March Madness is here and bracket busting is upon us

The NCAA Tournament bracket is out and the window to fill them out is closing quickly. As always, there are matchups that will lead to more upsets and chaos as another year of March Madness is here.

The region that figures to have the most upsets is the midwest based if you’re following the betting odds. Make sure you are doing your research if you’re looking for a rundown on the best places for social gambling. 

One of the most interesting matchups is the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks facing off against the No. 11 Oregon Ducks. The Ducks won the last Pac 12 Championship, and carry plenty of momentum into this matchup. And the two teams are in a statistical dead heat, especially when you consider they are in a 6-11 matchup. Oregon comes into the matchup as the No. 55 team in KenPom, with an adjusted offensive efficiency at 50th and an adjusted defensive efficiency at 70th. Compare that to South Carolina, which is only six spots ahead at 49th in the rankings. Statistically, their adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies are nearly the same at 46 and 54th respectively. And one other category that KenPom tracks is luck, which measures how lucky a team has been in the season in their win/loss totals compared to their actual statistical output. KenPom placed South Carolina as the second luckiest team, and we all know about the laws of regression to the mean. Meanwhile, Oregon is 68th, which means they have been fairly steady throughout.

One game down features another popular upset pick in No. 12 McNeese against No. 5 Gonzaga. Will Wade has done a tremendous job guiding the Cowboys, and he comes from the VCU coaching tree under Shaka Smart, so you know that his team will be up for the moment. Despite playing in the little known Southland Conference, they ended up 60th in the KenPom rankings, which tends to favor larger schools. They went 17-1 in conference play and have lost just three ties all season. Their 51st ranked offense should be able to keep up with Gonzaga, which comes in as the lowest seed they’ve been for the tourney in recent memory. There’s not much data on how they play Power 6 teams, but when they have, they’ve taken care of business against a downtrodden Michigan team, defeating them 87-76 in non-conference play. The Cowboys haven’t lost a game since February 3, and the Bulldogs are only 6.5 point favorites.

Moving up one seed, the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks are only favored by seven points against No. 13 Samford. While Kansas does get Hunter Dickson back from a shoulder injury, the advanced stats do not favor them. They allow opponents to shoot 45.3 percent on 2-point shots, and have a very pedestrian offense, ranking 65th in KenPom. Meanwhile, Samford is an aggressive defensive team that has bottled up teams all season, forcing turnovers on 12.9 percent of their defensive possessions. The one thing that may give someone pause on this matchup is the fact that the Bulldogs have a weak strength of schedule, ranked 245th. The one Power 6 team they played all season was an opening game against Purdue, where they were throttled, 98-45. That said, the Bulldogs have only lost four other times since then, and won their last 12 of 14 games.

Aside from those three games in the midwest region, No. 11 New Mexico is a 2.5 point underdog against No. 6 Clemson. The Lobos are ranked as the No. 23 team in the country according to KenPom and have been one of the top defenses in the country all season, ranking in the top 25. They are ranked ahead of No. 34 Clemson, who was inconsistent throughout the year on defense, finishing 67th in the country according to KenPom. The Tigers were on the NCAA Bubble for most of the year before turning it on at the end of the season.

Perhaps the best odds are in the 8/9 matchups, and Michigan State, always a dangerous team in March, is the 9-seed coming into face No. 8 Mississippi State. The Spartans are the No. 18 team in the country according to KenPom, and are actually ranked 12 spots higher than Miss. St. What makes this matchup intriguing is pitting Michigan State’s eighth-ranked defense against the Bulldog’s 20th ranked defense. There likely isn’t going to be a lot of scoring in this game, but the difference maker could be Tyson Walker, who averaged 18.2 points on 44.2 percent shooting from the field. As always, it’s hard to bet against Tom Izzo in March, who has been to eight final fours in his coaching career, and as recently as 2019. The Bulldogs come into the matchup struggling, having lost five of their last seven games, though one of those wins was against then-No. 5 Tennessee in an impressive 73-56 rout.