Let's face it, the NCAA Tournament is only fun when one of two things happen:
- The team you cheer for does really well.
- There are upsets, preferably to overrated OMG TOTALLY AWESOME BIG EAST teams.
Since 2006 we have seen four mid-majors (Butler twice, George Mason, and VCU) reach the Final Four, with Butler having a realistic shot at winning two national championships. Davidson came within a shot of the Final Four in 2008. The tournament breeds chaos and upsets. Even the Final Four regulars like Duke and North Carolina have failed to avoid the upset bug. Ask Duke about Eric Maynor and VCU, or North Carolina and Harold "The Show" Arceneaux.
Upsets are always remembered fondly. Bryce Drew with Valparaiso, Hampton stunning Two-seed Iowa State, Northwestern State over Iowa: They all capture what this tournament is about. You can't win the whole thing in round one against a supposedly overmatched opponent, but you can certainly lose it.
In looking at this year's tournament there are plenty of upset possibilities. Here are my top picks:
13 Davidson over 4 Louisville
Only a handful of tournaments have sen the top 16 seeds survive the first round en masse. Most of the time a 13 gets a four or a 14 gets a three. This seems like your mostly likely 14 over three because Davidson has already proven to be fearless. They won a virtual road game against Kansas, played Vanderbilt to a four point game, and played Duke tough at Duke.
Why it won't happen: Louisville has seven losses, six to NCAA Tournament teams and three of them to No. 1 seeds. Their worst loss was 90-59 at Providence where they basically did not show up.
13 Montana over 4 Wisconsin
I looked at Montana's record and was really impressed. Sure, it was against the Big Sky Conference, but they have one loss since December 10th. This is a team used to winning. You can't discount that. Wisconsin has been really up and down. They went into Columbus and handled Ohio State, but they no-showed after an early lead against Michigan State in Indianapolis. Then there was the Iowa series.
Why it won't happen: If good Wisconsin shows up and Jordan Taylor dominates they should win.
16 UNC-Asheville over 1 Syracuse
Could this be the year it happens? The loss of Fab Melo makes an already poor rebounding team even worse. UNC-Asheville is 5th in the nation in scoring and 8th in assists per game, so they share the ball well and can therefore attack the 2-3 zone, especially without Melo protecting the middle. They also have to smell just a little bit of blood in the water, as Syracuse is going to be at least a little disjointed. Asheville played North Carolina to a 16 point game in November, and was competitive against UConn and NC State.
Why it won't happen: You're not a No. 16 seed without a reason, and Syracuse still has quite a bit of talent. The Orange should be fine.
13 New Mexico State over 4 Indiana
This is not a bad NMSU team, as Michigan State learned two years ago. If Indiana isn't shooting well NMSU is 6th in the country in rebounding and 11th in scoring. They also shoot the ball well at 47.2%. As far as wins over NCAA teams, they have a nine point road win over 5 seed New Mexico. They're a balanced team with four players averaging in double figures, and how can you not like a name like Christian Kabongo? Indiana is also playing without Verdell Jones III, which shortens their bench and costs them senior leadership.
Why it won't happen: Indiana has taken care of business against lesser teams for the most part this year, and when they are shooting well they can beat anyone in the country. Few teams have an answer for Cody Zeller.
15 Detroit over 2 Kansas
Detroit has talent, and with Eli Holman they are a different team. They've got four players averaging in double figures and Ray McCallum is pretty impressive. They are a tested team too. They have played Alabama, Mississippi State, and Notre Dame all in close games.
Why it won't happen: It's Kansas. They simply have no reason to lose this game.
14 Belmont over 3 Georgetown
It wouldn't be March without Georgetown getting a high seed before crapping out to a much lower seeded team as everyone talks about their second and third round games. Last year it was VCU. Two years ago it was Ohio. Four years ago it was Davidson in a 2/10 game. No team has done less with more in the last four tournaments, as Georgetown is a piddly 1-3 despite being seeded 6th or higher each time. Belmont is a legitimately good team too. They scared the crap out of Duke in the season opener, losing by 1 at Duke. They enter on a 14-game win streak as well.
Why it won't happen: Who am I kidding? This is Georgetown! You can almost write this one in pen.