|75 Year's UPSET SPECIALS!|
WEST REGION @ Salt Lake City, UT- Belmont (6) vs. Arizona (11)
Belmont's Bruins have yet to win a game in the NCAA tournament in five previous appearances. The Bruins 78 ppg ranks 15th in the nation and they rank 4th in FG percentage (49.4%). Ian Clark, 6-3 Sr. guard from Memphis Germantown High School is an outstanding shooter (18.1ppg, 46.3% 3pt) who can take over a game. Clark's running mate, Kerron Johnson, is a great complement that will steal you blind all over the court. The Ohio Valley Conference champions are a veteran team that capatilizes on opportunities.
Arizona, meanwhile, has been inconsistent at best and has trouble defending the 3-point line (allowed 36% on season). They can execute offensively with Mark Lyons, the 6-1 Sr. transfer from Xavier, a solid player (14.8ppg. 3apg) and Senior forward Solomon Hill; but the bigs they count onso much down low are freshmen (Brandon Ashley & Kaleb Tarczewski) who don't always play hard and make too many mistakes. Alot of people have jumped on the Belmont bandwagon...some folks think the Wildcats are a shoo-in for the Sweet Sixteen. We think this is a matchup thing...we are picking the upset for the Bruins. Heads up, the confidence they gain here could help Belmont win another game, too...just say'in.
SOUTH REGION @ Austin, TX- Northwestern State (14) vs. Florida (3)
The Northwestern State Demons (LA) have been in this place before when as the 14 seed they knocked off heavily favored Iowa back in the 2006 tournament. The 14 seed has won sixteen times, the last in 2010, but only two squads actually advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. We say all of that to point out that this would be a major upset. The Demons lead the nation in scoring at 81ppg, but they do it by attacking the basket and creating additional shot opportunites; not by firing up threes, at which they are not particularly good. They play ten players to force the tempo as well as turnovers (12.7/gm). State's leading scorer, DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg in only 20 mins/gm) comes off the bench. If they shoot the ball well (James Hulbin warms up from three point range) and can hold their own on the defensive glass, we could see the Gators liking the 'up and down' floor pace.
It is a tall order against Florida, who is ranked in the top five nationally in offensive and defensive effieciency ratings; but the Gators have not performed well of late away from Gainesville, in close games (Ole Miss in SEC tourney is a good example). We like the upset if the game is close at the end, Donovan may make adjustments that keep it from being that way. Interesting note: if the Gators survive, we like them as a serious contender for Atlanta, too.
EAST REGION (also) @ Austin, TX- Illinois (7) vs. Colorado (10)
The Colorado Buffaloes are doing something they have not done since 1963: play in consecutive NCAA Tournaments. After winning the Pac-12 tournament in 2012, the Buffs finished another strong season in the league. This team has an impressive strength of schedule ranking 20th in the nation. They notched key wins over NCAA tourney invitees, Oregon (twice), California and Arizona. They also defeated Baylor (NIT) and Colorado St (NCAA) out of conference. So the Buffs come in experienced and confident. Tenth seeded Colorado comes into their Thursday match up with seventh seeded Illinois feeling good about their chances off pulling off a Second Round upset. The Buffs have the nation’s leading rebounder Andre Roberson back in the lineup after missing two games with an illness. Roberson's stats are impressive: 10.9ppg, 11.3rpg, 2.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. It's easy to see why he was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Colorado also has depth and balance in the backcourt with top-scorer Spencer Dinwiddie (15.6 ppg) and Askia Booker (12.4 ppg). This CU squad is very balanced, with scoring options in the paint and from outside.
The Illini come into the Tournament struggling. They finished the Big 10 with an 8-10 record and have lost 4 of their last 6 games. Illinois likes to launch alot of three's (they are third in the nation in attempts) but only 242nd in three-point percentage. As you might expect, this poor shooting has hurt the Illini all season long. Their team field-goal percentage is 41.6 which is only 261st in the nation. Their rebounding is almost as bad (33.5 rpg) which is 218th. It is this lack of shooting and rebounding that gives Colorado the edge over the Illini. Not only does Roberson lead the nation in rebounds, but CU is 60th on the glass overall. The Buffaloes come into their second straight Big Dance with the balance and versatility to make some noise. It's their inside dominance, scoring balance, and defensive intensity that should give the Buffs the edge over the Illini. (Correspondent: Christopher Morris)