Oakland v. Texas
Oakland has an NBA-ready-center, an excellent point-guard, tournament experience, and a far superior coach. In theory, they have what it takes to pull off the upset. That said, Texas is playing well coming into Friday and they are obviously a much deeper team. This will come into play towards the final 4-6 minutes of the game. If Oakland can stay out of foul trouble and keep from turning it over, they can pull this off. Greg Kampe (the Grizzlie’s coach) mentioned, after watching film on Texas, that he noticed many similarities to Tennessee. Oakland defeated the Vols in Tennessee in December. One thing is for certain, this Oakland team will not be intimidated off the floor.
Utah State v. Kansas State
Kansas State has one of the best guards in the country in Jacob “Chinstrap” Pullen, but his supporting cast is laughable. Utah State has been dancing for a few years now but hasn’t gotten over the hump. They are an experienced team with enough talent to contain Pullen and keep this close. Look for a great game from the tip as I don’t see either team pulling away.
Michigan State v. UCLA
This UCLA team is getting more love than I thought they would. They aren’t tough, they can’t run, and they are sub-par shooters. I don’t like this Bruin team at all. The Spartans, however, are one of only two teams in the country that have been to the Sweet 16 in each of the past three years. (Xavier is the other). They are as experienced as they come, we know Tom Izzo will get 120% out of his talent, Kalin Lucas is coming off of a thirty-point performance, and they have the best (easiest) draw of any 10-seed in the tournament. This isn’t much of an upset (sportsbooks have State favored) but its one to watch.
St Johns v. Gonzaga
I love that the Zags’ come in as the underdog here. They aren’t America’s sweethearts anymore. They quietly enter the tourney as the 11-seed to find themselves matched up against a wounded St. John’s team on the down-swing. Without the help of some of the worst officiating anyone can remember, the Johnnies would have lost to Rutgers! Lavin and the 90 seniors he inherited have given us a great story, but I think the Zags cut it short.
Belmont v. Wisconsin
I’ve been hearing too much talk about some other potential upsets and I want to put one in particular to sleep now. Belmont, a 30-win team, is seemingly every one’s first round upset-lock. Yes, I am completely aware that Wisconsin threw up 33 points in a post-season game….but they only allowed 39! Bo Ryan is a brilliant game-manager and he hasn’t forgotten this overnight. Wisconsin, a far superior team, will take this in a blowout from the tip. Don’t believe the hype!
-by Lowell Ahee