The annual barrage of choice words thrown at the NCAA Selection Committee is rarely pretty. This year, though, marks a changing of the guard. When deserving mid-majors like LaSalle and Middle Tennessee earn bids over college basketball Goliaths like Kentucky and Tennessee, even the Davids can celebrate.
As Mike Bobinski, the chair of the Selection Committee, said, "very few bids were stolen." On the flip side, while big-time programs like Kentucky had six top 100 wins and Baylor had eight, for the first time ever, a team with one such win -- Middle Tennessee -- got into the NCAA Tournament.
The question now becomes, what are the key first round upsets?
(11) Belmont over (6) Arizona
Arizona doesn't defend the 3 and Belmont is one of the premier 3-point shooting teams in America. It's a battle-tested club with seniors who have been here before, led by a pair of really good senior guards, Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson. I love Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons, but the Wildcats have struggled with teams that spread you out.
(11) Minnesota over (6) UCLA
The Pac-12 is as watered down as it has ever been and Minnesota has a litany of athletes that will bother Shabazz Muhammad. UCLA losing its second leading scorer, Jordan Adams, with a broken foot, is a killer, because other than Muhammad, he's the only guy that can bail you out.
(10) Iowa State over (7) Notre Dame
The Irish play very deliberately, but Iowa State is a brutally physical team with quality starters who love to defend for full possessions. Better yet, the Cyclones rank fourth in the country in points per game (80) and are lethal spreading teams out. The Irish have been hot of late, but get an unlucky draw here.
(13) La Salle over (4) Kansas State
There is almost always a 12-5 upset and Oregon could feasibly beat Oklahoma State, but La Salle is a very dangerous 13. It has to win its play-in over a pretty tough Boise State team, but its four guard look would represent tremendous difficulty for Kansas State. This is a sneaky one because K-State is very physical and loves to ugly it up, but the Explorers will spread you and get you in foul trouble early.
(11) Middle Tennessee State/St. Mary's over (6) Memphis
Brutal match-up either way for a 30-4 Memphis team that ran through a struggling Conference USA this season. Middle Tennessee has flown under the radar but can really score, as can the Gaels, who have one of the premier lead guards in America with Matthew Dellavedova. The Tigers, I think, are over-seeded here and either way, will be facing a capable squad in their first match-up.
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