All but four years since 1985 we’ve had at least one 12 beat a 5. And in the past five years, 12 seeds have won just as many times as 5 seeds. That is just wild.
Our SportsLine data experts are crunching all the numbers, and they say the 12 seeds are ripe for money making these year.
Let’s rank these out in terms of most to least likely to happen.
1. No. 12 Middle Tennessee over No. 5 Minnesota
The 30-4 Blue Raiders are no strangers to upsets, having pulled off the most stunning victory in first-round history last year when they beat No. 2 Michigan State. This year’s team is even better, yet under-seeded. The Blue Raiders are closer to a 9 or a 10 than a 12, and Minnesota’s closer to a 7 than a 5. So this one seems particularly ripe for a picking.
Kermit Davis’ team doesn’t turn the ball over much, beats you on the defensive glass and has size inside. Minnesota’s offense might not be able to get going here. And when a game is going to float around that 65-point range, it helps the lower-seeded team. Middle is legit. It has its sights set on getting to the Sweet 16, not just beating Minnesota.
2. No. 12 Nevada over No. 5 Iowa State
Nevada has two players (Jordan Caroline and Cameron Oliver) who could go pro. Iowa State is no weak 5 seed, but the Wolf Pack are 28-6 with good reason. This will be a great coaching matchup: ISU’s Steve Prohm vs. Nevada’s Eric Musselman. Nevada defends the 3 well, and will probably give ISU fits. Also, Nevada doesn’t go deep on the bench, but its starting five is truly good enough to roll for 35-plus minutes.
Will be a fun, high-paced game. If you’re on the Nevada train, feel confident. I think these two games are much more likely to provide upsets than the bottom two.
3. No. 12 Princeton over No. 5 Notre Dame
Don’t put a lot of stock in this one. The Fighting Irish will get a Princeton team that does not run the famed Princeton-style offense. The Tigers are good, but not at full strength, having lost Henry Caruso for the season. But despite this, Princeton’s won every game it’s played since Dec. 20. When you’ve got a team riding such a long streak, it’s tempting to pick ’em to win at least one more time.
But Notre Dame’s size and shooting ability make me think this will be too much for Princeton. The Tigers won’t be able to match up with Bonzie Colson and Steve Vasturia. ND will have to have an unusually bad shooting night, and I doubt Princeton can induce that.
4. No. 12 UNC Wilmington over No. 5 Virginia
This is the second most popular upset pick (next to Middle over Minnesota) in our CBS Sports brackets, but I love the game for Virginia. Wilmington likes to run, but Virginia’s lockdown style will probably keep the Seahawks in check. I just don’t see how Kevin Keatts’ team is going to be able to thrive with Virginia slowing the game down. And believe me, this game will be slowed down. I think Virginia wins this by double digits. A lot of people are fading the Cavaliers, so watch them come out and win easily over two games to reach the Sweet 16. March can be funny like that.