March Madness specials: Here's the line on NCAA tournament upsets
You thinking upsets with the Madness? We have upsets -- at least what we think will be upsets.
Here's how the NCAA tournament gets rolling -- according to the Daily Herald Sports staff.
Bruce Miles, Cubs beat writer
Having graduated from Loyola, I know a little something about upsets, having enjoyed my Ramblers' run to the Final Four last year.
Look out for 13th-seeded UC-Irvine to knock off No. 4 Kansas State (Loyola's victim in the Elite Eight last year). The Anteaters (what a cool name) of UC have won 30 games, and West Coast observers say this would be no upset. They'll face 12th-seeded Oregon, which will upset No. 5 Wisconsin. The Ducks like their defense, and they won four games in four days to get here.
After a hot start, Marquette has faded, and the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles are ripe for an upset by No. 12 Murray State. Ja Morant can take over a game for Murray State (27-4). Twelve seeds always seem a good bet to knock off the 5.
John Radtke, High School Sports Editor
Villanova to the Final Four.
OK, maybe Villanova and a No. 6 seed doesn't really qualify as upset special material but the Wildcats are dangerous and Phil Booth is one of the most unsung guards in the country.
The Cats will take care of Saint Mary's then upset Purdue and Tennessee before knocking off Kansas State in the Elite Eight.
Villanova's X-factors? Jay Wright is one of the top three coaches in the country, and my nephew, Nicholas, a junior at 'Nova, will be in the stands.
Kevin Schmit, High school sports writer
Because I don't see a 15 or 16 seed pulling off a first-round upset, I'm going with the next best thing: No. 14 Yale over No. 3 LSU in an East Region first-round game. LSU is in the midst of coaching turmoil and suffered a first-round exit in the SEC tournament despite being the top seed. As one of the best-shooting teams in the field, Yale has the ability to beat just about anyone. If the Bulldogs are hot, watch out.
Shifting up a seed, I'm going with No. 13 UC-Irvine to upset No. 4 Kansas State in a South Region first-round game. Kansas State came into the Big 12 tournament as the top seed but lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Iowa State. Not exactly a team filled with momentum, and the questionable status of senior forward Dean Wade adds to the team's adversity. The Big West isn't exactly a power conference, but UC is one of the nation's hottest teams. The Anteaters haven't lost since mid-January.
Barry Rozner, Columnist
Who doesn't love upsets, right? Here's a couple I'm pondering:
No. 8 VCU was a 2-point favorite over No. 9 UCF, but that line has flipped. Still, I'll take No. 9 UCF.
How about No. 14 Yale over No. 3 LSU? With all of LSU's distractions, this has real possibilities, and Yale has a couple legit wins this season.
No. 5 Auburn opened as a 9-point favorite over No. 12 New Mexico State, and that line has dropped all the way to 5. I'm no genius, but sometimes you just have to follow the money. And everyone wants a 12-5 upset.
John Lemon, Fox Valley sports coordinator
As a die-hard University of Illinois fan who can't remember what it was like to see the Illini in the NCAA field, I carry a grudge against an ever expanding number of schools, coaches and players. I fill out two brackets each year.
One is my nightmare scenario, hoping to at least profit financially from my fandom misery. It usually involves something like Michigan (1989), Kansas (Bill Self), North Carolina (2005) and Auburn (Bruce Pearl) making the Final Four.
With three of those schools in the same region, I'll pivot and make Kansas State my upset pick to reach a second straight Elite Eight. Sure, the Wildcats are likely missing their best player -- Dean Wade -- but I'm sure Bruce Weber will coach 'em up in a weak South bracket. And we'll get to read a dozen stories about how Illinois has missed the tournament six of seven years since firing Weber -- who has taken Kansas State to the dance five times in that span.
Orrin Schwarz, DuPage sports coordinator
Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of the NCAA rule book, where only a university compliance officer dares to tread, there is a line stating each year in the Division I men's basketball tournament at least one No. 12 seed must upset a No. 5 seed in the first round. The only question is, which 5/12 game or games will it be this year?
Goodbye, Auburn. Enjoy the visit, short as it will be. New Mexico State should pack for the long weekend.
