I have a lot of flaws. I can get a little too lazy and complacent, I forget that I have laundry in the dryer, and I can’t whistle. My biggest flaw, though, is that I love March Madness upsets too much. Every year when I fill out my bracket, I realize that I have picked far more upsets than could feasibly happen during the tournament. Sometimes it is a huge underdog winning in round one and other times it is a surprise team making a run to the elite eight. I have tried to quell my desire for upsets this year but still found myself with quite a few upsets that I have picked. I wanted to explain to you some of the upsets I feel will, or could, happen. Below you will find my five favorite upsets for the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Loyola Chicago to make the Sweet 16
This barely even qualifies as an upset anymore because the Ramblers seem to make some serious noise every time they make the tournament field. Their initial Cinderella run in 2018 was legendary and they followed it up with a Sweet 16 appearance last year. I predict they will repeat that performance and get back to the second weekend of the tournament. Loyola Chicago plays a stifling brand of defense, which is part of the reason they have been so successful in March. They allowed just 61.7 points per game this season, making them the 17th-best defense in the country. I think they’ll use that defense to get past Ohio State in the first round. The Buckeyes are the more talented team but have dealt with injuries and underperformance. The second round is where it will get tougher for the Ramblers because they will likely have to play Villanova, the two seed in the region. I think Loyola Chicago pulls off another improbably upset, similar to when they beat number one seed Illinois last season, by taking down Villanova. There is something about this Ramblers team year after year that allows them to create some March magic and this year will be no different. I don’t have them making a Final Four run as they did in 2018 but I wouldn’t put it past them at this point.
Virginia Tech to make the Sweet 16
The Hokies might be my favorite underdog of all the underdogs in this year’s tournament. They are only in the field because they went on an unlikely run to the ACC Championship. They took down Duke in order to win that tournament and a subsequent NCAA Tournament berth so they are clearly capable of beating anyone. They are matched up with Texas in the first round and I feel very confident that the Hokies will win that game. Texas could be a much better team but has not been playing up to its potential and is specifically struggling right now. Virginia Tech is almost the opposite of that because they are one of the hottest teams playing right now. I also like them taking down Purdue in the second round. Virginia Tech’s calling card is its three-point shooting. They shot 39.3 percent on threes this season which is the third-best in the country. I think the hot streak from the Hokies will continue in the NCAA Tournament because of their ability to hit threes and because they’ve got a great player to lead them through it, senior forward Keve Aluma.
UAB to make the Sweet 16
The Blazers are the last of my upset teams to make the Sweet 16 and it’s not just because their mascot is a badass dragon. UAB is the sixth-best scoring team in the nation, averaging 80.7 points per game this year, led by junior guard Jordan Walker and his 20.4 points per game. They also grab 12.2 offensive rebounds per game, which is top 30 in the country. The rebounding combined with the scoring makes the Blazers a very dangerous team in the tournament and gives them the ability to take down whoever is in front of them. Unfortunately for Houston, they have to play UAB in the opening round. Houston was dominant last year on its way to the Final Four but is not the same team this year. They lost a handful of starters from that team and are also dealing with injuries right now. If the Cougars were fully healthy they would stand a much better chance of beating UAB but you have to play the cards you are dealt so a Blazers upset it is. Next up for UAB would probably be Illinois. I like the Blazers’ chances of pulling off a second upset if that’s the case because Illinois is another team that is struggling. They do have star center Kofi Cockburn but have significant holes outside of him. UAB has is fully capable of outscoring Illinois and taking them down on their way to the Sweet 16.
South Dakota State to win in round one
I did a good job of holding myself back from a lot of crazy upsets this year but the Jackrabbits are the highest seed I have predicted to win this weekend. They are playing Providence, which was a very good team all season, which is a winnable game. They are far worse matchups that South Dakota State could have drawn in the tournament. Providence doesn’t do anything at an elite level, other than forcing turnovers, but they do everything very well. On the other hand, South Dakota State has the best three-point shooting percentage in college basketball. Being able to knock down threes is always an advantage in March and the Jackrabbits have that in spades. They also are just good at scoring in general. They have the second-best points per game average in the country at 86.7. Led by guard Baylor Scheierman and forward Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State will rocket past Providence this weekend.
The rest of the 11 seeds
As I looked over my bracket to find the upsets I picked, I came to a realization that I picked every 11 seed to win their opening game. I tried to talk myself out of any of them but I just couldn’t do it. So I am going to briefly explain to you why I am rolling with each of the 11 seeds. Michigan over Colorado State is a very popular upset pick because of the Wolverines’ proven success. Even though they struggled this year, Michigan is a proven team in the tournament and can certainly win again this weekend. Notre Dame against Alabama is another upset that I feel very confident in, mainly because I don’t believe in the Crimson Tide at all. They have been incredibly inconsistent which is not a characteristic that is helpful in March. The Fighting Irish also have momentum on their side after beating Rutgers in a wild double-overtime game in the First Four. That momentum combined with freshman phenom Blake Wesley, this is a team that should beat Bama this weekend. The final 11 seed I like is Iowa State over LSU. Maybe I’m crazy but I don’t really trust teams that fire their coach right before the tournament, which is what LSU did. Add in the fact that Iowa State is one of the most surprising teams in the country this year, which is something that could carry over into March. The Cyclones won tough games this season in the Big 12 so this game against LSU should be very doable for them.
Bonus: Vermont to win in round one
I didn’t pick this upset (I know, shocker) but I would not be surprised if it happens. Vermont has all the makings of being the team that takes the field by storm this year. They are from a small little state that basically no one has been to, they have a cool-sounding mascot (Catamounts), and they play good basketball, I guess. They are fifth in the country in field goal percentage and making shots is one of the most important things to do well in basketball. They also hit three-pointers pretty well, 36.4 percent, so they can beat you from deep if possible. Throw in a matchup with an Arkansas team that can play at a very beatable level, and I can smell the possible upset brewing.