Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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David Briggs

Tourney picks: Michigan, MSU to roll to Final Four (and one crazy upset special)


Here we go. After three months in hibernation following football season, Nostradam-rust is back with our NCAA tournament picks:


Former BGSU coach Chris Jans has piloted New Mexico State University to the NCAA tournament.


Upset special: New Mexico State over Clemson

Crazy stat: A fifth seed has never won the championship. (Runner-up Butler came the closest in 2010.) Probably because they all lose in the first round. OK, not quite. But it’s basically a coin flip. Whether because of bad seeding or the mystique of the 12-5 upset, we’ve seen 18 12th-seeded underdogs have their day in the last decade alone.

Which one(s) will carry on the tradition this week? Picking South Dakota State over Ohio State is too popular, so we’ll go with the Aggies over Clemson. Hi, Chris Jans. The dishonored former Bowling Green coach has made the most of his second chance with New Mexico State, steering one of the nation’s top mid-majors in his first season back in the big chair. The Aggies twice beat rival New Mexico, along with tourney teams Miami and Davidson, before rolling to the Western Athletic Conference title.

Super crazy upset special: Penn over Kansas

Don’t hold your breath here. A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 in 132 all-time chances. But there’s a first time for everything, right? The Quakers are not your ordinary bottom seed, rating 127th in KenPom’s efficiency rankings. The last 16 seed rated that high? UNC-Asheville in 2012. The Bulldogs nearly took Syracuse down to the wire in a 72-65 loss. All we’re saying there’s a (tiny) chance.

Final Four: Arizona, Michigan, Villanova, Michigan State.

National champion: Villanova.

As much fun as it would be to see a Michigan-Michigan State final, the Wildcats — loaded with veteran offensive firepower across the board — were my preseason pick. No reason to change now.

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