The Dreaded 5 vs 12 Matchup
Remember North Dakota State, Harvard, and Stephen F. Austin from last year? Ole Miss, California, and Oregon from the year prior to that? And Virginia Commonwealth and South Florida in 2013? What do all of these teams have in common? Yes, most of them are mid-major programs who normally don’t have fantastic basketball teams, but they all were 12 seeds in the tournament who pulled off the first round “upset” as well. I use the term upset loosely there because, over the years, it has become rather commonplace to see the 12 seed upset the five seed in the first round of the tournament. The past two years, three of the four fifth seeded teams were defeated by their twelfth seeded on the tournament’s opening weekend. Since 1985, in fact, there has been 44 upsets of the 5 seed by the 12th seed…around two per year. Fast forward to this year. Buffalo, Stephen F. Austin, Wyoming, and Wofford have been the lucky winners to be given the 12 seed in the NCAA tournament, can any of them make that count?
(5) West Virginia vs. (12) Buffalo
Friday March 20, 1:10 PM CT (TNT)
This is a very interesting matchup. The Buffalo Bulls, coached by former Duke star Bobby Hurley, are coming off their first MAC Championship winning season in school history and will be making their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. They are led the 6 foot 7 junior and MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss who averages 17.7 points and 9.3 per game. As a team, the Bulls average 75 points a game while giving up 68. On the other side of the ball: the West Virginia Mountaineers. WVU finished the regular season at 23-9 and fifth place in the Big 12 conference. The Mountaineers are a very well-rounded team on both sides of the ball. They score 74 points a night while giving up 67, and are first in the country in steals with nearly 11 per game. Juwan Staten leads West Virginia with 14 points and 5 assists per game. There are two different stories with these teams, however. Buffalo (winners of 8 straight) is coming into the tournament hot, and West Virginia (1-3 over last four games) is ice cold.
West Virginia: 66
Justin Moss and Bulls won’t just make their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, they’ll win their first ever game against a cold West Virginia team and advance to the Third Round.
(5) Arkansas vs. (12) Wofford
Thursday March 19, 8:50 PM CT (TNT)
Arkansas finished the SEC season at 13-5 and 26-8 overall. In a top-heavy conference, the Razorbacks checked in at second behind the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. They are led by the dynamic duo of Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls who combine for 33 points per game. They are a very good offensive team that can score in bunches, but defensively there is definitely some improvements to be made (273rd in the country in points allowed). Wofford finished their season as the champions of the Southern Conference with a record of 28-6 (16-2 conference). They’re consistently a tournament team in a weak SoCon, but they have never won a game in the dance. Kyle Cochran, SoCon player of the year, scores 15 points and pulls in 6 rebounds per game for the Terriers who average 67 points per game. They gave up only 60 points per game this season, but I expect Arkansas to score more than that on them.
Arkansas is just a far better basketball team than Wofford, though the Terriers are 16-2 over their last 18 games and haven’t lost in over a month, the competition they’ve been playing is sub-par at best.
(5) Northern Iowa vs. (12) Wyoming
Friday March 20, 12:40 PM CT (TBS)
In a tournament surprise, the Northern Iowa Panthers won the Missouri Valley Championship after regular season champions Wichita State were knocked out by Illinois State in the semifinals. UNI is lead in points, scoring, assists, and field goal percentage by senior Seth Tuttle. Thing is, he really is the only scorer on this team. No other player besides him scores more than seven points per game. What really benefits the Panthers is their stiff defense that allowed only 54 points per game in the regular season. Wyoming isn’t a stellar offensive team either. They only score 61 points per game and shoot 46 percent from the field. Larry Nance Jr. leads the team with 16 points and 7 rebounds per game. Like the Panthers, the Cowboys play stiff defense. They gave up only 56 points per game, so something has got to give in this game.
Northern Iowa: 65
I think this one will come down to the final minutes of action. It could be one of the most intriguing matchups in the first round of action, but I think Seth Tuttle gets it done for the Panthers who could make a splash by making it to the Sweet 16 at the least.
(5) Utah vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin
Thursday March 19, 6:27 PM CT (truTV)
Yes, that Stephen F. Austin team that upset VCU as a 12 seed last year is back in the same spot this year and ready to make a run again. Thomas Walkup is one of the best players in the country that you’ve never heard of. At 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game to go along with 57 percent shooting, Walkup has carried the Lumberjacks into the tournament after a 17-1 conference stand. They are one of the best offenses in the country (4th in points, 1st in assists, 5th in field goal percentage), but their defense sometimes struggles (64 ppg against). Utah, on the other hand, is led by Delon Wright’s 15 points and 5 assists per games. Only thing is, the Utes have deviated between win and loss over their last eight games, and that can get them in trouble. They shoot nearly 49 percent per game, and if they can get going, then watch out.
Stephen F. Austin: 70
I think it’s going to take some late-game heroics from the Utes to knock off this pesky SFA team. Delon Wright is going to put the team on his back in the final seconds to move on in the tournament.
*Cover photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images. The College Tailgate does not own any of the photos on its website.