6 Potential Round of 64 Upsets in the NCAA Tournament
Upsets are a big part of what makes the NCAA Tournament's moniker of March Madness so apropos.
Mid-majors can topple power conference schools, and every now and again, a 15 seed can get the upper hand on a 2 seed.
Predicting these occurrences is tough, of course, and that's why filling out a bracket has such allure.
Which games, though, can you target if you want to pick some prevailing underdogs?
Let's check out our math and find out.
Ohio State (10) versus Virginia Commonwealth (7)
Based on nERD, our signature metric for identifying point differential against an average opponent on a neutral floor, Ohio State is the flat out better squad. OSU has a nERD of 14.53, which ranks 15th in the country. Virginia Commonwealth's nERD (10.93) ranks just 31st. This suggests that Ohio State is about 3.6 points better than VCU, so they could be destined for a third-round matchup against Arizona.
Valparaiso (13) versus Maryland (4)
This is far from a guarantee, but this game should be closer than Maryland, who is overrated according to our math, would like for it to be. Maryland's nERD of 10.72 ranks just 33rd in the country. Valparaiso isn't too far behind, all things considered. Their nERD is just 6.52, which ranks only 73rd in the country, but Maryland is the worst 4 seed in the tournament, per our math, and Valparaiso is the best 13 seed.
Everybody wants to target the 12 over 5 upsets -- and for good reason -- but the 13 over 4 is much more rewarding. Valparaiso's defense ranks in the 94th percentile, and its offense ranks in the 77th, so they could certainly cause problems for the Terps.
Buffalo (12) versus West Virginia (5)
West Virginia is a good squad, according to nERD. They rank 21st in the metric with a score of 12.91. Their offense ranks in the 72nd percentile, and their defense is in the 80th, so they're a solid team. However, if you're looking for a 12 over 5 upset, this might be the one to eye.
Buffalo, winners of eight straight games, has a very solid offense, ranking in the 82nd percentile. Their Offensive Rating (108.9) ranks 54th in the country -- better than West Virginia's (106.1, 98th). Their defense is also above average, ranking in the 65th percentile. With a nERD of 8.32, the math thinks that Buffalo trails West Virginia by just 4.59 points, the closest gap in the 12 versus 5 matchups.
Texas (11) versus Butler (6)
Texas boasts a nERD of 13.11, which ranks them 19th in the country. Butler actually ranks one spot behind them at 20th with a nERD of 12.96. That means, on a neutral court (which will be the case at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh), Texas should actually be favored by 0.15 points. Basically, this one is a dead-even matchup, according to the numbers, and those are pretty good odds for an 11 seed to overtake a 6 seed.
Davidson (10) versus Iowa (7)
I know a 10 over 7 isn't a huge upset, but it's important to note that -- even though this isn't Steph Curry's Davidson team -- it's a capable squad, ranking 29th in the country in nERD (11.22). Iowa comes in ranked 26th (11.84), so this game, based on the math, is separated by only 0.62 points.
Davidson's offense ranks better than 99.3 percent of all teams in the country, and their Offensive Rating (118.2) ranks fifth in the nation. They certainly have the offense to make it happen, but Iowa's defense, in the 87th percentile, could give even that elite of an offense some hassle. Based on overall team makeup, though, Davidson surely has the potential to pull off a pesky 10-over-7 upset.
BYU (11) versus Xavier (6)
BYU, of course, would need to surpass Mississippi, which nERD suggests they can. BYU comes in ranked 25th in the metric with a score of 11.87. Mississippi is just 41st (9.41). Provided that they take care of Ole Miss, BYU, the second-fastest team in the entire tournament, could possibly take down Xavier, whose nERD of 12.49 ranks just 23rd in the country.
That means Xavier is only 0.61 points better on a neutral floor than BYU is, and when a team has to play a game just to get into the round of 64, it's hard to pick them to advance, but according to our math, it's very possible. BYU's offense is better than 98.5 percent of the schools in the country, and Tyler Haws, a candidate for player of the year could lead the Cougars to the third round to face either Baylor (15.21 nERD, 12th) or Georgia State (5.99, 78th).
In fact, if Dayton advances to meet Providence, then each 6 against 11 matchup would be closer than a 2.11-point contest, according to nERD.