NCAA Roundtable: Predicting this year’s Bracket Busters

With Selection Sunday in the rearview and the annual March Madness tournament set to kick off, Sportsnet’s basketball panel weighs in and selects the contenders, bracket-busters, standout Canadians and more. Today, we look at the most likely upset picks:

Stony Brook. In the first round matchup between Stony Brook and Kentucky, one of the teams boasts the most efficient players in the tournament, and it’s not Kentucky. Stony Brook senior forward Jameel Warney was second in the NCAA this year in player efficiency rating with 36.8 (average is always 15). Warney put up 43 points and nine boards in the final of Stony Brook’s conference tournament to propel them to their first Dance in years, and they’ll be as ready as any to do damage.

What’s more, Kentucky was barely so-so away from home this season (4-7), having not gotten anything close to what they expected out of top recruit Skal Labissiere, once a challenger for the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Yes, they won the SEC tournament, but that was playing just one ranked opponent (Texas A&M). A&M was also the only team they played who earned a Madness berth.

Northern Iowa. The West offers the best chance for a bracket to be busted. The Panthers defeated Kansas in 2010 before losing in the regional semis. They’re a physical, in-your-face, hard-defending team that slow down and grind games, playing at a pace that will give high seeds trouble.

Gonzaga. This may look weird given their recent history, but the Zags aren’t as talented as in years past, as their 11-seed would suggest. Coach Mark Few could use that seeding to tap into that old underdog spirit the Bulldogs were known for before they rose to mid-major national prominence.

Austin Peay. Austin Peay punched their ticket to the NCCA tournament by winning the OVC tournament despite only being given a .5 per cent chance to win the tournament. If the Governors are going to pull off an upset they’ll need their star big-man Chris Horton to play well— he put up 37 points and 21 rebounds against Tennessee Tech in the OVC tournament and 30 and 16 against Belmont. Austin Peay will only go as far as Horton takes them and I believe the big-man has at least one more monster game in him.

Temple. Chalk their 10-seed up to playing in a weaker-than-usual American conference, but the Temple Owls just might be the safest bet if you’re looking for a double-digit seed to advance in the tournament. A big part of that has to do with their recent performance (always a good indicator of where a team is at this time of year). After stumbling out of the gate to start the season, the Owls have won 17 of their last 20. What’s more, they have Takeover Talent in senior guard Quenton DeCosey, who averaged a team-high 15.4 points per game to go along with six rebounds, nearly three assists, and two steals per game.

Syracuse. Don’t believe their record, or the fact that they are a 10-seed— the Orange are waiting in the weeds to upset top competition. For starters, the nine-game suspension of Jim Boeheim took the wind out of their sails early going just 4-5 in that timeframe. They are a much better team now with Jimmy B back roaming the sidelines. Second, unlike most lower seeds Syracuse is not a mid major program just happy to be in the field. Their fans travel better than any program aside from Kentucky and their players have all played in big nationally TV games this year and in past NCAA tournaments. ‘Cuse won’t be intimidated in matchups with other big schools. What is still intimidating is their zone. Their 38th ranked BPI shows ‘Cuse has played tough teams all year. That’s why they’ll be a tough out come tournament time.

Article Written By: Heather Ainsworth