Are there teams buried within the region that can derail Kansas’ run at the Final Four? Or will the Jayhawks just hurt themselves on the way there?
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest potential games in the top right corner of the bracket:
Potential First Round Upsets
(13) Vermont vs. (4) Purdue
The entire Big Ten seems incredibly weak this year, and at the top of those standings this year are the Purdue Boilermakers.
Vermont hasn’t lost a game yet in the calendar year of 2017. At 29-5 overall, three of those five losses came to fellow tournament teams (Butler, South Carolina, and Providence). Let’s get some Catamount action in the second round.
(11) Rhode Island vs. (6) Creighton
These two teams are relatively close on KenPom (Creighton - 27, URI - 37) and I just think that the Rams are poised to come up with a win in this particular matchup. This feels more like an 8/9 game than a 6/11 game in all honesty.
(10) Oklahoma State vs. (7) Michigan
Michigan could go one of two ways: they could either be this year’s Syracuse or UConn by using a long conference tournament run to their advantage and ride the momentum through the real Big Dance, or they could run out of gas early and be one-and-done.
I’ll go with the latter.
Oklahoma State has the best adjusted offense in the country according to KenPom and could just blast the Wolverines here. Michigan is probably overseeded because of their Big Ten Tournament run too, so this is another one that’s technically an upset but doesn’t really feel like it.
(1) Kansas vs. (8) Miami (FL)
Yes, I think the Canes get past the Michigan State Spartans in round one, and Tom Izzo fails to win a tournament game for the second consecutive year. MSU has struggled this year, and Miami has the type of athleticism to move on to round two.
But the Canes’ season will end right there, running into a Kansas team that will just be too much for them to handle.
(5) Iowa State vs. (13) Vermont
If there’s a team that could be this year’s Cinderella, I think it’s Vermont based purely on their potential matchups in the first two rounds.
I’m going to advance ISU here though because I like the idea of two Big 12 teams having to eliminate each other in the Sweet Sixteen.
(3) Oregon vs. (11) Rhode Island
The Chris Boucher injury is going to hurt Oregon, but not until the second weekend. The Ducks are deep enough to get through a pretty decent first weekend draw for them. It could have been a lot worse for this team than it turned out to be.
(2) Louisville vs. (10) Oklahoma State
Pitino’s moving on here. Louisville’s defense should be good enough to contain the high-powered OSU offense and get the Cardinal into yet another Sweet Sixteen.
(1) Kansas vs. (5) Iowa State
This one will be a rubber match after each of these teams beat each other at home during the regular season.
And unfortunately for ISU, this one is a KU home game.
There are teams out there that could probably take out the Jayhawks in this scenario, but Iowa State is not one of those teams. Kansas: moving on.
(2) Louisville vs. (3) Oregon
This is where the Ducks’ season ends, which is a decent amount earlier than most people would have thought a week ago. Before last Friday, Oregon was a legit Final Four team no matter what region they were in. Now? A team that’s going down in the Sweet Sixteen to Louisville.
(1) Kansas vs. (2) Louisville
Like I just said above, there are teams out there that can take out Kansas in KC.
Louisville is one of those teams.
Rick Pitino takes care of business in this one and takes Louisville back to the Final Four.