NCAA Basketball Tournament Predictions: Thursday First Round Upsets
If you’re like most NCAA Basketball Tournament fans, you don’t get a chance to watch a ton of college basketball during the regular season. It’s not your fault, the 2011 NCAA basketball season operated at a very inopportune time of the year.
For starters, it starts during football season, which basically makes it wholly irrelevant for the better part of its season. Secondly, college basketball starts after the NBA basketball season gets going, which also diminishes its entertainment appeal, especially since it’s up against the same product, only a better version of it. And lastly, college basketball has its most exciting points of the season during busy parts of the year—the early season tournaments and conference play start during Christmas break, and championship week is often during or right before Spring Break.
Given that, it’s easy to see that NCAA basketball was not set up by businessmen. That being said, you don’t have to watch the regular season to participate in all of the gambling fun. If you want to win your office pool, bet some games on the side, or just look like you know what the hell you’re talking about, we have some NCAA sleeper picks that you should definitely consider when you’re trying to find that upset pick that makes you look smarter than everybody else in your office!
#12 Richmond Spiders over #5 Vanderbilt Commodores
This is probably one of the most potential upsets out there that nobody is talking about. Richmond is a very talented, senior-led team that is capable of beating a lot of college basketball’s brass. Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson have put up some impressive scoring numbers during the 2011 season, and Vanderbilt isn’t exactly one of college basketball’s best defensive teams. And the 6’10” Harper will also make things really difficult for Vandy down low, where he averages 7 rebounds, scores from the block and can’t be fouled because he shoots 79% from the free throw line. I like #12 Richmond to capture this win as one of our favorites to be a 2011 NCAA sleeper pick.
#11 Gonzaga over #6 St. John’s
The Red Storm may have gotten away with a travel and an out-of-bounds call in the Big East Tournament, but no such miracle will save them in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. St. John’s won’t be able to handle the inside-outside presence of a Gonzaga team that is playing their best basketball of the season right now. Marquise Carter is probably going to be the best basketball player on the floor in this game, especially since St. John’s will not have DJ Kennedy for the remainder of the season. While Paris Horne should help St. John’s keep this one close, I like Gonzaga (and what amounts to home court advantage in Colorado) to eek out a win.
#10 Penn State over #7 Temple
Every basketball fans knows the adage, “live by the three, die by the three.” Well, that’s essentially what this game will come down to. Temple loves the outside shot, including long two-pointers, and they have thrived on that all season, which is why they earned a #7 seed in the first place. However, with Scootie Randall hobbled by a foot injury, Temple’s outside shooting definitely takes a hit, as Randall is a 37% shooter from beyond the arc. In Temple’s favor though is the fact that Penn State is very susceptible to the three-point ball. They could very well get caught up in the excellent ball movement by Temple and give up one too many open looks from three-point land. However, my money is on the fact that Randall’s injury sets him back, and that Penn State is able to play Temple’s other shooters a little closer. Thus, I predict the Nittany Lions to run Temple off the three-point line and take away all of those looks. And as long as PSU remains solid on offense, they should get the win.
#4 Wisconsin over #13 Belmont
This is not an upset, but I do want to address this game for one reason—all of you are crazy! This has been floated around as one of the sexy picks for an upset, but it really shouldn’t be viewed as such. Wisconsin is a very good basketball team, and they are being mired in a sea of doubt just because they failed to break the 40-point barrier on Saturday. Listen folks, that was just a bad game, and it won’t carry on into the 2011 NCAA Tournament (or so I believe!). Wisconsin, while not known for scoring a lot of points, is one of the most efficient basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament. They should have no problem scoring against a Belmont team that isn’t nearly as effective on the offensive or defensive end. So if you penciled this one is as your “Giant Killer” upset victory, you just better be glad it was in pencil.
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