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The beauty of the NCAA Tournament's single-elimination format is the opportunity for any team to advance on any day!
With the 2023 men's college basketball tournament set, it's time to pick some upsets. Everyone is looking for a repeat of St. Peter's versus Kentucky in the 2022 First Round, or even when 16-seed UMBC took out first-seed Virginia in the first round of 2018! But what's certain is that our handy guide and expert picks will give you the edge on your March Madness wagers!
Let's look at the picks!
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In a classic 11-6 matchup, everyone is picking the Providence Friars to take down the Kentucky Wildcats - and it's not unfounded. The 11-seed has gone 26-22 against the sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament since 2010, and Providence's means of success this season prove viable against Kentucky.
Providence finished their 2022-23 regular season with a 21-11 overall record and a 13-7 conference record, placing them fourth in the Big East. While the Friars were in the middle of the pack in most categories this season, they did shoot 37.0% from three (2nd in the Big East) while limiting their opponents to just 31.8% (2nd in the Big East).
Kentucky finished their SEC season in third place with a 12-6 record and a 21-11 overall record. While they enter this tournament on a positive run of form, having won six of their last ten games, the Friars' shooting will cause trouble for their defense which allows 6.7 threes (6th in the SEC). Providence may have lost their last three games before the tournament, but their shooting can send them through against a shooting-averse Wildcats team.
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Charleston and San Diego State represent the 12-5 matchup that always excites March Madness bettors. While it'll be a challenging game, the 12th seed does have a respectable 35.8% historical winning percentage over the fifth seed. What Charleston hopes to accomplish will be difficult, but their offense is nothing to be scoffed at - especially if you're the San Diego State Aztecs.
The Charleston Cougars finished first in the CAA with a 16-2 record and a 31-3 overall record. Pat Kelsey's team closed out the season with ten straight wins behind an offense that produced 82.8 points (1st in the CAA) on 44.6% efficiency (4th in the CAA) to go along with 10.6 threes (1st in the CAA). Inside-outside pair Dalton Bolon and Ante Brzovic lead the Cougars with 23.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.7 threes per game combined.
Projected to be an actual offense-defense matchup, the Charleston Cougars certainly have the tools to take down San Diego State - enough to earn an impressive first-round upset. However, San Diego State will only go down with a fight, as they finished first in the MWC with a 15-3 record and a 27-6 overall record. The Aztecs had the top defense in the MWC in 2022-23,
limiting teams to 63.7 points on 42.4% from the field and 29.7% from the three-point range.
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The Gaels and Huskies are on an excellent run of form entering this tournament, creating an exciting matchup. One of the hottest upset picks in the first round is the matchup between 13th-seed Iona versus fourth-seed UConn. UConn is the favorite in this matchup, but Iona and seasoned head coach Rick Pitino are ready to complete the upset.
The Iona Gaels enter this matchup as one of the nation’s best defensive teams. They allow just 65.0 points per game (42nd overall) on 40.9% shooting from the field (37th overall) and 29.2% from three (7th overall). Entering the game on a 14-game win streak, the Gaels have nothing to lose and look to escape the first round for the first time since 2013.
After losing in the first round in back-to-back seasons, the UConn Huskies want to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2014 - where they emerged as national champions. The Huskies are one of the strongest teams in the country, despite finishing just fifth in the Big East. Averaging 78.7 points (30th overall) while also limiting teams to 65.2 points (47th overall) on 41.1% from the field (41st overall) and 30.2% from three (19th overall), the Huskies are talented all-around. While the Huskies are an excellent team, bettors are justified in thinking the Gaels have what it takes to produce an upset.
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Tenth-seed USC is our last upset winner of the opening round when they take on seventh-seeded Michigan State. Both teams have proven themselves solid through the regular season, but this matchup shows some faults in Michigan State's game. We see the Trojans taking down the Wolverines.
After falling in the First Round last season and the Elite Eight before that, USC aims to return to the Final Four for the first time since the 1950s. Andy Enfield's team, led by guard Boogie Ellis, finished second in a tough Pac-12 conference because of their excellent scoring and defense. The Trojans may not have been the best shooting team in their conference, but their ability to get to the rim and the free-throw line was effective in one of the nation's toughest conferences.
On the other side of the court are Michigan State, who finished fourth in the Big Ten with an 11-8 overall record. Tom Izzo has developed a solid basketball team, but they don't excel in one particular area over their opponents. The Spartans are in danger of dropping out of the first round against a Trojans team that scores 72.6 points per game while limiting their opponents to 39.2% shooting.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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