Happy March! It’s time for some Cinderella’s to go dancing, and there’s no better place to start looking than the 5-12 matchups.
If you’re a bracket-picking veteran, you know this is the spot where the most obvious upsets happen. Usually, it’s the best mid-major programs. Those that would’ve been right on the cut line for an at-large bid. They’ll face off against a middling Power-5 school.
This season, we have two mid-major programs and two ACC programs on the five-line. Two are trending in a positive direction, one has an injury that could change everything, and the other fell victim to a red-hot Gonzaga team.
It’s not your normal year for 12-over-5 upsets.
Here is how I, someone who watches mid-major basketball all season, would rank the likelihood of each one happening.
4. Oral Roberts over Duke
This game is a collision course of the hottest teams in the country. Oral Roberts has the nation’s longest winning streak, 17. Duke is off its first ACC Tournament title since 2019, winning nine straight.
But with this, obviously, Duke has played tougher competition. The thing that throws Summit League teams off is 7-foor-5-inch Connor Vanover and his ability to hit 3-pointers off of the pick-and-pop. Duke has a seven-footer who will be a lottery pick combatting him, Kyle Filipowski. I’d say advantage Duke there.
But, if Max Abmas is able to score as he did during the Golden Eagles' run to the Sweet 16 in 2021... Duke could be in some trouble.
DraftKings has the line at Duke -6.5.
3. VCU over St.Mary’s
We hate when mid-major programs face each other in the Round of 64, and we have two of those matchups on the 5-12 line.
One of the best defenses in the country, Saint Mary’s, faces off against one of the worst offenses in the NCAA Tournament, VCU.
The Rams' offense is led by the A10 Player of the Year, Ace Baldwin. Baldwin is one of the best passers in the country and gets up in your grill on the defensive end. Actually, the whole team gets up in your grill on the defensive end, ranking 17th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.
VCU is on a nine-game win streak, but it’s also the first time that the A10 was a one-bid league since 2005. They have had some head-scratching results.
According to DraftKings, VCU is a four-point underdog.
2. Charleston over San Diego State
If you follow our Twitter account (must follow), you know that I love this Charleston team.
There is not a more cohesive unit in college basketball. They have six players who average between 9.0 and 12.3 points per game, running a 3-point-heavy, quick-style offense. So, if this game comes down to a shot at the buzzer, who knows who the ball is going to?
The Cougars’ problem in this game is that they shoot nearly half of their shots from behind the 3-point line and San Diego State has one of the best 3-point defenses in the country. The Aztecs are also one of the best in the country at slowing down tempos.
Don’t fall for the Cougars' hot start out of the gate. They’re merchants of the first 10 minutes. That’s where they start to build on their opponents, staying steady for the most part for the remainder.
DraftKings has San Diego State favored by five.
1. Drake over Miami (FL)
There are three things that win you games in March. Drake has all three of those.
One of them is experience. The Bulldogs are the 29th most experienced team in the country, having four starters who are seniors. All of them were part of a team who has already won an NCAA Tournament game, beating Wichita State in the 2021 First Four.
The second thing is a star player. For Drake, that’s the Missouri Valley Player of the Year, Tucker DeVries. If I were to compare him to a past college basketball star, it would be Doug McDermott. Just like Dougy McBuckets, he’s a great shooter who takes the majority of the team's shots on his father's team.
Last thing would be efficiency from behind the 3-point arc. The Bulldogs are shooting 36.7% from deep which is good for 45th in the country.
They have tons of strength and experience down low, so if Miami’s Norchad Omier doesn’t play, the Bullsdogs will have a field day. When Omier didn’t play in the ACC Tournament semifinals, the Hurricanes were a shell of themselves.
DraftKings gives the edge to Miami by just two points.