7:55 PM EDT, March 20, 2013
Bucknell beats Butler
Bucknell will do a Butler on the team that originated the role and become the latest Patriot League team to take down an established power in the tournament.
The Bison have a legitimate NBA prospect in 6-foot-11 Mike Muscala, who finished tied for third in the country in rebounding (11.2) and averaged nearly 20 points a game. The Bison are top 10 in three key categories that usually play well in March: turnovers (2nd at 9.5), field goal defense (7th at 38.7 percent) and assist-to-turnover ratio (8th at 1.42).
While Butler has plenty going for it, the Bulldogs played their best basketball early in the season by beating then-No. 9 North Carolina in Hawaii and then-No. 1 Indiana in Indianapolis.
Belmont over Arizona
When Mark Byrd took the Belmont head coaching job in 1986, the Bruins were NAIA nobodies. Now they're perennial NCAA tournament invitees. More so, I love how Byrd has evolved. He uses advanced statistics as well as any coach in the nation, and they've helped him to recruit excellent players that have fallen through the cracks, as well as pinpoint the weakness of Belmont's opponents.
You can bet Byrd knows that Arizona was the Pac-12's worst team at defending the 3-point shot. And wouldn't you know it, Belmont is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation. It's the Bruins' time, and I'm excited for Byrd to be introduced to the sporting world when his 11th-seeded team knocks off the Wildcats on Thursday.
Oregon over Oklahoma St.
Los Angeles Times
Start in the Midwest with No. 12 Oregon against No. 5 Oklahoma State. In fact, I wouldn't even consider this an upset. The Ducks, as Pac-12 tournament champions, should be miffed they garnered so little respect from a selection committee that did not factor in how much better they are with freshman guard Dominic Artis back in the lineup.
Next is in the South Region in Auburn Hills, Mich.: No. 14 South Dakota State over No. 4 Michigan. Every tournament bracket needs a leap-of-faith long shot so I'm banking on Jackrabbits star Nate Wolters to make some wild-hare 3-pointer at the buzzer to shock Ann Arbor and maybe Ann Romney.
Montana over Syracuse
If you're looking for a bracket-churning upset now: Plan a Montana.
The Grizzlies clearly are a pie-in-the-Big Sky pick. They are just 144th nationally in kenpom.com's rankings. But Syracuse is crossing three time zones and dealing with a 10 p.m. Eastern tipoff in San Jose while also now answering a CBSSports.com report that the NCAA is investigating the program for major violations.
Granted, the Orange, or at least the coaches, have known about the inquiry for some time. And the team made a run to the Big East tournament final. But Syracuse faded badly in the second half of that game against Louisville and remains just uneven enough to stumble in the face of cross-country chaos.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun