With the 2018 NCAA tournament bracket now set in stone, many people are skimming through their brackets wondering which lower-seeded teams have a shot at pulling off an upset.
Unlike years past, there is no definitive team that looks to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. The likes of Villanova and Virginia will coast through their opening round games, but the big question is what lower seeded teams are capable of knocking off a higher seeded team in the first round.
Here are three potential upsets to look out for in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Arizona enters the tournament as the Pac-12 champions with a 27-7 record. They feature 7’1 consensus All-American Deandre Ayton who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
Buffalo got into the tournament by winning the MAC with a 26-8 record. The Bulls feature a quartet of scorers who all averaged between 14.6 to 16.9 points per game highlighted by 6’3 Jr. guard CJ Massinburg and 6’8 Jr. forward Nick Perkins who were both named first team all-conference.
The Pac-12 hasn’t been as good this year as it has in years past, and that was evident by the selection committee only giving Arizona a No. 4 seed as a major conference champion.
The Wildcats have struggled in neutral site games. They lost three games in a row in the Bahamas back in November to NC State, SMU and Purdue; they’ll be playing against Buffalo on a neutral site in Boise, ID.
Buffalo ranks No. 7 in the country in scoring offense (84.8 points per game), and they rank No. 21 in 3-point field goals made. To translate those stats for you; Buffalo can shoot from anywhere and they can score in bunches. And although Sean Miller has made Arizona a tough defensive team in years past, this year’s squad has struggled on defense.
Look for Buffalo to come out shooting. If they can make a few big shots early, then it could give them the belief that they can pull off the upset against heavily-favored Arizona.
No. 6 Miami Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago
Miami comes into the tournament with a 22-9 record, but they have lost four of their past eight games. They started out red-hot but have fizzled late in the season. The Canes don’t have that one player who can take over a game unlike most of the other ACC teams. Their top scorer Lonnie Walker IV only averaged 11.5 points per game.
Loyola-Chicago will play in the tournament for the first time since 1985 after winning the Missouri Valley Conference with a 28-5 record. The Ramblers have the No. 5 ranked scoring defence in the entire country and only allow their opponents 62.2 points per game.
Loyola-Chicago has won 10 games in a row and 17 of their past 18.
The Ramblers are playing with house money: They will be playing a lot of emotion and could be able to knock off the higher-seeded Canes.
No. 2 Cincinnati vs. No. 15 Georgia State
A No. 15 seed has only upset the No. 2 seed eight times in the history of the NCAA tournament.
However, it has happened on four occasions since 2012 so it is starting to become a bit of a pattern in recent memory.
Cincinnati comes into the tournament with one of the best records in the nation at 30-4. They won the American Athletic Conference behind their stingy defense, which ranks No. 2 nationally in scoring defense.
Meanwhile Georgia State comes in with a 24-10 record after winning the Sun Belt Conference which is one of the more underrated conferences in the nation. If you can win the Fun Belt you’re are a pretty good team.
On paper, the Bearcats should win this game with ease but as well as know, anything can happen in March and Georgia State could be that Cinderella team in 2018.