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March Madness has officially arrived, and with that, so have the much-hyped #5 seed versus 12 seed matchups. It seems to be the big talking point for both the media and talking aheads alike that these are the games in which we see the most upsets. That could be true, don't get me wrong, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves and just plug every #12 to advance. In this article I will go through each #5 vs #12 game and break down the key matchup factors we should consider before picking which team to advance to the Round of 32. As always, you can reach out on Twitter @SleepyJ_Pregame for more info. BOL!
- The Matchup: #5 Villanova vs #12 Winthrop
- Where to Watch: Friday, 9:37 p.m. EST on TNT (@ Indiana Farmers Coliseum)
- The Odds: Winthrop +6 (+215 ML), Villanova -6 (-265 ML), 143.5 O/U
The Big South champions of Winthrop closed out the season with a 23-1 record has both the player and coaching talent to advance. The Eagles get a very tough draw against #5 seed Villanova, and while they've become a very trendy #12 seed upset pick this week, the first thing I noticed with Winthrop is the lack of non-conference games. They played a total of 24 games this season, and only six games came out of conference. The Eagles did win every non-conference game, but it's the level of competition in those games that raises an eyebrow here. Winthrop did beat a team that's in the field of 68 in UNC Greensboro (75-67 on December 1st) and that should be noted, but the other five games out of conference came against Arkansas Little-Rock, NC Upstate and Furman - not the toughest of competition, too say the least.
Beating Greensboro is a good win, and Winthrop is a very good rebounding team that can also put points on the board. The Eagles limit the number of bad things they do as team as well, and that is always some help in searching for the right #12 upset picks for your bracket. The few knocks against them would be blocked shots free throw percentage and personal fouls per game. Villanova, on the other hand, is one of the most overrated teams in the Big Dance. They finished with a 16-6 record but will be without their leader and best player in Colin Gillespie. Villanova lost the final two games of the season with Gillespie out of the lineup, and I believe this is a massive loss for the Wildcats that cannot be understated. Gillespie's absence is something the Wildcats will simply not be able to overcome in the tournament. Nova's non-conference schedule was solid and they performed well in it, but it's the Big East conference that worries me. The Big East is weak at best, with a ton of team playing almost 25 to 30 games and 80% of the conference floating around a .500 record. Then I look at the stats of Villanova and wonder how good this team actually team is. I believe Villanova deserves to be in the dance, but this team is far from “good."
With Gillespie out of the lineup, I think it's fair to say the Wildcats are "slightly above average," and some stats that really concern me with the Wildcats include their blocked shots per game (#338), steals per game, free throw % and 3PT defense. A few of the knocks against Winthrop in the stat area is basically negated because of Villanova's similar lack of strength in those areas. This looks to not only be a bad matchup stat wise, but the 'Cats might not have the offensive fire power to hang with Winthrop in this spot. Coaching could be key with Jay Wright at the helm, but the Winthrop +6.5 or +6 also looks very tasty, and I will be advancing them in my personal bracket past this overrated Villanova team without its star.
- The Matchup: #5 Creighton vs #12 UC Santa Barbara
- Where to Watch: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST on truTV (@ Unity Court, Lucas Oil Stadium)
- The Odds: UCSB +7 (+245 ML), Creighton -7 (-305 ML), 137.5 O/U
The Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara are live to win this game outright and the points they are getting seems to be enough for me to bite on them. Creighton has a few issues in some statistical areas - which we'll get into in a moment - but it's mainly the style in which UC Santa Barbara plays that will give the Blue Jays fits here. Creighton wants to play a fast tempo style against a sloppy team and fire up as many three-point shots as they can to get themselves into a shootout to ride the rhythm in which their outside shooters want to get into. UCSB, on the other hand, plays at a snail pace and simply does not turn the ball over.
Creighton has struggled against teams with length, and UCSB has a few guys that can cause trouble in that area. These #5 vs #12 games can often come down to a few key areas, one of them being the free throw line. Creighton is terrible at the free throw line and also rank #321 in the nation in FG%. You never want to back a team with that bad of a FG% clip, and at some point that will come back to haunt the Blue Jays. Creighton also had a very weak non-conference schedule, and while the Blue Jays can get hot and shoot the lights out, I still believe this clash-of-styles matchup heavily favors the Gauchos, who are also a very good assisting team that can create enough scoring chances for them to advance in this spot.
I will grab the +7/+7.5 points with UCSB and call for the upset outright here as well. I also have an interesting angle on this game that I believe very few people will even think of. Look for our Betting Predators CBB/NCAA podcast episode this week previewing this game for further details. Smoove and I will cover an interesting professional handicap angle that makes this Gauchos pick even stronger.
- The Matchup: #5 Colorado vs #12 Georgetown
- Where to Watch: Saturday, 12:15 p.m. EST on CBS (@ Hinkle Fieldhouse)
- The Odds: Georgetown +5 (+180 ML), Colorado -5 (-220 ML), 138 O/U
Another 5 seed versus 12 seed matchup finds the Colorado Buffaloes taking on the Big East champion Georgetown Hoyas, who have not been in the Big Dance since 2015. Head coach and Hoya legend Patrick Ewing has this team playing well in March, while Colorado pushed itself to a nice 22-8 record themselves this season and has been tested in seemingly every way. A good non-conference schedule I helps the Buffaloes, along with a conference schedule that I believe has been better than the Big East.
The Buffaloes are also coming off a loss to Oregon St in the Pac 12 conference championship game, and in my eyes that had to sting a little bit. I believe Colorado comes in here rather salty in looking to knock off a Big East school in Georgetown who might be fat and happy after grabbing that Big East title. Georgetown looks to beat you with size, but that is not going to happen in this game. Colorado is a big team too, and that alone will derail the Hoyas' potential matchup advantage. Georgetown will lose this game in one specific area that I believe could be glaring after it's over - the free throw line. The charity stripe is a money maker for the Buffaloes, who check in as the second-best team in the nation at FT%, and they get to the line a ton. The Hoyas do not send teams to line as much as Colorado would have liked to see in a tournament foe, however, as Georgetown ranks #69 in the nation in personal fouls per game.
So, if the Buffaloes do have an advantage at the FT Line, it 's only going to be by a few ticks, but Colorado does have a very good scoring offense and can beat both you inside and out. It's really going to come down to blocked shots, rebounds, free throws and which team can avoid those crucial mistakes. The coaches will matter here too, but in the end I believe Buffaloes will advance after a tight game to the Round of 32.
- The Matchup: #5 Tennessee vs #12 Oregon St
- Where to Watch: Friday, 4:30 p.m. EST on TNT (@ Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
- The Odds: Oregon St +7.5 (+280 ML), Tennesee -7.5 (-360 ML), 131.5 O/U
This is the one #5 vs #12 matchup which I do not expect to be very competitive at all. The Beavers were lucky to get in the Big Dance and simply do not have the offense to hang with the Vols. Tennessee doesn't really do anything that bad, but it's the stuff they do well that really separates these two teams.
The Vols boast an excellent FT% shooting unit to go along with solid scoring defense and blocked shots in addition to how well they rebound the basketball and how little they turn the ball over. It's not like the Vols have holes that cannot be exploited, it's just an issue of being able to exploit them enough for Oregon St to pull off another upset after its Cinderella-esque Pac 12 tournament run. The Beavers just do not have enough horses to slow down Tennessee across the board, and I look for this game to end in a blowout.