Underdogs not only upset the NCAA basketball odds, but also, destroy a lot of brackets, some of them very early on. Who are the remaining bracket busters at the Big Dance?
Bracket Busters raised their fists to the world early last Thursday on the opening day of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, headlined by a couple of 12-seeds, Yale and Arkansas-Little Rock taking down Nos.5 Baylor and Purdue, respectively. Two more 11-seeds, one a play-in, also wrecked more than a few brackets.
Day 2 of the Big Dance started with the tournament's biggest upset as No.15 toppled No. 2 Michigan State, the Spartans named on many a ballot to win the Midwest Region. Almost as big was 14-seed Stephen S. Austin taking out No.3 West Virginia in the East Region, not to mention No.13 booting No.4 California in the South, plus another 11 and a pair of 10's moving on. The Round of 32 saw things settle down a bit with only two double-digit seeds, No.10 Syracuse and No.11 Gonzaga, advancing to the Sweet 16. As fate would have it, the Orange and Bulldogs meet next week in Chicago to decide the lower half of the Midwest Region leaving the winner as the only true bracket-buster for the Elite Eight.
'Zags & 'Cuse Can Be Bracket Busters All The Way To The End
You can count me as one of those who thought Syracuse (21-13 straight up, 18-15 against the spread) was at least over-seeded if not overrated coming into the NCAA Tournament. The Orange certainly proved me and many others wrong with easy wins over No.7 Dayton and No.15 Middle Tennessee, covering the spread both times with the 'under' cashing on identical 128½ point totals. It's easy to understand why so many of us weren't big on 'Cuse going into last week's two rounds seeing as how the Orange dropped four of five to end the regular season before a quick exit from the ACC Tournament. Gonzaga (28-7 SU, 16-15-2 ATS), meanwhile, was one of the best teams going before being underrated heading into the Madness. The Bulldogs won six of eight at the end of the regular season, then three to take the West Coast Conference Tournament, and have beaten the spread in 10 of their last 14 with a push.
Mark Few's troops also enjoyed relatively easy wins and covers in the tourney so far, and they came against a bit tougher opponents than Jim Boeheim's bunch. The 'Zags came out strong against No.6 Seton Hall, another team that came into the dance on a roll, in the opener, then smoked No.3 Utah to get a shot at Syracuse in the Sweet 16. A quick check of SBR's live NCAA tournament odds finds Gonzaga on a -4½ point marker, 134½ the early total at 5Dimes. I'm liking the Bulldogs outright based mostly on the senior leadership of Kyle Wiltjer and Eric McClellan, plus soph Domantas Sabonis really bringing his A-game to the event. Regardless of this outcome, I can definitely see either Gonzaga or Syracuse giving the winner of the No.1 Virginia/No. 4 Iowa State matchup fits in the Midwest Final on Sunday.
Will It Be An All-ACC East Final?
After Gonzaga and Syracuse, the pickin's are slim when it comes to low-seeds playing the role of spoilers. All we're left with are a pair of 5's, one 6 and a 7, and the 6-7 battle will be head-to-head clash Friday evening when Notre Dame (23-11 SU, 15-16-1 ATS) and Wisconsin (22-12 SU, 18-15-1 ATS) collide in Philadelphia for one half of the East Region semis. In fact, the East is split 50-50 between the ACC and Big Ten with No. 1 North Carolina meeting No.5 Indiana in the other semifinal contest. The consensus is it will be an all-Acc East Championship between the Tar Heels and Fighting Irish. I like the Badgers to at least mildly bust that bracket up with a win over Notre Dame who is 1 point chalk. I'm also liking No.5 Maryland (27-8 SU, 16-16-2 ATS) to end it for No.1 Kansas in the South. That's one of my free NCAA tournament picks in my Elite Eight, the other seven just a click away.