March Madness Bracket 2018: Upset Predictions and Updated Odds

March Madness Bracket 2018: Upset Predictions and Updated Odds

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Ron Irby/Associated Press

Upset-minded teams come in all different forms.

The potential bracket-busters at the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament could be teams who thrived in their conference tournaments or ones who benefited from the play of an underrated star all season.

Regardless of how they earned their respective bids into the field of 68, the favorites to be Cinderella teams come into the round of 64 with a plethora of confidence.

Below is a look at a few teams with the best chances to knock off established programs and become the darlings of March.

     

No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (+1) over No. 6 Miami

It’s incredibly hard to look past Loyola-Chicago as a Cinderella team.

The 11th-seeded Ramblers ran the table in the Missouri Valley Conference, a league that has a history of producing upset-minded teams like Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa.

What makes Loyola so attractive is the basketball it has played all season, as it contains five losses on its resume.

Loyola is one of the few mid-major teams entering the Big Dance with a high-profile victory over a power-conference team, as it defeated Florida on the road December 6.

While that was the Ramblers’ only significant test of nonconference play, it is still a noteworthy win to back up their NCAA tournament hopes.

Ron Irby/Associated Press

Leading scorer Clayton Custer receives a good amount of the spotlight, but the real X-factor could be freshman Cameron Krutwig, who averages 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

If the center, who is listed at 6’9″, establishes his presence in the paint early against No. 6 Miami, it could widen the possibility for open shots in and around the three-point line, which allows Custer and his fellow guards to make shots in key moments.

However, the Ramblers might not be an ideal gambling pick since the line is so close, as plenty of bettors latch on to them as their upset favorite.

   

No. 14 Stephen F. Austin (+11.5) over No. 3 Texas Tech

One of the potential upsets that is not receiving a ton of attention is No. 14 Stephen F. Austin over No. 3 Texas Tech.

While it is more difficult for a No. 14 seed to win than a No. 11 seed like Loyola, the Lumberjacks are in the perfect position to score an upset over an in-state foe.

The Southland tournament champion comes into the Big Dance in solid form, just like a few other upset-minded teams, as it won 10 of its last 11 games.

The Lumberjacks loaded their schedule with three SEC opponents in nonconference play and played them all tight despite recording a 1-2 record against Mississippi State, LSU and Missouri.

Kyle Keller’s program also has a pedigree of being a Cinderella team in the Big Dance, as it knocked off VCU as a No. 12 seed in 2014 and defeated West Virginia as a No. 14 seed in 2016.

Another factor playing into the potential success of the Lumberjacks is the recent downturn in form experienced by Texas Tech, who overachieved in Chris Beard’s second season as head coach.

The 24-9 Red Raiders challenged Kansas at the top of the Big 12 for most of conference play, but they lost five of their last seven games, and their two wins during that span were both by four points.

The line on the game being played in Dallas is indicative of the gap in talent between the Big 12 and Southland, but don’t be surprised if the Lumberjacks keep the game close for 40 minutes.

      

No. 12 Murray State (+9) over No. 5 West Virginia

Another team not getting enough love as it deserves is No. 12 Murray State.

The Racers out of the Ohio Valley Conference are in the traditional upset position of a No. 12 seed, but they face one of the toughest tests of the first round against the aggressive press of No. 5 West Virginia.

As we saw throughout the Big 12 tournament, the Mountaineers are hungry to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament behind the senior guard duo of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr.

However, the heavy interest in West Virginia as a potential Elite Eight or Final Four team sets up the perfect recipe for the Racers to swoop up and earn an unexpected win.

With West Virginia looking ahead to higher goals, the Racers, who haven’t lost since January 18, could play Bob Huggins’ team tight and force some unnecessary turnovers.

As long as the Racers avoid turning the ball over on multiple occasions in the first half, Jonathan Stark, Terrell Miller Jr. and Ja Morant should be able to get into a rhythm.

Daniel R. Patmore/Associated Press

Stark is the player the Mountaineers could have the most trouble with, as he recorded 20-point performances in seven of his last eight games.

As we’ve seen in the past, all it takes is one unstoppable mid-major star to take down the championship hopes of a top program in the round of 64, and that’s the exact category Stark fills.

    

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

Odds obtained from OddsShark.

Breaking Sports News

via Bleacher Report – Front Page http://ift.tt/yO6Sgr

March 14, 2018 at 02:21PM

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