Potential First Round Upset Picks

Drake is one of the most experienced and familiar teams in the nation. According to KenPom, the Bulldogs rank 29th nationally in Division-I experience and 18th in minutes continuity. Drake made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team in 2021 and won a play-in game against Wichita State. Four of their five starters this season played heavy minutes on that 2021 team. The fifth starter who was not on that team is Tucker DeVries who just happens to be the best player in the entire Missouri Valley Conference. Miami is not the easiest draw as a team with talented and experienced guards who made a trip to the Elite Eight last season. However, the Hurricanes struggled down the stretch going 2-2 in their last four games including a bad home loss to Florida State. Miami also lost their starting center Norchad Omier one minute into their ACC semifinal game against Duke. Omier is considered day-to-day but even if he can go, he will certainly not be at 100%.
VCU and Saint Mary’s enter the NCAA Tournament on two different trajectories. VCU has won nine consecutive games and has only lost two games since January 4th by a combined seven points. The Rams won every Atlantic 10 tournament game by double figures and have an experienced lineup led by star point guard Ace Baldwin and Michigan transfer big man Brandon Johns. Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s has lost three of their last eight games including a pathetic showing against Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Final where they lost by 26 points and were never competitive. The Gaels have been loved by the metrics all season, but their on-court results haven’t necessarily followed suit. They lost questionable games to Loyola Marymount, Colorado State, Washington and New Mexico this season. VCU is better than all those teams and playing their best ball of the year.
Oral Roberts is the owner of the nation’s longest win streak at 17 games. The Golden Eagles only lost four games all season and all were true road games to Saint Mary’s, Houston, Utah State and New Mexico. Oral Roberts is also the highest rated 12-seed or higher on KenPom at 56th in the nation. Max Abmas became a household name in 2021 when he led his 15-seed Golden Eagles to the Sweet Sixteen. Abmas is still at ORU and is now joined by 7-foot-5 Arkansas transfer Connor Vanover. The only problem is Oral Roberts got possibly the toughest 5-seed draw with Duke who has won nine straight games and look like one of the better teams in the country currently. Still, with Duke being compromised of mostly freshmen and led by a first-year head coach in Jon Scheyer, Oral Roberts could catch them by surprise.
In the same pod, 4-seed Tennessee finds themselves matched up with 13-seed Louisiana. The Volunteers are playing about as poorly as any top-4 seed in this year’s tournament. Tennessee is just 5-7 since February 1st and are playing without Zakai Ziegler who was not just their starting point guard but also the heart and soul of their team. Tennessee’s offense has been downright bad for much of the season and Louisiana could be the beneficiary this week. The Ragin’ Cajuns have a former five-star recruit in 6-11 big man Jordan Brown and only lost seven games all season. Louisiana’s offensive efficiency is ranked 57th in the nation on KenPom and that could easily be good enough to beat the Volunteers if they have another cold shooting game.