The 2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament begins this week, and as usual, you can expect your share of second round (formerly first round) upsets.
Here are three underdog picks for Thursday that we feel have real shots at winning outright and disrupting a lot of brackets early on.
VCU (+6½) +250 over Wichita State: These are two of the hottest mid-majors in the country and this is a terrible draw for the fifth seeded Shockers, who are the mid-major picked to go the farthest on average across all the brackets we have seen. The Shockers are worthy of all that love indeed as they are amazingly ranked 10th in the nation overall on the Pomeroy Ratings while being one of only a few teams ranked in the top 20 in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency.
However, VCU is the better defensive team in this game, as the Rams rank 22nd in points allowed at 59.8 per game and they lead the land in turnover percentage defensively at 27.4 percent. This is not the type of pressure defense that the Shockers are used to facing in the Missouri Valley Conference, and remember also that the Rams still have some holdovers from the Cinderella team that reached the Final Four last season. We will take one of the best defenses in the nation at this price every time.
Southern Miss (+5) +180 over Kansas State: Now we get that the Big 12 is far superior to Conference USA and that the Wildcats have been butting heads with and even beating some of the elite teams in the country. Meanwhile, the biggest distinction for the 25-8 Golden Eagles this season is nearly sweeping Memphis, beating the Tigers at home and losing by only two points at the FedEx Forum. However, we expect Southern Miss to have a big advantage in the turnover department in this game and that could easily fuel an upset.
You see, Kansas State is athletically gifted but it is also highly undisciplined, ranking 239th in the country in turnover percentage. The fact that the Golden Eagles are above average in forcing turnovers, doing so 21.4 percent of the time, does not help the Wildcats’ cause. Meanwhile, Southern Miss does an excellent job of ball protection, ranking 11th in the entire country in turnover percentage offensively at a scant 16.3 percent.
Davidson (+7½) +295 over Louisville: This one may defy logic at first glance as Louisville just won the Big East Tournament while Davidson has just one key win all year vs. Kansas. However, it is easy to forget that the Cardinals were only the seventh seed in the Big East and they are simply not a good shooting basketball team this season, ranking only 122nd in offensive efficiency and a putrid 225th in effective field goal percentage.
Yes, Louisville ranks second in defensive efficiency and defense wins championships, but Davidson ranks 37th in offensive efficiency and the Wildcats do not turn the ball over much either, ranking 22nd in turnover percentage at 17.2 percent, We see this game going right down to the wire so we’ll gladly take the +295 value in that circumstance.
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