Kathleen Danes, Night editor
As much as I'd like to predict another Missouri Valley Conference Cinderella run to the Final Four, I don't think Bradley has enough talent to take down Michigan State.
I like 12 seed Murray State to knock out Marquette in the first round and get by Florida State in round two. The Racers are loaded, led by future NBA lottery pick Ja Morant. Murray State went 25-4 against Division I schools, suggesting its 12 seed is too low.
But it's not just the Morant show. The Racers get consistent scoring from Shaq Buchanan, Tevin Brown and Darnell Cowart -- suggesting they have what it takes to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Jim O'Donnell, Sports & Media columnist
Minnesota, Murray State and UC-Irvine are too trendy, although it would be fun to watch Ja Morant superman an Elite Eight run.
Thursday, Midwest, No. 12 New Mexico State over No. 5 Auburn. Aggies have won 19 straight, but the pick is predicated on Tigers' road jitters finding mountain air foul trouble.
Thursday, East, No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Maryland. Bruins are a high-octane band of blur that whipped Temple in a play-in Tuesday. Meandering Maryland lost four of its last seven including a Big Ten tourney out to Nebraska.
Friday, South, No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin. Audacious choice, since Pac-12 was merely Missouri Valley with a coastline this season. The Ducks have done nothing but gather steam since midseason loss of star Bol Bol. Badgers bore.
Sunday, West, No. 6 Buffalo over No. 3 Texas Tech. Presumptive second-round match. The MAC's Bulls just keep winning.
Mike McGraw, Bulls beat writer
Yale over LSU.
I watched the Ivy League championship game Sunday and the announcers wouldn't stop talking about Yale's NBA prospect Miye Oni, a 6-foot-6 guard. Well, Oni wasn't very good. He hit 3 of 10 shots and sat out with foul trouble for a long stretch of the second half. While Oni was out, though, another guard, Alex Copeland, took over, scored 25 points and Yale beat Harvard going away. There's legit talent on this Yale team and it will face an LSU squad whose head coach Will Wade is suspended after getting caught up in the FBI investigation on illegal recruiting. Look for Yale to get its second NCAA win in four years.
Jerry Fitzpatrick, High school sports writer
No. 14 Yale makes it a short postseason for No. 3 LSU. The Bulldogs own wins over Miami and California because they score 81 points per game.
Watch for Yale to space the floor, make 3-point shots early and get the LSU defense scrambling.
The Tigers, without suspended coach Will Wade, make a late run but lose at the buzzer in this year's biggest upset.
Patricia Babcock-McGraw, Columnist, sports writer
Since most of my basketball focus in winter is on high school and women's basketball, I called in the heavy artillery to help me with upset predictions. Watch out Jay Bilas, my 18-year-old son, Matt McGraw, seems to be somewhat of a bracketologist. Matt thinks that No. 5 seeds are ripe for upsets by No. 12s. Same for No. 6 seeds by No. 11s. No. 12 Liberty is a 3-point shooting machine and could take down No. 5 Mississippi State. No. 12 Murray State looks to make it 12 wins in a row when it takes on No. 5 Marquette. No. 12 Oregon is coming off the Pac-12 tournament championship and has a stingy defense. No. 11 St. Mary's recently beat top-seeded Gonzaga to win the WCC tournament championship, and No. 11 Belmont has momentum from a "First Four" win over Temple. Two other potential upset makers: No. 14 Yale over No. 3 LSU, and No. 10 Seton Hall over No. 7 Wofford. Seton Hall beat Top 25 teams Kentucky, Villanova, Maryland and Marquette twice this season.
Scot Gregor, White Sox beat writer
Bradley is the only Illinois school in the tournament, and the Braves would have been a nice underdog to track before news broke that veteran Peoria Journal Star beat writer Dave Reynolds was denied access by coach Brian Wardle because he was not promoting the "brand." The ban has since been lifted.
To the Braves' first-round opponent, Michigan State, I say: "Go Spartans!"
As for a worthy underdog candidate with a local angle, I'll suggest Colgate.
Barrington's Rapolas Ivanauskas is a great story -- he had two shoulder surgeries while at Northwestern -- but the 6-10 forward is finally healthy and was voted Patriot League Player of the Year.
Colgate (24-10) is riding an 11-game winning streak heading into its first-round matchup against Tennessee.