The Madness of March is finally upon us. Like always, the only thing we can expect is going to be the unexpected as the Field of 68 whittles itself down to 32, 16, eight, four and then, finally, one.
Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel put together five upset specials to pencil into you bracket as you try to take your buddies’ cash or dominate your office pool.
No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers over No. 6 UCLA Bruins
No. 12 Oregon Ducks over No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys
No. 14 Davidson Wildcats over No. 3 Marquette
No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones over No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
No. 9 Temple Owls over No. 8 NC State Wolfpack
Basically, his choices are pretty simple when they’re broken down. Along with Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams made up UCLA’s star freshman tandem at guard. However, he broke his foot after scoring 24 points against Arizona. Thus, Minnesota, which took its lumps in the Big Ten this year, should be able to dispatch of a weakened team out of a weak league.
Everyone and their mother is picking Oregon right now after the Ducks won the Pac-12 Tournament, combined with the fact that there is a 12-5 upset nearly every year.
Davidson and Marquette is a real upset pick/risk. However, Marquette has struggled outside of Milwaukee this year, whereas Davidson is a seasoned, Tourney-tested team. The real reason why is it safe to make this pick, in Thamel’s estimation, is the fact that even if Marquette does win in their opening game, they are not a threat to make a deep run in the Tourney. Thus, picking the upset will not damage your bracket too badly.
Finally, Iowa State and Temple are totally reasonable upset picks. Their competition is from two good-but-not-great teams.
All in all, Thamel’s upset picks are exactly what they are advertised to be: A slight risk, but should not blow up your bracket should they go the other way.