2022 March Madness Predictions: Best Upset Picks for the Midwest Region

Who doesn't love an upset during March Madness? Handicapper Ben Rajavuori shares his best-upset picks for the Midwest region of the NCAA March Madness Tournament?
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2022 March Madness Predictions: Best Upset Picks for the Midwest Region

The hardest part of filling out any bracket is predicting the upsets. There are many upsets every year, but when a team is higher seeded and therefore expected to win, you essentially have to predict multiple plus-odds matchups to do well. Additionally, there are always a few surprise cinderella stories that mess up a few brackets, like UMBC in 2018 when they won as a 16 seed.

The key to picking upsets in March Madness is staying within the numbers. There are on average 6.2 upsets in the first round, NOT including 9 seeds winning over 8 seeds. With that in mind, you can expect 1-2 upsets per region in the first round. I will be covering my favorite 1-2 upset picks for the first round out of the midwest region.

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13 South Dakota State Over 4 Providence

In short, Providence is seeded too high. Providence is the first team in NCAA Tournament history to make the tournament with over 10 "close" wins and less than five losses on the season. A close win counts as a win by 5 points or less or in overtime. This has resulted in Providence being deemed the overall number one in the nation in "luck" factor on Kenpom. It's not like they are closing out games at the line either because they're 149th in free-throw percentage. So how do teams with a lot of close wins during the year fare in March? Well, here's how previous teams in a similar situation did:

2019: LSU, 12 close wins, 3 seed, lost in the Sweet Sixteen

2019: Cincinnati, 11 close wins, 7 seed, lost in the first round

2015: Wofford, 10 close wins, 12 seed, lost in the first round

2015 Notre Dame, 10 close wins, 3 seed, lost in the Elite Eight

2012: Baylor, 10 close wins, 3 seed, lost in the first round

Three of these five lost in the first round, one being a three seed. Providence also isn't much defensively, as they ranked 79th in defensive efficiency. That's not good news for Providence, considering their 13 seed counterparts are 12th overall in offensive rating.

South Dakota State is a high-powered offensive team that gets out in transition and scores quickly, then doesn't play much in the backcourt. The Jackrabbit's goal to win each game is to outpace you and overwhelm you offensively, and it works. This year, the Jackrabbits went a perfect 18-0 in conference play and averaged 87.2 points per game. The key to this upset is simply South Dakota State out-pacing Providence. The Jackrabbits are first overall in field goal percentage in the nation, shooting 52.7% from the field. They are also 15th in pace on offense.

This upset pick relies on South Dakota State coming out hot. This is a 13 seed over a four seed after all, so it's not a sure thing, but I like the odds on the number one shooting team in the nation. If South Dakota State can speed this game up and get ahead early on Providence, I like their odds to pull off the upset.

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12 Richmond Over 5 Iowa

This pick is a lot sketchier, but you need a few unpopular surprise upsets to win bracket pools. Iowa's offense is too streaky for me to rely on them in the tournament. Their offense is still incredible and ranked second in offensive efficiency in the nation, but there were too many times during the season and in the Big 10 tournament where they went on prolonged cold runs. Even in the Big 10 tournament, there were multiple stretches I can remember against Indiana where Iowa went several minutes shooting only threes and were missing them all, ultimately keeping Indiana in the game.

I'll refer to the Rutgers game in which Iowa only put up 46 points in a loss on the road. Sure, call it a fluke, but it reflects my previous paragraph where Iowa will go on short cold spells where Iowa will either let the other team cut the lead or take the lead. Richmond also didn't have an offensive performance as bad as that all year. Their lowest scoring game was 53 points against a solid Dayton defense.

Richmond is no slouch either, and I feel like they are being slightly overlooked. They were able to knock off three of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 in consecutive days, winning the conference tournament. They have a veteran team with four senior starters and a solid coach with tournament experience. Richmond would be one of the more surprising upsets in the first round, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Iowa go on a cold run or two mid-game and let Richmond move to the second round.

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Ben Rajavuori is a handicapper out of Minneapolis, MN. He has been creating sports content for almost four years now and is an expert in all things NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, and NCAAB. Ben thrives on diving deep into statistics to find the best angle on every bet. You can follow him on Twitter @WeBeatTheSpread.

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