clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NCAA Tournament 2014: Which teams are primed to upset the bracket

Here are a few popular upset picks to potentially win (or ruin) your bracket.

Streeter Lecka

Now that the field of the NCAA Tournament has been set, it is now time to get around to building a billion dollar winning bracket (or however much money sits in the office pool).

Of course, the first thing to look for in the second round of the tournament is the flurry of potential upsets, and that starts with looking at the history of the matchups.

To start with, you ignore the No. 1 seeds, because no No. 1 seed has ever lost to a No. 16 seed in the history of the tournament. There have been close calls for sure (Gonzaga circa last year, Murray State vs. Michigan in 1990 and Western Carolina vs. Purdue in 1996), but that is a losing bracket's bet.

The No. 2 seed isn't exactly heavenly territory, but you can pretty safely send all four of them on their way. Seven No. 15 seeds have defeated a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and interestingly enough three of those seven have happened in the past two years.

Three seeds are usually pretty safe as well. Seventeen No. 14 seeds have defeated a No. 3 seed in the tournament, with the last one being Harvard's upset of New Mexico last year. No. 4 seeds struggle a bit more, with 25 No. 13 seeds pulling the upset. The last time all No. 4 seeds made it through was in 2007.

Then it gets to the vaunted No. 5 vs. No. 12 seed. This is everyone's favorite to pick with 41 No. 12 seeds defeating a No. 5 seed. It isn't that much better than the No. 6 vs. No. 11, which has the No. 11 winning 39 times. Both of these upsets pretty much happen like clockwork. The last time all No. 5 seeds advanced was in 2007 and the last time all No. 6 seeds advanced was in 2004.

So now that you have gone through and picked all the upsets, the next step is to reduce the number of them that will happen. Upsets are upsets for a reason, and although it seems like a really good shot that all of those No. 12 seeds are going to advance, usually, only one does. There are exceptions to the rule (last year, 2009, 2002), but most of the time, at least two of the No. 5 seeds pull through.

With that said, here are some second round upsets that have a pretty solid chance of happening.

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer

This isn't just because it is the Duke Blue Devils and no one likes the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is good, there is no doubt about that. Jabari Parker is one of the best players in the country and one of the few that can make a steal, go coast to coast and ram it home. But as SB Nation's Ricky O' Donnell points out, Duke's defense has been a bit suspect all year. In fact, out of Ken Pomeroy's top 10 teams, only Creighton has a worse defense -- and both those teams are worse by a very large margin. Combine that with a reliance on three point shooting and Duke is a team that is more primed to win a regular season long haul, but not something where one loss sends you home.

In playing Mercer, the Blue Devils might have drawn the team least likely to be rattled on the big stage. Granted, Mercer hasn't played in the NCAA Tournament since any of its players were alive, but the Bears are a good team that is staffed entirely by seniors. By existing in the Atlantic Sun Conference, Mercer didn't exactly play anyone, but the Bears have as good of chance as any to upset Duke in the early rounds once again.

No. 5 Cincinnati vs. No. 12 Harvard

It seems a bit odd to pick someone that has Sean Kilpatrick as a prime upset candidate. The man was a legitimate Wooden Award candidate in the parallel universe where Doug McDermott doesn't exist. The thing is, Harvard is about the worst matchup possible for Cincinnati, because although the Bearcats have Kilpatrick, they don't have anyone else that contributes to the scoring. Cincinnati got around that by having a fantastic defense, one of the best in the nation. The Bearcats also didn't play an offense like Harvard's.

Harvard is as unselfish with the ball on offense as you can get. The Crimson have five different players averaging double figures in points, and it is all done at a relatively efficient manner. To boot, Harvard plays some pretty solid defense to go along with the scoring attack. Cincinnati may be able to shut down some players, but I'm not sure the Bearcats can shut down all players. Considering their issues with scoring points, Harvard is a prime team to pull an upset.

No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State

This is another popular pick for the upset because of Oklahoma's refusal to play defense. North Dakota State also pretty much refuses to play defense, but has the offense to back it up as well. The Bison are led by a solid inside-out combo of seniors Marshall Bjorklund and Taylor Braun. Braun, specifically, is a nightmare matchup for Oklahoma. He is a strong, head first guard that averages 18.2 points and stands 6'7. Oklahoma, as a team, stands on the tiny side. North Dakota State is the nation's best shooting team and rarely turns the ball over. Oklahoma will have to get creative on the defensive end, and since that isn't necessarily its forte, the Sooners will have to figure out how to shoot better than the best shooting team.