2018 NCAA Tournament: Which Teams Are Going to Upset and Which Will Choke?

It’s the best time of the year, and lucky for you, you’ve stumbled upon one of the best sources NCAA Basketball information for 2018 March Madness.  With a consistent appearance in the Massey Ratings’ Top 5, AMSTS’ computer metrics are second-to-none1. Anyway, you’re here for bracket advice. So let’s go with a rundown of teams most likely to upset and those most likely to be upset. The bad news? It’s unlikely we’ll see the first 16 seed upset of a 1 this season, because even though the top of the league isn’t that good, the bottom teams are pretty wretched.  For this exercise, we’ll just look at team talent, while early next week we’ll have a look at the matchups.


The guys who won’t do it

LIU-Brooklyn – The Northeast Conference‘s representatives finished fourth in their conference and are 253rd in the AMSTS Computer Rankings.  If they win the 16 seed play-in game, it’ll be an upset, but they have no chance against a 1 seed.

Whoever represents the MEAC – Remember how I said LIU-Brooklyn didn’t have a chance and they were ranked 253rd?  Hampton, the #1 seed in the MEAC is 4 spots below that at 257th.  They play the 4 seed NC A&T (ranked 269) in the semi-finals, and face the winner of Morgan State (329) vs NC Central (308) in the finals. That’s out of 351 teams, people!

Whoever represents the SWAC – Grambling, the team that held the longest winning streak of any D-I team this year (11, on February 17th after the massacre of upsets happened) is ineligible for postseason play, and they were ranked 293.  The likely champion? 328th ranked Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a 20 loss team. No chance.

Whoever represents the Southland – The Southland cleverly sets up their 8 team tournament to favor the 1 and 2 seeds, who get byes all the way through to the semi-finals, so it’s likely they’ll send SE Louisiana (194) or Nicholls (169), a team that had plenty of trouble drawing fans this season. I can’t see either matching up very well against a 1 seed.


The guys who might do it

Lipscomb – Projected as a 15 seed by Jerry Palm, Lipscomb is 138 in the AMSTS rankings, but have finished the season strong, winning the last eight games of their season including the Atlantic Sun tournament to clinch their berth, looking impressive against conference favorite FGCU.

Whoever represents the Ivy League – Penn having a better likelihood than Harvard, being ranked 119 in the AMSTS rankings, the Quakers have quietly assembled a decent team. At this stage, it’ll likely take some big bounces to overcome what will likely be a 2 seed opponent.


The guys who really could do it

UNC-Greensboro – The representatives from the SoCon, UNC-G is projected at a 14 seed and ranked 88 in the AMSTS rankings. With the exception of a one point win over Wofford in their conference tournament, UNC-G has stomped their competition, winning five of their last six games by 10 points or more.

Bucknell – At 106 in the AMSTS rankings and projected at a 14 seed, this could be a risky pick that has big upside if they draw a team with not much tournament experience (i.e. not UNC, Michigan State, or Purdue).  Even still, the Bisons won 18 of their last 19 games this season, and those winning ways could scare a potential 3 seed, or even tip the scales in the favor of Cinderella.


The guys who WILL do it

South Dakota State – The Jackrabbits are predicted to be in the famous 12 spot, and if they get the right draw (think Clemson, Houston, Arkansas, or TCU) they’ll be the smart pick for the informed bracketer.  They could even sneak into the Sweet 16 with a good draw and a few bounces.

Loyola-Chicago – Ranked 46th in the AMSTS rankings and also projected in the 12 spot, the Ramblers could be a problem for a team that doesn’t match up well. Having already gotten a win on the road at Florida this season, they have demonstrated their ability to up the stage. Coupled with taking a 10 game winning streak into the tournament, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.



The guys who will CHOKE

I mean, it wouldn’t be All My Sports Teams Suck without teams that suck, right?

Rather than identify a bunch of teams on the bubble, I’ll go by each seed line as projected by Jerry Palm as of Thursday night.

1 seed: Xavier (4) – They’ve kept it together pretty well but may struggle in the 8/9 matchup in the second round. Kansas is shaky at times, but with a lot more tournament experience.

2 seed: Purdue (7) – Yup. Sorry. I said it, I’m a Purdue alum and they have looked like one of the best teams in the country this year, but struggled slightly as of late. The question here is which Purdue team shows up: Early-February Purdue or Late-February Purdue?  If it’s the first, a Final Four is in the crosshairs. If it’s the second, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

3 seed: Auburn (13) … or Texas Tech (14)- Man, both of these teams have sort of limped into March, and when you look at the 3 line across the board there could be some interesting first round games. Tech suffered from a 4 game losing streak mid-February while Auburn has lost three since that same period. Like Purdue above, it could be a matter of which team shows up to the tournament.

4 seed: Arizona (21) – Distractions is the main reason here. Arizona has looked good so far in the Pac 12 tournament, but will the FBI scandal provide enough distraction to keep Sean Miller out of the Final Four again?

5 seed: Clemson (18) – Apologies to my brother in law, but with the other 5 seeds being Kentucky, Ohio State, and Gonzaga in March, Clemson is the obvious pick due to lack of tournament experience.

6 seed: TCU (19) – After some injuries, TCU is a bit of a trainwreck. Having started off hot but finished cold, TCU will need a spark to make a deep run. Arkansas at the 6 spot also has a chance at being upset.

7 seed: Rhode Island (34) – The Rams are good, but their record is a bit misleading. With no big name wins and a couple of big losses to Saint Joe’s by 30 and Davidson by 2, URI has no momentum getting in to a toss-up matchup against a 10 seed.

The bubble teams: I would certainly not bet on Arizona State, Notre Dame, Texas, Baylor, Louisville, or maybe even Providence if I were you.


But hey, part of the magic of March is the teams you don’t think will win end up surprising you. Hopefully now that you’ve read this, there will be fewer surprises in store for you.  Good luck.

  1. I guess being top 5 means we’re 6th to none