Today’s March Madness assignment is to find some higher seeds that could be on first-round upset alert. Get out of your brackets and sort through some of the teams in potential danger.
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Marquette, the No. 2 seed in the East Region
Marquette picked up Creighton’s lethargy in the Big East, cruising to the league title. Head coach Shaka Smart will need a new trophy for all his awards at the end of the season. But Marquette is a slim 10.5-point favorite over Vermont; Betting has become public in all Catamounts since the start of this game. Vermont has the things you want to see from a live underdog: It’s a team with low turnover, the roster is experienced, and the team is in good form, posting 15 straight wins entering the tournament. The NCAA tournament is no novelty for Vermont; The cats have made nine trips in the past two decades. I’ll grab the points, and being upset won’t shock me.
Virginia, the No. 4 seed in the South Region
Although Virginia is the No. 4 seed, it is only a 5.5-point favorite over Furman. The Cavaliers play at a slow pace; They rarely run and are trained to avoid offensive boards. And it’s not like the Virginia half-court offense has been lukewarm. Furman is a skilled offensive team entering the tournament on a 14–1 streak. This game should be competitive for two hours.
Duke, formerly the No. 5 seed
Full disclosure, I expect Duke to go much further in the tournament. It’s the longest team in the region and the nation’s best recruiting class has grown well after a slow liftoff. But the selection committee did Duke no favors in Round 1, sending Oral Roberts for Thursday’s performance. Oral Roberts is a mid-major with a star scorer (Max Abmas), an interior disruptor (7-foot-3 center Connor Vanover) and a March resume (this team made the Sweet 16 in 2021). The Golden Eagles would not be intimidated this time.
Miami, the No. 5 seed in the Midwest region
We know that 5-12 matchups often result in upsets, and Miami couldn’t be more thrilled to attract an experienced, cohesive Drake team. Sophomore Tucker Davis (playing for his dad, Darion) is a star, and he’s surrounded by four senior starters. Miami is concerned about interior ace Norchaud Omier, who suffered an ankle injury in last week’s loss to Duke. Miami is only a 2.5-point favorite.
Craton, the No. 6 seed in the South Region
Creighton has been a tease all year long. Picked as a Big East favorite, Creighton fell on a six-game losing streak in December and fell out of the top 20 entirely. The roster glass may be half-full or half-empty depending on your view — Creighton has one of the best starters in the country, but little production off its bench. North Carolina State takes excellent care of the basketball and is one of the more experienced teams in the tournament. Good guard play makes any underdog deliciously alive; I’ll take NC State at +5.5, and trace the money line.