Christopher’s Picks: NCAA Tournament Second Round (Thursday)

The reason that March Madness has such a large national appeal? Well besides the fact that the 68 teams participating represent 33 states (including D.C.), it’s the upsets.

Every year, the tournament has its fair share of double digit seeds knocking off a top teams and making a memorable runs to the Sweet 16 (or further). Last year’s Cinderella team was 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast, who upset Georgetown in the second round on their way to the Sweet 16.

But the one elusive upset thus far has been a 16 seed knocking off a 1 seed. Though they’ve come very, very close, no 16 seed has been able to secure a win.

But I believe it’s going to happen. And soon.

The gap between the best and the average seems to decrease each year, with double-digit seeds making up nearly a quarter of the Sweet 16 teams in 2010, 2011, and 2013. You could call them “bracket busters”, but seriously, how good was your bracket anyway?

So which top seeded teams are the most vulnerable this season? Here are the four teams most likely to be out before the Sweet 16.

1 Seed: Virginia

It was between either them or Wichita State. The deciding factor was really Wichita State’s Final Four appearance last year as a 9-seed. Though Kentucky is tabbed as the team to beat Wichita State, they have to get past Kansas State first, which isn’t a given (they’re an 8-seed for a reason).

Being on top is new for UVA and regular season play doesn’t mean that much in the tournament. They’ll be favored over Memphis and George Washington in the third round (as they should be), but a loss early would hardly surprise me.

2 Seed: Kansas

Losing Joel Embiid was a huge blow to the Jayhawks tournament hopes and he won’t be 100% should he play during the tournament. Facing New Mexico won’t be easy without his presence in the middle.

3 Seed: Iowa State

I wanted to go Syracuse here because they love dropping games that they shouldn’t lose, but neither of their third round possibilities looks threatening. I wanted to go Duke for the same reason, but they’ll probably make the Sweet 16 before getting bounced. Creighton is slightly underrated because of the focus on Doug McDermott. That leaves only one team

4 Seed: UCLA

Both VCU and Stephen F. Austin have a decent shot at knocking off the Bruins.

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Here are my picks for today’s games:

(6) Dayton over (11) Ohio State (12:15pm, CBS)

With guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. leading the backcourt and LaQuinton Ross inside, the Flyers simply don’t match up well with Ohio State.

(2) Wisconsin over (15) American (12:40pm, truTV)

Should American slow down the Badgers offense, they’ll still get beat in the turnover category.

(9) Pittsburgh over (8) Colorado (1:40pm, TBS)

Both teams have been below average in their last twelve games (7-5) and only have one win against Top 25 opponents, so it should be a somewhat close game. But the Panthers have been the better team recently and I think that they edge out Colorado.

(5) Cincinnati over (12) Harvard (2:10pm, TNT)

Harvard is a solid squad, but they’ll need to be a great one to beat Cincinnati. I don’t know if they have it in them =.

(3) Syracuse over (14) Western Michigan (2:45pm, CBS)

It’s only a matter of time before the Orange tally an inexplicable loss. It could be today, but I think it comes in the third round.

(7) Oregon over (10) BYU (3:10pm, truTV)

It’ll be interesting to see how these West Coast teams perform so far away from home. I like Oregon to prevail in a high-scoring affair.

(1) Florida over (16) Albany (4:10pm, TBS)

If you’re looking for the largest margin of victory in a 1 vs. 16 game, this will be your best bet.

(4) Michigan State over (13) Delaware (4:40pm, TNT)

Though the Spartans are a popular pick to make a tournament run, I think that the Blue Hens give them a run for their money today. Not enough to pull out a win though.

(10) Saint Joseph’s over (7) Connecticut (6:55pm, TBS)

Saint Joseph’s really came on during the Atlantic 10 tournament and I think they can carry that momentum into an NCAA tournament win.

(2) Michigan over (15) Wofford (7:10pm, CBS)

The Wolverines will miss Mitch McGary at some point during the tourney, but it won’t be today.

(5) Saint Louis over (12) NC State (7:20pm, TNT)

I don’t have much faith in the Atlantic 10, but I still think the Billikens are good enough to win at least one tournament game.

(5) Oklahoma over (12) North Dakota State (7:27pm, truTV)

(2) Villanova over (15) Milwaukee (9:25pm, TBS)

Though the Wildcats have flown under the radar for much of the season, they should handle Milwaukee pretty easily.

(10) Arizona State over (7) Texas (9:40pm, CBS)

(4) Louisville over (13) Manhattan (9:50pm, TNT)

If Louisville is as underrated as they’ve been made out to be, the Jaspers won’t pose much of a threat.

(4) San Diego State over (13) New Mexico State (9:57, truTV)

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