The hook of the NCAA Tournament is the Cinderella run. Everyone wants to see Mercer beat Duke. Everyone wants to see Lehigh beat Duke. Honestly, everyone wants to see anyone beat Duke, but it’s that much sweeter when it’s a stunning upset.
Below, I ranked every No. 13, 14 and 15 seed in order of least likely to the most likely to pull off a first-round stunner. (I think three of the No. 12 seeds can win straight-up this year as well, but more on that throughout the week.) Let’s see which team could potentially be this year’s Norfolk State or Hampton. Hopefully a few of the nuggets contained below can help you look like a genius in your bracket contest or help you hit a nice moneyline payout.
12. Cal State Fullerton (#15) over Purdue (#2)
Current line: CS Fullerton +20.5
The Titans are completely overmatched. CSUF relies on getting to the line to generate offense (it owns the highest free-throw rate in the country), which won’t work against a Purdue team that rarely fouls. Plus, Fullerton struggles to defend in the post, which spells disaster against center Isaac Haas and company. The Boilers should score at will at the rim and steamroll into the second round.
11. Lipscomb (#15) over North Carolina (#2)
Current line: Lipscomb +19.5
The Bisons have oddly shot the ball poorly all year (268th nationally from 3), partially because starting point guard Nate Moran has missed the entire season. That said, Lipscomb turned it on late and mollywhopped Florida Gulf Coast (a team modeled after the Tar Heels) in the Atlantic Sun Tournament championship to punch a ticket to the dance. If the shots are falling (as they did vs. Dunk City) against UNC’s sagging perimeter defense, Lipscomb could stick around for a half or more. However, UNC’s athletic advantage will eventually overwhelm the Bisons.