Sunday, October 24

March Madness upset the 2021 predictions: Which 13 seeds are most likely to win in the first round?

Will there be a lucky No. 13 in the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament?

The 13-seeded record in NCAA tournaments is not very good. The No. 4 seed is 111-29 – a .793 winning percentage – in the first round. A total of six No. 13 seeds have advanced to Sweet 16, and none made it to Elite Eight.

That list includes Valparaíso (1998), Richmond (1998), Oklahoma (1999), Bradley (2006), Ohio (2012), and La Salle (2013). Ohio pushed No. 1 North Carolina to the limit in a 73-65 overtime thriller in that 2012 race. The Bobcats are also back in the tournament this year, and again they are one of the most intriguing upset picks. Are they the best bet for another 4-13 surprise?

Sporting News takes a closer look at all four matchups to find out:

15 against 2 | 14 against 3 | 13 against 4 | 12 against 5

13 Freedom vs. 4 State of Oklahoma

FanDuel Odds: Oklahoma State -9 (O / U 142)

Why this could happen: Liberty averages just 9.7 turnovers per game, and Oklahoma State commits 15.9 turnovers per game. The Flames have the needed guard play with Darius McGhee and Chris Parker, and this is a seasoned team that had a 5-12 upset in 2019. Liberty is on a 12-game winning streak in the tournament, and that makes them a dangerous team. Liberty doesn’t have Cade Cunningham. The All-American averaged 20.2 points per game, and the Cowboys offense will represent a style challenge for Liberty, especially if the second-chance points are there. If Oklahoma shoots better than 50 percent from the field, then the Flames will have trouble staying within double digits.

13 UNC-Greensboro vs. 4 Florida State

FanDuel Odds: State of Florida –11.5 (O / U 145)

Why this could happen: Top point guard Isaiah Miller is a superstar player who can shoot himself. It is averaging 27.4 points per game in its last five games, and UNC-Greensboro has won eight of its last 10. Florida State lost three of its last five games. However, the Seminoles have advanced to the second weekend in their last two tournament appearances, and the showdown between 7-foot centers Balsa Koprivca and Hayden Koval will go a long way in setting the pace. The Seminoles rank eighth in the nation in three-point percentage (39.0), and leading scorer MJ Walker shoots 44.4 percent behind the arc. I would need to have a night off for UNC-Greensboro to have a chance.

SUPPORT PICTURES: DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Fagan (Gonzaga)

13 North Texas vs. 4 Purdue

FanDuel Odds: Purdue –7.5 (O / U 125)

Why this could happen: The Mean Green caught fire in the Conference-USA tournament, and North Texas has four players who averaged double digits in the regular season. The Mean Green have a top 10 scoring defense that allowed 61.5 points per game. The challenge is for 6-10 forward Zachary Simmons, who will have to be more active against a Purdue front row led by forward Trevion Williams, who is averaging 15.6 points and nine rebounds, and 7-4 center Zach Edey. If guard Jaden Ivey is there, then North Texas is in trouble. Under Matt Painter, the Boilermakers are 9-2 in the first round, and have reached the second weekend in each of their last three appearances.

13 Ohio vs. 4 Virginia

FanDuel Odds: Virginia –8 (O / U 132)

Why this could happen: Virginia’s biggest problems are off the court right now after COVID-19 problems forced the Cavaliers to withdraw from the ACC tournament. The Cavaliers still award just 60.5 points per game, and opponents commit 12.4 fouls per game against Virginia. They will test Ohio’s patience with that defense and its ability to limit possessions. A pair of Wisconsin natives, Sam Hauser from Virginia and Ben Vander Plas from Ohio, come into focus. Vander Plas will have to at least match Hauser, one of the best players in the ACC. The challenge lies with Ohio star guard Jason Preston, who is averaging 16.6 points, 7.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds. Ohio shot 26 of 58 from 3-point range in the MAC tournament, and that hot shot should still have a chance against the 2019 national champions.


Which of the 13 seeds is the best choice for a surprise?

North Texas has the lowest point margin of the four, but we don’t like its chances against that great Purdue front line.

UNC-Greensboro has Miller’s most intriguing scorer, but Florida State has too many problems on the offensive end.

Liberty has the best of all four teams, and even with that ability to limit possessions, it’s tough to pick the Flames against Cunningham and the Oklahoma state offense.

Ohio is the best chance for a surprise, and to cover the difference knowing the Cavaliers are 11-13 ATS this year, but it’s also a game Virginia could dominate if the Bobcats have a bad shooting night.

As a result, this could be another unlucky year for No. 13.

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