jackrabbits either.