Upset Special: Seven Teams on Upset Alert Going into the Round of 64 

Daniel Krivacs, Sports Writer

Grand Forks, N.D. — The Tournament is back. Brackets are being filled out which means upset predictions. With that said, I have every team I feel should be on “upset alert” heading into the first round of this year’s madness.  

My criterium for an upset is any game in which the lower seeded team has a realistic chance to win (the seeding differential must be greater than two.) The simplest version of this is all the first-round games that are not eight vs. nine seed games. I would also like to note that the order of teams in the following list is not a ranking of teams on upset watch; the team at number one does not have a greater or lesser chance of getting upset by the final team on the list. With all that out of the way, let’s get to it. 

1. Arkansas (No. 4 seed):  

As a No. 4 seed, Arkansas will automatically be put on upset watch after two No. 13 over No. 4 seed upsets last tournament. Arkansas won 15 of 17 before losing to bubble team Texas A&M in the SEC semifinals. Despite being on upset watch, Arkansas is also considered a sleeper team in the West Region. Even with the potential to go far in the West Region, Vermont is not an easy task in round one. Vermont shot 50 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range this season. Vermont comes out of a weak conference in the America East, but they proved they can beat everyone in that league, going 17-1 in conference play and coasting through their conference tournament.  

Vermont turns the ball over less than 10 times per game while Arkansas averages 13 per game (if you round up from 12.6). If Arkansas doesn’t protect the ball and Vermont takes advantage of the transition offense, particularly from long range, watch out. I wouldn’t bet my life savings on this one, but any team that shoots 50 percent from the field is a threat to pull an upset. 

2. Texas (No. 6 seed):  

Texas was handed a tough draw with No. 11 seed and ACC Tournament champion Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is an almost carbon copy of the 2020-2021 Oregon State team, which was not in any bracket predictions. Oregon State then won their conference tournament, made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed, and went to the Elite Eight. (Yes, I know VT is a No. 11 seed, not No. 12.) Virginia Tech would be a threat to anyone based on their fiery ACC Tournament performance, earlier victory over Duke, and current winning streak.  

Texas has the potential to go far because of their defense, but beware the team with momentum. Texas has lost three in a row while Virginia Tech has won seven of their last eight games, including wins against Duke and North Carolina during that stretch. Virginia Tech shoots 40 percent from three-point range; Texas only gives up 60 points per game. Either Virginia Tech’s shooting or Texas’ defense is going to give in this game. The one that does will decide the winner.  

3. LSU (No. 6 seed):  

LSU plays Iowa State in their first game. Someone was going to draw the lowest seeded Big 12 team and be put on upset watch, and unfortunately for Tiger fans, it was LSU. Iowa State is a team that underwent one of the biggest transformations, going from two wins last year to 20 wins this year. Of Iowa State’s 20 wins, nine of them came against quadrant one opponents. Iowa State not only turned it around this season, but they also did it in a brutal conference against some of the best teams in the country.  

What do Xavier, Memphis, Creighton, Iowa, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Kansas State all have in common? They are all quadrant one victories for Iowa State. First year Head Coach TJ Otzelberger has the Cyclones playing strong defense, giving up only 63 points per game. LSU is the 134th best scoring offense in the country at 73 points per game, and they do not move the ball well. The Tigers average 12.7 assists per game which is tied for 235th in Division I.  

Iowa State’s Izaiah Brockington is one of the best scorers in the country that you have never heard of because he plays on a team that would average less than 60 points per game if it weren’t for his presence. If another Iowa State player scores more than 15 points alongside Brockington, Iowa State will win this game and probably the next. 

4. Providence (No. 4 seed):  

Providence is the team with the unfortunate fate of playing (and probably losing to) South Dakota State in the round of 64. As a UND student, there is some discomfort talking about South Dakota State this positively, but it is better than the alternative if the team from Fargo were to win the Summit League. South Dakota State won 30 games this season, went undefeated in Summit League play, and has not lost a game since 2021.  

If I were to tell you that Team A scores 87 points per game and Team B scores 72 points per game, who would you pick to win? If you chose Team A, you would have selected South Dakota State. If you chose Team B, that would be Providence. I understand the “defense wins championships” mentality, but luckily for SDSU, this is the round of 64 and not the national championship. 87 points beats anyone, including Providence, regardless of conference and seeding. Game planning against SDSU’s offense is nearly impossible because you would have to account for everyone that touches the floor.  

5. Ohio State (No. 7 seed):  

Even without Porter Moser’s coaching, Loyola Chicago still appears in the bracket. With new head coach Drew Valentine in control, Loyola has continued its regular season success and hopes to continue as a lower seed in the tournament. Ohio State has more experience, better players, a better coach, and a slight home court advantage in Pittsburgh. Loyola Chicago, however, has Sister Jean and she is enough for them to be a threat.  

Loyola and Ohio State are almost identical in every phase of the game, but both teams showed their inconsistencies this season. Because of this, the team who sticks to their identity the most will win. Loyola went into the MVC Tournament as a No. 4 seed while Ohio State has lost four of their last five, including embarrassing losses to Nebraska at home and to Penn State in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State has been playing poorly leading up to this game, and they need to figure it out before Sister Jean shows up in Pittsburgh.  

6. Colorado State (No. 7 seed):  

Colorado State’s reward for going 25-5 overall and 14-4 in Mountain West play is drawing Michigan in the first round. Michigan is as inconsistent as it gets. They can beat anyone (Purdue) and lose to anyone (blowing a 20-point lead against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament).  

Where Colorado State finds its biggest disadvantage is in the paint. Michigan’s leading scorer is Hunter Dickinson, a 7-foot center who succeeded in the hardest conference in America for big men. The closest physical match Colorado State has for Hunter Dickinson is Dischon Thomas, a 6’ 9 forward who averages 16 minutes a game and five points per game; Hunter Dickinson is a 7’ 1 center who averages 32 minutes per game with 18 points per game.  

Colorado State plays small ball which could help things on offense but strain their defense. If Colorado State puts extra bodies on Hunter Dickinson, that will open up the rest of Michigan’s offense to attack from the perimeter where they shoot 34 percent. Unfortunately for Colorado State, it seems like this game is not a question of if Michigan will win but how Michigan will win.  

7. Houston (No. 5 seed): 

Houston getting a No. 5 seed is a tough draw, but an even tougher draw is the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the first round. UAB has won seven in a row, including a triple OT thriller against Middle Tennessee State in the Conference USA semifinals. UAB’s seventh ranked scoring offense averaging 80 or more points a game against a Houston defense that gives up only 59 points per game will be one of the more intriguing matchups of the opening round. After losing to Memphis 75-61 a week ago, Houston looks like a different team and showed that in the AAC Tournament, which they won with relative ease. Their closest game in the tournament was a 13-point victory against Cincinatti in the quarterfinal.  

Jordan Walker will be the difference maker for UAB in the same way he has been all season. He averages 20 points per game while nobody else on UAB averages more than 12. Without Marcus Sasser, Houston has proven that they can win, but UAB provides a new and unique test for the Cougar defense.  

This is a game that should not be happening, but college basketball fans are glad that it is. Some people forget that Houston was a Final Four team last year, but that was last year. UAB would like nothing better than to score 81 points the way they have all year, only give up 66 points on defense (their season average), and pull the upset against a team that has been rolling as of late. My goal was not to save the best game for last, but I think I did anyway. 

Daniel Krivacs is a Dakota Student writer and can be reached at [email protected].