The 2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament is now upon us, so the next three weeks will be some of the most exciting in all of sports. Now remember that this tournament is called March Madness for a reason as it always has its share of upsets.
Here are three underdogs that we like to win outright on Friday, with the reasoning behind the first two upsets being nearly identical.
Saint Louis (+3½) +155 over Memphis: Some may be surprised to learn that Saint Louis is ranked 15th in the country on the Pomeroy Ratings, and still others may be surprised that Memphis is ranked ninth! These teams go about their business totally differently though as the Billikens have a methodical offense that ranks 303rd in the country in tempo rating at 62.8 possessions per game while Memphis plays an up-tempo style, ranking 68th with 68.3 possessions.
We look for Saint Louis to be the team controlling the tempo here, and as slow as the Billikens play, they still rank 36th in the country in offensive efficiency. That is because they shoot the ball well, ranking 57th in effective field goal percentage, and they do not turn the ball over much, ranking 44th in that department. The Tigers are immensely talented but very young, and we can easily see them getting frustrated by Saint Louis’s style of play.
Virginia (+3) +135 over Florida: This is another case of a team that likes to play slow (Virginia) taking on a team that prefers to run (Florida) with the former being the underdog. Now granted, the Gators rank third in the country in offensive efficiency, mainly because they rank 19th in three-point shooting at 39.0 percent. However, it must be said that Florida’s play slips noticeably away from home, as this is a team that went 16-2 at Gainesville but 7-8 either on the road or at neutral sites. Virginia, on the other hand, went 9-6 away from home further bolstering the belief that defense travels better than offense.
The Cavaliers rank third in the country in defensive efficiency and 13th in three-point defense, which is most critical in regards to this game. Virginia is deliberate offensively ranking 339th out of 345 Division I team in tempo at 60.4 possessions per game, but it is still above average in efficiency at 104.8 points per 100 possessions.
Texas (+2) +115 over Cincinnati: As you can see by this spread, this is a bigger upset in seeding (11th seed over 6th seed) than it is from a pure betting standpoint, but hey, plus anything still counts as an upset! Texas probably qualified for the Big Dance by beating Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament, the second time the Longhorns beat the Cyclones this season. Texas is not your garden variety 20-13 team, as the Horns are ranked 27th in the country overall on the Pomeroy Ratings after taking the elite teams in the Big 12 down to the wire on several occasions.
Believe it or not, Texas is ranked higher than Cincinnati (31st) by Pomeroy, and the Bearcats are a poor shooting team that ranks 207th in effective field goal percentage. Based on the Pomeroy numbers, the wrong team is favored.
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