The men’s basketball NCAA tournament is set to tipoff in the round of 64 tomorrow at noon. March madness is bound to have upset wins and sleeper picks. For all our first round upsets, teams to stay away from in your brackets and national championship picks, read below.
Biggest sleeper picks of the first round:
Max- South Dakota State, Davidson, Indiana, Colgate — Possibly: UAB, New Mexico State
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits and Davidson Wildcats are the sneakiest teams in the 2022 NCAA tournament. The Jackrabbits are averaging 86.7 points per game, shooting 44.9% from three on the season. Their leading scorer Douglas Wilson is averaging 16.5 points on the season while two players average 50% or better from distance. They have an electric offense that can catch fire at any point, facing a streaky team that’s had their ups and down on the offensive end this season.
Davidson is another team with a quick trigger on the offensive end. They have two guards in Foster Loyer and Hyunjung Lee who average over 16 on the season. Loyer shoots a team high 44.5% from long range while leading the team with 3.3 assists per game. They have four players who shoot over 40% from three, with four of their starters averaging double digits on the season.
Michael - San Francisco is out here trying to do it for #TeamAnalytics. Their analytics staff is as close as you get to elite outside of the NBA. Hoping we see them intentionally foul at the end of the first half in order to get the last possession just to freak announcers out.
For a deeper pick I’ll double down with Max and go South Dakota State. They’re the best 3-point shooting team in the NCAA, and they love to get out and run. It doesn’t hurt their confidence that they’ve won 21 in a row.
Matt - With Florida State not earning a bid for the first time since 2016, I’m hoping for pure chaos in the first round, but then chalk in the later rounds so that we get great Elite 8 matchups (the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 have historically been my favorite rounds as a fan and viewer). Of course, hoping for chaos is different then nailing the right predictions.
I agree with Michael’s San Francisco pick—the Dons are good. But for me, 10/7 doesn’t feel like a real upset, especially in the new transfer era. So looking at teams on the 11 line or lower, I’ll name two: Vermont (13) over Arkansas (4) and Colgate (14) over Wisconsin (3).
Vermont blitzed the America East this year because they can flat out shoot the rock (3rd in the country for efg%), they don’t turn the ball over (16th in the nation), and they sell-out to prevent opponents from getting offensive rebounds (lead the country). And those are three things that make them very dangerous against a Razorback squad that is prone to poor shooting days and features the inefficient Chris Lykes.
Colgate began the year 4-10, but has since gone 19-1 (their lone loss in that stretch was on the road against a Boston U team that FSU fans should be familiar with). Meanwhile, Wisconsin comes in losers of two straight as their star player, Johnny Davis, has been hobbled. Give me the hot team.
Teams to stay away from in round one:
Max- Providence, USC, Colorado State, Michigan State
The USC Trojans are scheduled to play the Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the tournament, in a seven vs. ten matchup. I have the Hurricanes advancing to the second round of the tournament, using their wide range of offensive weapons and seasoned vets to take over against a team who lost three of their last four games. The Trojans play behind veteran center Isaiah Mobley and transfer guard Boogie Ellis with an inside out offense. They’re a tremendous rebounding team but I have a feeling Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga will use their offensive versatility and skill in transition to help them advance.
The Colorado State Rams have had a tremendous season with a 25-5 record, competing in the Mountain West. Junior guard David Roddy is the fourth leading scorer in his conference, averaging 19.4 points on the season while also grabbing a team high 7.6 boards a game. Aside from their point guard Isaiah Stevens who averages 14.9 points and 4.8 assists they have a substandard offense that’s bound to get beat in the painted area and feel the Michigan Wolverines height. The Wolverines are a seasoned team who have been in this position and know that if they’re able to slow down the Rams guard play they’ll be punching their ticket into the round of 32.
Michael - Houston is way too good to be a 5-seed. No. 10 offense? No. 11 defense? That’s a 2-seed at worst. They get UAB (another criminally underrated team) in the first round and then could see Arizona in the Sweet 16 which could be one of the great games of the tourney.
My other two teams are facing each other: Texas and Virginia Tech. Last year’s UCLA could be this year’s Texas. They’ve struggled of late after losing Tre Mitchell, but Chris Beard can coach. And VT can beat anyone in the nation if they’re knocking down 3s.
Matt - Duke might not fall victim to a first round upset, but I wouldn’t pencil them in too deep in your bracket. The young Blue Devils have been all over the map this year with wins against Gonzaga and Kentucky, but poor performances throughout the season. Worse, they seem to lack toughness and consistency with their guard play, which is critical for a deep March run. I wouldn’t be shocked if Coach K’s final team bows out before the Sweet 16.
Another team I’d avoid pinning my bracket hopes on is 6th seeded Alabama. The Tide take the 12th most threes in the country, but they only have connected on 30% this season. When they are on they are a blast to watch racing up and down the court. But too many times this season they’ve been off—way off. I have no faith in their ability to string together 4-5 wins in a row against high quality competition.
National Championship picks:
Max- Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Gonzaga
Arizona and Arkansas check most of the boxes necessary to make a run in the tournament, from a two minute scorer, to versatile forwards to big men who can protect the paint. They have multiple players who can score the ball, with weapons inside the paint and beyond the arc.
The Arizona Wildcats are 31-3 on the season, riding a six game win streak behind the Pac-12’s second leading scorer Bennedict Mathurin who averages 17.4 points a game and 5.6 rebounds. Although they’re going to need Mathurin to find his rhythm, they’re a very versatile team that put a lot of points on the board and can hit the opposing team’s defense in many different ways. They have two players averaging over one block per game and they share the ball with ease, recording 19.9 assists a game on the season. In my opinion, they have the easiest road to the elite eight and I believe they’ll take full advantage.
The Arkansas Razorbacks are one of my favorite teams in this years tournament with a guard, big duo of JD Notae and Jaylin Williams. Notae is the SEC’s second leading scorer, averaging 18.4 on the season to go along with 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals. Although this team had a rough patch to end the season I believe they’ll travel to Buffalo with a chip on their shoulder and Notae will have a tournament run to remember. Williams has a high motor on the defensive end and on the glass, posting 9.6 rebounds a game and 1.2 blocks. I may be on an island of my own when it comes to picking Arkansas but I believe they’ll be a dangerous team if they catch fire.
Michael - My Final 4 is Gonzaga, Kentucky, Houston, and Kansas. Last week I lost a long-time and dear friend who was a KU fanatic. So I’m handling Tim’s bracket for him: Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.
Matt - For a Final Four, give me Gonzaga, Kentucky, Arizona, and Auburn. I would have loved to pick Tennessee, as I think they are a well-rounded team with an elite defense, and defense travels in March. But unfortunately for the Vols, they landed in the same region as my top overall team, Arizona.
From there I’ll take Kentucky over Gonzaga and Zona over Jabari Smith and the Tigers, with Wildcats from the desert defeating the Wildcats from the Bluegrass in the title game.
More upset picks in round one:
Max - No.10 Miami
No.10 Loyola Chicago
No. 11 Rutgers
( Possibly ) No.13 Chattanooga
Matt - Iowa State over the Will Wade-less LSU Tigers;
Loyola Chicago over Ohio State
2 or 3 of the 9 seeds and at least one 12 seed.