NCAA Tournament Picks: Underrated Teams Engineering Upsets

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 5:56 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2015 5:56 PM UTC

My emotions were stirred in writing another about over-seeded NCAA Tournament teams but as a sports handicapper, I had fewer complaints about the other perspective. 

That does not suggest I am any less passionate, because mistakes were made and I plan to profit on NCAA Tournament picks from the Selection Committee’s miscues in the opening round.

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Wichita State a Seventh-Seed? Really
Since losing a Christmas tournament championship game to George Washington in Hawai’i, the Shockers ran through the always under appreciated Missouri Valley Conference, losing once to Northern Iowa, who honestly is their equal. For the entire season, The Shockers essentially were a Top 15 team, ranked highly in the BPI, RPI and Dick Vitale’s “Bald Dome Index” and was on a collision course to face UNI one more time in the finals of Arch Madness, but came out flat in the semis against Illinois State and lost 65-62.

While that was a stunning loss for anyone making NCAA Tournament picks versus the sportsbooks betting odds, Wichita State did finish 28-4 and would seem to carry a little panache after entering last year’s tournament undefeated and a No.1 seed.

But those creating the brackets punished Wichita State and lowered them to a seventh seed, below the likes of Georgetown (21-10), Butler (22- 10), Xavier (21-13), Providence (22-11).

But one person’s loss is another man’s gain and the Shockers should beat the college basketball odds and handle Indiana in a 7-10 matchup, setting up a likely Round 3 pairing with Kansas.

The unfortunate part for Gregg Marshall’s team being seeded incorrectly, if they upset the Jayhawks they will be excused of accomplishment as many will say, they were seeded wrong and if they lose, that will justify some people’s belief in losing, when they should have never been placed in a position to face such an opponent the first weekend.


Oregon Probably Deserved Better than they Received
This is not a huge beef with me having Oregon as No. 8 seed in the West Regional, not being ranked in the AP Poll all season, and its KenPom (49) and BPI rankings (48) would substantiate that. What makes me frown is seeing Utah at No. 5 by comparison.

Do I think the Utes should be a five-seed, in truth I cannot come with many contrarian points to say they should not and  KenPom has them at No. 8 overall.

But upon close inspection, Utah had a 24-8 record and the Ducks are 25-9. If you use KenPom’s –strength of schedule- method, the Utes faced the 48th toughest slate and Oregon was 54th, lower indeed but not by much.

Though the tournament committee did not come out and say how teams finished mattered, Utah was 3-4 in their last seven while Dana Altman’s squad was 7-1 and two of the victories came over the Utes, one at home 69-58 and in the Pac-12 semi-finals 67-64.

Maybe Oregon is just a bad matchup for Utah, but when considering sports picks, you would more likely take the Ducks than the Utes at this juncture.

I’m not suggesting the Ducks should be a 5-seed, but I don’t think they should have been an 8-seed either.

Review the NCAA Tournament's Most Overrated Teams

The Seeds Make Sense, but the Results Could Suggest Otherwise
Davidson at a No. 10 and Stephen F. Austin at a No. 12 are basically in alignment with past criteria of how brackets are generated. However, a look at NCAA Tournament odds for Round 2 has Davidson as just a 2.5-point underdog to Iowa and S.F. Austin is only a 6.5-point underdog to Utah at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Both the Wildcats and the Lumberjacks are in the Top 8 in scoring in the country and if the shots a falling, both could engineer upsets.

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