March Madness - Three high seeds that could be vulnerable in the NCAA Tournament

Villanova Wildcats guard Caleb Daniels (14) reacts after missing a shot at the buzzer and losing to the Georgetown Hoyas in a Big East tournament game at Madison Square Garden.
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Matt Marquart

NCAAB· 6 months ago

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I'm a College Basketball contributor here at Pickswise. I have been a longtime College Basketball fan and bettor, as I love to dive deep into every aspect of a particular matchup. In no other sport are there as many teams with different styles of play like College Basketball, so I'm fortunate enough to share my thoughts at Pickswise.

March Madness is here, and it’s time to pick the best upsets, not only for your bets against the spread, but also for your office bracket pool. Listed below are a few vulnerable high seeds that should be on upset alert as early as their opening matchup. Make sure you check out our picks on the side and total for EVERY game throughout the NCAA Tournament.

Villanova Wildcats

Picking Villanova to get upset by Winthrop will be a popular choice, but it’s for good reason, as Winthrop can potentially exploit some of Villanova’s weaknesses. Starting with the most obvious, Villanova will play the remainder of their season without point guard, Collin Gillespie. His loss has already been felt, as Villanova has lost both games without him. The reason his loss is even more impactful in this matchup is because of his ability to take care of the ball. Villanova is going to need to take great care of the ball if they want to avoid a first-round exit, as Winthrop ranks 23rd in the country in defensive turnover rate. Villanova still has capable ballhandlers, but there’s a chance that Winthrop’s pressure can stimy Villanova’s offense.

Winthrop’s offense might also be able to find some success against Villanova’s defense, particularly in the paint with feeding the ball into DJ Burns. A former borderline top-100 recruit, Burns dominated the Big South Championship with a variety of post moves. There’s a chance Burns can dominate this game as well, as Villanova ranks just 173rd in field goal percentage defense at the rim. Winthrop may have only played one team ranked inside the Kenpom top-100, but Villanova should be on upset alert.

Texas Longhorns

Despite winning the Big 12 Tournament, the Longhorns should be on upset alert. Texas will take on an Abilene Christian team that is ripe for an upset, mainly thanks to their excellent defense. The Wildcats rank 30th overall in Kenpom defensive efficiency, and it’s their defensive identity that causes concern for Texas. Abilene Christian’s Head Coach Joe Golding was part of Chris Beard’s staff at Little-Rock, so while Beard has brought his philosophy to Texas Tech, Golding has brought that philosophy to Abilene Christian. The style is a pack-line defense, that is designed to force their opponents into turnovers. Texas will be somewhat familiar with the scheme having played Texas Tech three times this year, going 1-2 in those games.

The main concern from a matchup perspective stems from Abilene’s Christian’s ability to force turnovers, which they did at the highest rate in the country this year. Texas has struggled with turnover issues all year, ranking 236th in protecting the ball. Another strength of the Abilene Christian defense is their interior defense, particularly at the rim. The Wildcats rank 54th in the country in field goal percentage defense at the rim, which will make Texas hit jump shots. This is a great plan to pull off a possible upset.

Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue is a team that has typically performed well in the NCAA Tournament, including most recently having eventual National Champion Virginia on the ropes in the Elite Eight in 2019. They have another solid team this year, but they are vulnerable to being picked off early, potentially in the first round against North Texas. On a macro level, Purdue is vulnerable simply due to its youth. The Boilermakers rank 327th in Kenpom’s experience metric, so perhaps the magnitude of the tournament will be a detriment to them.

Their first-round matchup with North Texas provides some worry immediately. Like Purdue, North Texas also plays very low-possession games. Kenpom has this game projected for 62 possessions, which makes it more likely that the underdog will hang around for longer, with potentially a chance to win at the end. On offense, North Texas is potent from three-point land, ranking 34th in the country in three-point percentage. Only 9 teams allow a higher three-point attempt rate to their opponents than Purdue, so if North Texas is hot from the outside, we could see an upset.

I’d look elsewhere before placing any futures bets on these three teams, as each is very susceptible to an early exit at the hands of their first-round opponent. Better yet, their opponents might warrant some consideration for a sprinkle on the money line!

Pickswise is the home of March Madness Predictions. Check out all of our March Madness Picks, including daily March Madness Parlays throughout the NCAA Tournament.

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