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Tennessee, Virginia Tech upsets coming

 

When did J.R. Smith start coaching at New Mexico State?

No. 1 Virginia (-22) over No. 16 Gardner Webb (3:10 p.m., truTV): It’s natural to feel uneasy because of that whole UMBC thing. I get it. But the best team — and most importantly, offense — of the Tony Bennett era will feed off of last year’s debacle. If you’ve watched the Cavaliers enough, you know their slow pace doesn’t preclude them from suffocating a team before halftime. As a top-seed in 2016, Virginia won by 36. This season, the Cavaliers have 13 wins by 22 points or more, including seven in the ACC.

No. 13 UC Irvine (+4½) over No. 4 Kansas State (2 p.m., TBS): Some upset picks are popular for a reason. See: Murray State. The Anteaters haven’t lost since Jan. 16, and have won their past 10 games by an average of more than 19 points. Irvine is experienced, defends inside the arc better than any team in the nation and features a strong frontline, which should take advantage of the absence of Kansas State’s Dean Wade, its second-leading scorer and leading rebounder.

No. 6 Buffalo (-4½) over No. 11 Arizona State (4 p.m., TNT): If the Sun Devils played any of the other 66 teams in the field besides St. John’s, Bobby Hurley would be back home already. Now, the coach will pay the price for building a Bulls program that’s become even better since he left.

Wisconsin (-2) over Oregon (4:30 p.m., TBS): Flopping a bracket pick worked once already, and a few more days of space has taken the shine off of the Ducks’ late-season surge. The score will be low, the pace will be slow and few teams can beat the Badgers at what they do best.

No. 8 Utah State (-3) over No. 9 Washington (6:50 p.m., TNT): Utah State has size, balance and 17 wins in its past 18 games. More importantly, even the Pac-12’s best isn’t worthy of this stage. The Huskies can’t keep pace offensively, or with tournament-caliber teams, having gone 1-7 against programs that reached the Big Dance.

Printable NCAA bracket: Complete 2019 March Madness field

No. 13 Saint Louis (+10½) over No. 4 Virginia Tech (9:57 p.m., truTV): The Billikens are finally living up to their preseason potential, earning their spot with a run through the A-10 Tournament. After losing in the first round the past two years, the Hokies face even more pressure as a favorite and must also figure out how to reintegrate standout guard Justin Robinson into the lineup after missing the past 12 games with a foot injury.

No. 15 Colgate (+17½) over No. 2 Tennessee (2:45 p.m., CBS): A Mrs. Hoops special, representing her biggest upset pick of the tournament. (Her good friend lived on a street called Colgate, obviously.) The Raiders have enough size to hold their own inside and the ability to give the Vols’ shaky perimeter defense fits by spacing the floor.

This season: 19-16-1

2011-18: 226-189-8


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