Here are some potential upsets to look out for when creating your bracket before Thursday:
#12 Liberty vs #5 Mississippi St.
First we head to the East region where Liberty meets an SEC foe in Mississippi St. In my estimation Mississippi St. got over seeded just a little bit since they only had a 23-10 record and didn’t beat any elite SEC teams during the regular season.
This team won the Atlantic Sun Conference by defeating Lipscomb in the championship. Liberty boasts a 28-6 record and has one of the most stout defenses in all of college basketball. They only allow an average of 60 ppg which is 6th in country. Their head coach Ritchie Mckray was an assistant under Tony Bennett at Virginia and he implemented Bennett’s philosophy which is the pack line defense and a slow paced offense for Liberty.
Scottie James F – 13.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG
Lowell Cabbil Jr. G – 11.5 PPG, 44.5% 3pt
Caleb Homesly G – 12 PPG, 5.5 RPG
Elijah Cuffee G- 7.9 PPG, 42.5% 3pt
Mississippi St. (23-10)
Mississippi St. finished 6th in the SEC and this team leans heavily on senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon to create offense for others as hes averaging 18 ppg. Mississippi St. has some size with two 6’10 forwards in Reggie Perry and Aric Holman.
Quinndary Weatherspoon G – 18.2 PPG, 1.7 STL, 39.8% 3pt
Lamar Peters G – 11.7 PPG, 5.2 AST
Aric Holman F – 9.7 PPG, 43.1% 3pt
If Liberty can keep this game close with their defense and hit a few shots down the stretch they will win this game. Liberty as a team shoots 77% from the free throw line which is way above the NCAA average. If this game comes down to free throws in the 2nd half Liberty should be victories.
#13 Northeastern vs #4 Kansas
This match up resides in the midwest region as Northeastern meets Kansas at a 4 pm start on Thursday. Northeastern won the Colonial Athletic Conference vs Hoftstra and they enter the dance on a seven game win streak. Kansas’s Big 12 regular season champs streak ended at 14 as injuries have plagued the Jayhawks all season.
Vasa Pusica the 6’5 senior guard from Serbia has been on a tear recently and he shoots an impressive 40% from 3 while averaging 17.8 ppg. The only issue with this team is it lacks size. They routinely roll out lineups with four players on the court below 6’6. That could be an issue, but they are lucky Kansas has injuries.
Vasa Pusica G – 17.8 ppg, 40% 3pt
Jordan Roland G – 14.7 ppg, 90% FT, 40.8% 3pt
Bolden Brace G – 10.0 ppg, 6 RPG
Kansas was ranked as the #1 team in the country coming into this season and they were living up to it for the first month. They were 9-0 with wins over Michigan State, Villanova and Tennessee. Injuries hurt the Jayhawks as star center Udoka Azubuike went down for the season in December and they also lost forward Silveo De Sousa a real contributor on last years final four team due to being ineligible.
Dedric Lawson F – 19.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG
Devon Dotson G – 12.1 PPG, 3.6 AST
Northeastern is extremely lucky that Kansas has these injuries if not they likely would lose by 20. Northeastern is severely undersized and they have to deal with Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson down low. Expect Northeastern to pack the paint and dare freshman back court of Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes to shoot who have been inconsistent all season. Not having Lagareld Vick is a huge loss since he shoots 45% from 3. Kansas can’t shoot and they are a bad free throw shooting team which is not the recipe for success in March. Northeastern can pull off the upset if they dont let Kansas’s role players beat them from deep.
#11 Belmont vs #6 Maryland
Belmont ended the regular season losing in the Ohio Valley conference final, falling to future NBA lottery pick Ja Morant and Murray State. Despite that #11 seed Belmont just won their first ever NCAA tournament game on Tuesday and they are hungry for more wins. They face Maryland in the east region who hasn’t been playing well recently. Maryland got upset by Nebraska in the Big 10 tournament.
Belmont has one of the best players in America on their team in forward Dylan Windler. Hes projected to be a late 2nd round pick and he can score from all three levels. They average 88 ppg as team which is 2nd in all of America and they also average the most assists in the country with 19. Longtime coach Rick Byrd emphasizes ball movement and spacing. This team may not be full of athletes but any of their starters can beat you. They beat Temple 81-70 with Windler only scoring 5 points with 14 rebounds so its clear Windler contributes in other ways besides scoring for Belmont.
Dylan Windler F – 20.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 42.5% 3pt
Kevin Mclain G – 16.7 PPG, 4 AST
Nick Muszynski C – 14.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 61% FG
Finishing 6th in the tough Big 10 the Terps look to rebound from a loss to Nebraska in the Big 10 tournament. The junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. is the Terps biggest threat on offense but he only shoots 34% from 3 which can be an issue. Maryland as a team shoots 35% from 3 which is below average. Bruno Fernando is a strong presence inside for Maryland averaging 13 and 10 and 2 blocks.
Anthony Cowan Jr. G – 16 PPG, 4.3 AST
Bruno Fernando C – 13.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG
Jalen Smith F – 11.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG
The match up to watch in this game is Fernando vs Muszynski and how Maryland guards Muszynski in the post. Temple played 1 on 1 coverage vs Muszynski and he torched them. If Maryland plays single coverage and stays home on Belmont’s shooters Fernando may slow him down. But If Maryland dares to double Musyznski in the post they will have to deal with him kicking out to great 3 pt shooters. Belmont has the recipe to crush the Terp’s inconsistent defense. Having played on tuesday is an advantage for Belmont, the #11 seeds that play in the first four have a high chance of winning their first round match up.