NCAA Tournament: Which 12th Seeds Could Come Out On Top in Round 1?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 04 Villanova at Seton Hall
NEWARK, NJ – MARCH 04: Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright during the second half of the college basketball game between the Seton Hall Pirates and the Villanova Wildcats on March 4, 2020 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

With the NCAA March Madness Tournament set to tip-off soon, the magic can already be felt in the air. Perhaps the greatest part about the tournament is the excitement brought on by a lower seed finding a way to upsert their higher-seeded counterpart.

Since the tournament’s creation, the games between the 5th and 12th seed have proven to be a recipe for success for the lower seed. At least one twelve seed has beaten the five seed in 30 out of the last 35 NCAA tournaments. In the 2019 tournament alone, three out of the four 12th seeds were able to advance past the 5th seed in the first round. In total, the 12th seed holds a winning percentage of 35.7% as they have a record of 50-90 in tournament matchups.

Here is a look at this year’s fifth and twelve seed matchups and the potential odds for an upset to occur:

NCAA March Madness Matchups:

Villanova (5) vs Winthrop (12)

Villanova Wildcats (16-6)

Villanova’s season took a disappointing turn when Senior, Collin Gillespie tore his MCL and was ruled out for the remainder of the year. Since the injury, the Wildcats are 0-2 as the team has been without their second-leading scorer, top passer, and unquestioned leader.

Even without Gillespie, Villanova still holds a roster capable of winning at least a game or two. They are averaging 75.8 points per game on 45.1% shooting from the field and are led by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl who averages 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Justin Moore will also be looked to step up a great deal due to the absence of Gillespie.

Villanova boasts a 16-6 record on the season but has lost 5 of their last 10. Their most recent loss came in a 72-71 heartbreaker to Georgetown who eventually went on to win the Big East tournament and secured their spot in the tournament.

Winthrop Eagles (23-1)

Although they play in a weak conference and lack in overall strength of schedule, Winthrop have done enough this year to make Villanova uneasy heading into this one. With a 23-1 record and riding a 7-game win streak, Winthrop features a balanced attack with four players averaging double-digit scoring totals.

The Eagles averaged 79.2 points per game and their scoring usually comes via the fast-break and from beyond the three-point arc. Seniors Chandler Vaudrin, Charles Falden, and Adonis Arms lead the way and the team comes into the NCAA Tournament on a hot streak. Winthrop recently ran through the Big South Conference tournament, winning all three of their games by 17 points or more.

This game will likely come down to which team is able to control the pace. Winthrop is known for their desire to run-and-gun, ranking 11th among all D-1 teams in pace. In contrast, Villanova has been reluctant to push the tempo this season and ranks 320th out of the 357 teams in this area.

What’s Vegas Say?

The lines opened up with Villanova as 6.5 point favorites and the over/under set at 143, which is the highest total of these matchups. . Winthrop has also been marked as +220 underdogs on the money line for this matchup.

Creighton (5) vs UCSB (12)

Creighton (20-8)

The Bluejays have some impressive wins this year and are 3-2 against the top 25. The Blue-Jays are 7-3 in their last 10 games, but were blown out by Georgetown by a score of 73-48 to lose the Big East tournament in their last game.

There are some questions surrounding the Blue Jays on the defensive end, but offensively they can flat-out score the basketball. All five of their starters average double-digit points and they are led by, Junior, Mark Zegarowski who averages 15.5 points per game. Mitch Ballock is also a name to watch as he has made more 3’s from beyond 30 feet than anyone else entering the in the tournament.

Creighton ranked first in the Big East in effective field goal percentage and they rank 14th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. They can catch fire from deep, and attempt 44% of their shots from beyond the arc. On a more concerning note, Creighton ranks 327th among D-1 programs in free-throw shooting at 64.2% as a team. Three of their starters shoot below 60% free-throw line which could become a problem when teams look to foul to extend the game

UC Santa Barbara (22-4)

UC Santa Barbara has been itching for a chance at the tournament for a while now. The Gauchos have won 20 or more games in four straight seasons, and were able to get their chance by winning the Big West Tournament.

The Gaucho attack is led by Oregon State transfer, JaQuori McLaughlin, who averages 16.2 points and 5.2 assists per game. UCSB won 18 of their last 19 games and has won 14 games by double-digit victories this season.

While their performances this season have been impressive, Colorado will be the toughest matchup the Gauchos have faced by a large margin. UCSB has looked dominant for stretches this season, but it is fair to question if this will remain the case against a tougher opponent as they rank 174th in strength of schedule among D-1 programs.

