Well, the brackets have been revealed and March Madness is finally here. Conference tournaments finished up Sunday, as the Tennessee Volunteers and the Iowa Hawkeyes were the last two major conference tournament winners. That led to the the reveal of this years brackets and the field of 68 teams set for the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
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There are some great matchups, and a number of teams that should be on high alert for an upset. Here are the most likely upsets in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
3 Most Likely Upsets in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament, Revealed
#10 seed Loyola Chicago over #7 seed Ohio State
There might not have been a team less enthusiastic with where they landed in the bracket than Ohio State. The Buckeyes drew a difficult first-round matchup against the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion Loyola Chicago Ramblers.
This year's NCAA Tournament will only be the third time the Ramblers are making an appearance under the current format. But their previous two, they left quite the impression. In 2018, they reached the Final Four, ultimately losing to the Michigan Wolverines. Then last season, the Ramblers made it back to the Sweet Sixteen. So, this team is not going to feel like Cinderella.
The Ramblers are very deep this year, with nine players averaging double digit minutes per game. They have a lot of good ball handlers and play very well defensively as a team. They allow a shade over 61 points per game this season, among some of the best in college basketball in 2021. Arguably the team's biggest weakness is on the glass, but that is not something Ohio State can really take advantage of.
The Buckeyes are just as bad at controlling the paint and rebounding. Ohio State is nothing to sneeze at. They are a good basketball team, but they are struggling entering the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes have lost four of their last five games, including losses to Nebraska and Maryland. Those are two of the worst teams in the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, the Ramblers are playing extremely well entering the NCAA Tournament. They have won five of their last six games and have been playing suffocating defense. I am far from alone in my assumption here.
Yeah, you can already see the Loyola Chicago win over Ohio State, who's been sliding toward the end of the season.
— Jason Murray (@JasonMurray117) March 13, 2022
#12 seed Indiana over #5 seed St. Mary's
This pick comes with a bit of a caveat. Indiana has to play Wyoming in the “First Four” of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of that game will square off against the St. Mary's Gaels.
With how well Indiana is playing, and knowing they are coming out of the best conference in the country, I believe they are primed for the upset. The Big Ten earned nine NCAA Tournament bids, three more than any other conference.
Conferences sending 9+ teams to #MarchMadness
🏀 Big Ten 2022
🏀 Big Ten 2021
🏀 ACC 2018
🏀 ACC 2017
🏀 Big East 2012
🏀 Big East 2011 pic.twitter.com/h7WoJvbeLS
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 14, 2022
The Hoosiers pulled off victories against both Michigan and Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament. They then fell by three points to the eventual tournament champion Iowa Hawkeyes, but their play has been significantly better down the stretch.
Point guard Xavier Johnson has been much better the second half of the season. His turnovers are down and assists are up. That has allowed Trayce Jackson-Davis more opportunities to dominate offensively.
Meanwhile, this year's version of the Gaels is not quite as strong as some others. They rank 236th in the country in scoring, 318th in rebounding and 171st in assists per game. None of that bodes well for their longevity in the tournament.
One of the key reasons I am picking this upset though, is history. One of the Play-In game winners has won a first round game in every year except 2019 since the field expanded to 68 teams 11 years ago.
#13 seed Chattanooga over #4 seed Illinois
This is obviously a bit of a bold take. But I don't play it safe, nor do I believe in just picking low hanging fruit. Anyone can write an article where they just pick favorites and their upsets are barely considered upsets. You aren't going to find that here.
Chattanooga might not be a big name, but they play a big game. Guard Malachi Smith is one of the most explosive players in the country, averaging over 20 points per game. It's not often you see a guard in college basketball that scores as much as Smith, who is also efficient. He shot 51 percent from the field this year.
Silvio De Sousa has also been a beast for this team in the paint. He is a very good shot blocker and rim protector.
Meanwhile, Illinois was one-and-done in the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Indiana. They struggled a bit down the stretch and I believe were a tad overrated this year. #13 seeds have been hot the last handful of years and I think this year will be no exception.