The first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament is now behind us and as expected, we witnessed plenty of upsets transpire over the course of two days.
No. 13 Furman got the madness started early with a clutch 68-67 win over No. 4 Virginia to give the Paladins their first tournament victory since 1974. Then over in Sacramento, No. 2 Arizona saw their campaign for a Final Four appearance end prematurely after a 59-55 loss to No. 15 Princeton, marking just the 11th instance of a two-seed being sent home by a 15-seed.
The madness continues on Saturday and Sunday with round two getting underway, so we’ve pinpointed four games where another upset could potentially occur.
No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 4 UConn, West Region
The Gaels survived No. 12 VCU with a 12-point win in the opening round while the Huskies made easy work of No. 13 Iona. Still, UConn trailed by a point heading into halftime, so if Rick Pitino’s squad were able to give the Huskies a run for their money why can’t the WCC’s runner-up pull off the upset? Saint Mary’s prefers to slow the game down and prevent any foe from gaining continuity on offense. If they can survive the Huskies’ defense they should have a puncher’s chance of advancing to the Sweet 16.
No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 3 Baylor, South Region
This second-round matchup could prove to be one of the best offensive games of the entire tournament with three-pointers galore from two squads that average over 36 percent from deep. The Bluejays have historically fallen short of reaching that next tier of being labeled an elite basketball team, but they are a bit better defensively in allowing 68.5 PPG to their opponents. All it takes is for Creighton to get hot from deep and with Greg McDermott bringing back a lineup that made a deep run last year, I think the experience could tilt the advantage in the Bluejays’ favor.
No. 15 Princeton vs. No. 7 Missouri, South Region
Princeton is coming off a fresh upset over No. 2 Arizona, and who’s to say the cinderella story has to end this weekend? They’ll need to take much better care of the ball as Missouri is among the better teams at forcing turnovers (17.1 per game) but with Missouri allowing 74.3 PPG to their opponents, their suspect defense could come to haunt them. Plus, Princeton’s second-leading scorer in Ryan Langborg is coming off a 4-13 shooting performance, so the odds of him bouncing back bode well this weekend as a potential x-factor.
No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 2 Texas, Midwest Region
Is there any other surprise team that is more dangerous right now than the Nittany Lions? After the Aggies were regarded as criminally under-seeded, Penn State made easy work thanks to a stingy defense and a scorching hot 13-22 shooting performance from three. Andrew Funk led the way with 27 points and eight made threes, and if he’s clicking then the Lions should be equipped to give anyone a run for their money. Oh, and don’t forget they still boast consensus All-American Jalen Pickett in the backcourt, who averaged 17.9 PPG in the regular season.