What’s Vegas Say?

Creighton has been marked as a 7.5 point favorite heading into this game. The over/under has been set 138 and UCSB are +265 underdogs in the matchup.

Colorado (5) vs Georgetown (12)

Colorado (22-8)

Securing the 5th seed marks Colorado’s highest tournament seeding in school history. They have an experienced core, play a collected style of basketball, and rank second in the country in free-throw shooting. The Buffaloes also turn the ball over with the second-lowest rate and allow the fewest points of all teams in the PAC-12.

Point Guard, McKinley Wright is a huge reason for Colorado’s great efficiency numbers on both sides of the floor. The senior averages 15.3 points and 5.6 assists, while shooting 48.5% from the field. His assist numbers also rank the highest in the conference and he has been impressive throughout the season.

For the most part, Colorado hangs its head on the defensive end, but they do all the little things that are needed to win. Jeriah Horne is also a name to watch as he can catch fire from deep, and hit three-pointers 42.1% clip this season. Colorado enters this game going 7-3 in their last 10 games and is also the number two free-throw shooting team in the country at 82.2%.

Georgetown (13-12)

The Georgetown Hoyas come into the tournament as arguably the hottest team in college basketball. While their 13-12 record is not impressive on its own, they ended the season on an 8-2 run and secured a Big East championship title in order to secure their spot in the tourney.

In order to secure this Big East Tournament victory, Georgetown beat Marquette, Villanova, and Seton Hall, before blowing out Creighton by a score of 73-48. The hopes for Georgetown were fairly low going into this season due to the transfer of Mac McClung, but Patrick Ewing has found his stride as the Hoyas’ head coach and has the team cruising at the right time.

On the entire season, Georgetown holds the 7th highest strength of schedule among D-1 programs. The team’s biggest strength is their three-point shooting as they have knocked down shots behind the arc at a 37.6% clip. They also have been impressive on the offensive boards and rank second in the Big East in blocked shots. Georgetown is battle-tested and peaking at the right time, and will be a trendy upset pick heading into the tournament.

What’s Vegas Say?

This has clearly been the game pegged as most likely for an upset to occur as Colorado open up as just 4.5 point favorites, which is clearly the smallest spread among these matchups. The over/under is currently set at 138 and Georgetown also is just +168 on the moneyline as underdogs in this one.

Tennesse (5) vs Oregon State (12)

Tennessee (18-8)

The Tennessee Volunteers were a preseason top-15 ranked team and have been led by Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer, who will both likely be first-round picks in next year’s draft. This duo combines for 23.7 points per game and Jaden Springer has knocked down three-pointers at a 44.4% clip throughout the season.

While the individual performances of these two are noteworthy, the Volunteers’ ability to play team defense has been extremely impressive. Tennessee led the SEC in defensive turnover rate, forcing turnovers on 22.9% of their defensive possessions. They also are 4th in the country in defensive efficiency as they allow just 87 points per 100 possessions.

On the offensive end, the Volunteers feature a balanced attack with seven players averaging over 8 points per game. Tennessee has been stagnant in the half-court at times this season which has led to lapses in scoring for minutes at a time and finding consistent offense has proved to be their Achilles heel throughout this season.

The Volunteers held Final Four Aspirations going into the season but have regressed some throughout the season. That being said, their stifling defense is a frightening task for any opponent and if they can find their stride on the offensive end they could be a team to watch for an NCAA tournament run.

Oregon State (17-12)

The Oregon State Beavers were fighting to stay above .500 for most of the season before picking up steam at the end. Going on a 7-2 run to finish the season and securing the PAC-12 championship punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The Beavers notched wins over UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado in their past 3 games and this will be their first time back in the tourney since 2016.

Oregon State plays primarily a zone defense which holds opponents to 68.3 points per game. They have been scoring the ball at a much more consistent rate to end the season and if this offensive production is able to continue you cannot count out the Beavers.

That being said, many believe that Oregon State may have used up their magic too early to even get into the tournament as they were picked to finish last in the PAC-12 going into the season. They don’t match up against Tennessee particularly well, but hey, it’s the NCAA in March and anything can happen.

What’s Vegas Say?

The Vegas Lines also indicate that this is a fairly unlikely upset as Tennessee has been marked as 7.5 point favorites. The over/under has been set at 131.5 and Oregon State is +280 on the Moneyline, which is the greatest payout of the four NCAA games.


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Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire