Where No. 1 seeds face trouble
So far this week in Giant Killers, we have been taking deep looks at matchups that could yield big upsets in what we now call the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament (the field of 68 and the field of 64). But there are potential Killers lurking in the middle seeds, too, whom you need to know about to fully fill out your brackets. Today we ask: If all the 1-seeds get by their 16-seed opponents, how safe will they be against 8- or 9-seed Giant Killers?
Short answer: Not very.
Three potential Giant Killers were given 8- or 9-seeds: George Mason in the East, Old Dominion in the Southeast and UNLV in the Southwest. (No Killer was seeded 8 or 9 in the West, and none was seeded 7 or 10 in any region, so this is a complete roster of teams that could be Giant Killers but that we haven't covered so far.) All three face tough matchups in their first games, appropriately enough for 8 vs. 9 contests: historically, 9-seeds have won 56 of 104, or 53.8 percent, of games against 8-seeds. The numbers suggest that Old Dominion has the best shot of advancing because the Monarchs play Butler, a team that is below average at offensive rebounding and poor at generating turnovers. But really, ODU probably has a slightly greater than 50 percent chance against Butler, with George Mason (which faces a possibly collapsing Villanova) and UNLV (which has to play a tough Illinois squad) just a hair behind.
To have a little fun, let's assume all three make it to the next round. How much trouble could they cause the top seeds in their brackets? Here are our estimates, ranked in order of the likelihood of underdog triumph:
No. 8 UNLV (50.1 Giant Killer score) vs. No. 1 Kansas (16.7 Vulnerability rating) in the Southwest
UPSET CHANCE: 21.7 percent
Tp read about the toughest matchups for top seeds in Round 2, become an ESPN Insider. Sign up today and get access to Giant Killers and all of Insider's NCAA coverage before and throughout the tournament.