Five Teams On Early Upset Alert

Story posted March 16, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeff Jezewski

Everyone’s favorite part of the March Madness is the upsets. There’s nothing more gratifying than predicting the early exit of a top seed after filling out your bracket. In a year of college basketball loaded with parity and filled with inconsistency, there are multiple teams that will secure high seeds that could exit the tournament in the first weekend.

Virginia (25-6, 16-2 ACC)

The first team that could make an early exit is the Virginia Cavaliers. There’s no doubting the outstanding season Tony Bennett and his team had. The Cavaliers finished the season at 25-6 and 16-2 in the ACC, but Virginia is under .500 (2-3) against RPI Top 25 teams and just .500 (4-4) against RPI Top 50 teams. Virginia is very disciplined and strong defensively, but they lack a true go-to scorer, as guard Joe Harris has struggled with consistency this year. Statistically, the Cavaliers don’t jump out at you in any aspect, but there is no denying the success they have has. However, without a consistent offensive threat, Virginia is a prime target to make an early exit.

Creighton (24-6, 14-4 Big East)

Despite the presence of the Wooden Award favorite, Doug McDermott, Creighton is another team on early upset alert before we see the brackets. The Blue Jays, while they are efficient offensively, may not be able to get it done against better teams keying in on McDermott. Creighton lacks a truly “bad” loss this season, but after McDermott their leading scorer averages just 10.7 points per contest. In the NCAA tournament teams will lock in on the soon-to-be player of the year and his teammates will need to provide a spark. The Blue Jays could also struggle with a bigger team, as they are just 183 in the country in rebounding and lack a true inside presence. Creighton normally plays role of underdog come tournament time, but this year they may be the victim.

Villanova (28-3, 16-2 Big East)

Even with their gaudy record, Villanova isn’t widely accepted as a tournament favorite. The Wildcats have had another fantastic regular season under head coach Jay Wright, but have struggled against the little top competition they faced. While they have a great win over Kansas, Nova dropped their only three other contests against the RPI Top 25. They lost each of these contests, against Syracuse and Creighton twice, by 16 points or more. Statistically, Villanova doesn’t show a glaring weakness, but the eye test leaves something to be desired from the Wildcats. They surely have the tools to make a run, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see James Bell and company heading home early.

Wichita State (34-0, 18-0 MVC)

Last year’s Cinderella, Wichita State, ran through their season undefeated, an incredibly impressive feat. However, as it has been publicized, the Shockers schedule leaves much speculation as to how good this team really is. There is no questioning Wichita State’s talent or the fact they deserve a number one seed, but the target is now on the Shockers’ backs. Led by Cleanthony Early, Wichita has overcome everything teams have thrown at them this season. On the other side of the spectrum, the Shockers have faced just one RPI Top 25 team, Saint Louis, whom they defeated (70-65) back in December. While it would be no shock to me if the Shockers made a run all the way to the Final Four, I could also see them getting knocked out before the Elite Eight.

Kansas (23-8, 14-4 Big 12)

The last team on my list will have an asterisk next to it. The Kansas Jayhawks, one of the most talented teams in the country, success will hinge on the health of freshman center Joel Embiid. The Cameroon native, Embiid, averaged 11.2 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game during the regular season, but his impact on the floor is even greater. The star center injured his back as the season wound down and is no sure thing to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Without Embiid, the talented Jayhawks lose arguably their most important player, even more so than Andrew Wiggins. That may prove to be the death sentence for Kansas and it may lead to an early exit in this year’s edition of March Madness.

Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jvj5228@psu.edu