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Another Selection Sunday has come and gone. The matchups are inked and the early winds of madness are gusting this March. Bracket fillers already have a lot to consider with the overpouring of upset possibilities. Here are some immediate reactions to the field, and some way-too-early upset picks.
They Got the Bubble Teams Right
Although, with the relatively weak bubble teams this season there wouldn’t be much to complain about regardless of who got left out. 28-6 UNC Greensboro undoubtedly feels snubbed, but the committee usually only has one spot available for the strong mid-major programs that don’t win their conference tournament, and Belmont rightfully earned that spot this year. The other three of the ‘last four in’—Ohio State, St. John’s, and Arizona State—all had strong resumes and deserved their spots in the 68-team pool.
They Got the 1-Seeds Wrong
Well, just one of them, since the selection committee refuses to learn its lesson about Gonzaga. It seems like every year Gonzaga plows through their weak WCC conference foes, earns a high seeding, and ends up on the wrong side of an upset after one round. In the last 15 years, Gonzaga has been at least an 8-seed eleven times, eight of those times being a 4-seed or higher. But in the same span, Gonzaga has made the ‘Elite Eight’ just twice and the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ five times. They made it to the championship game in 2017, but even then they were the beneficiary of several other upsets paving a light road for them to advance. They are certainly a strong team, but history tells us they will not fare well once they face real tests like Syracuse or Florida State.
The 6/11 and 5/12 matchups are Spicier Than Ever
The best formula for a first-round upset already is a low-seeded team hitting its stride versus the talented and deserving, but recently struggling, high-seeded one. The committee really leaned into this formula, and subsequently the NCAA tournament’s reputation for the 6/11 and 5/12 upsets, and set the stage for it to continue. Two in particular to scratch into your brackets: 1) 5-seeded Marquette, having lost 6 of 7, facing a hot Murray State program led by future lottery-pick, Ja Morant; and 2) 5-seeded Wisconsin, who’ve been up and down all season, dealing with an Oregon group who’ve won their last 8.
A Possible Duke/UNC Championship Game
We’ve already been blessed with three phenomenal games between the two juggernauts, and nobody would complain about a fourth. Zion Williamson went off for 31 in Duke’s recent victory recently over UNC, and the Tarheels are certainly looking to avenge that loss on the biggest stage. A championship game featuring the most historic rivalry in college sports as well as the best draft prospect since Kevin Durant would make for one of the best of all time. Fingers crossed.
Some Way-too-Early Upset Predictions
(11) Belmont over (6) Maryland. Belmont comes into this tourney with a chip on their shoulder. I except they’ll dispatch Temple in the play-in game and then dismantle Maryland in the round of 64. Star Senior Dylan Windler has as pure a jumper as you’ll ever see and he can fill it up against the Terrapins, who haven’t looked very convincing this month.
(12) Murray State over (5) Marquette. Look for Ja Morant to really prove his worth this tournament and lead the Racers on a deep run even past this game.
(12) Oregon over (5) Wisconsin. The Ducks are hitting their stride just in time and will likely continue their success against an overrated Wisconsin team. Oregon has a quick, pressuring defense that will make life extremely difficult for the Badgers on offense, and will out-athlete them in every other area of the game. If they can stay disciplined and keep the energy up, they will most likely advance to the round of 32.
(13) UC Irvine over (4) Kansas St. The Anteaters have put together a dominant, 30-win season. They score the ball with poetic ease and could catch Kansas St. napping.