It’s March Madness for a reason: The field of 68 is prone to upsets, and everybody loves to see the little guy win every now and then. For the second round, potential upsets abound — and here are five that shouldn’t come as a surprise:
(11) Ole Miss vs. (6) Xavier | 4:10 p.m. ET Thursday on TBS
So you miss “Dunk City,” huh? Well, it seems Oxford, Mississippi, may have taken the moniker from FGCU.
But while Ole Miss may rekindle the dunk days of yesteryear, the Rebels’ Stefan Moody is a weapon from the field. He scored a team-high 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting, including 5-for-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. Moody has posted in double digits in 13 of his past 14 games and has 10 20-point games this season.
Against BYU, all five of the Ole Miss starters scored in double figures, and the Rebels shot 60 percent from the field in the second half to overcome a 17-point halftime deficit.
Head-to-head, Xavier and Ole Miss stack up neck-n-neck:
• Scoring offense: Xavier 73.6, Ole Miss 72.6
• Scoring defense: Xavier 67.6, Ole Miss 67.5
• Rebound margin: Xavier +3.6, Ole Miss +2.8
• Turnover margin: Xavier +0.9, Ole Miss +1.3
Bottom line: Xavier must try to keep the Rebels’ momentum in check; Tennessee rode Big Mo’ to a Sweet 16 berth after its First Four victory last season.
(13) Eastern Washington vs. (4) Georgetown | 9:57 p.m. Thursday on truTV
EWU is 26-8 and playing in its second NCAA tournament. In 2004, Oklahoma dismissed the Eagles 75-56 in the Round of 64. … But this is not Eastern Washington of a decade past. The Eagles can score with anyone, averaging 80.8 points per game, third-best in the nation. On the flip side, G’town is 87th nationally at 70.7 ppg. Georgetown is allowing 64.6 ppg, while EWU yields 73.6.
Eastern Washington outscored Montana 21-6 in the final six minutes to overcome an 11-point deficit and beat the Grizzlies on their home floor to win the Big Sky tournament. EWU’s quartet of tournament MVP Tyler Harvey, Drew Brandon, all-tournament selection Venky Jois and Felix Von Hofe scored all 21 points in the Eagles’ winning rally.
Apple to apples, it’s a fairly even matchup — on paper. On the court, both schools faced one common opponent: Indiana. The Hoyas defeated the Hoosiers 91-87 in OT; the Eagles beat Indiana 88-86. Still too close to call …
Bottom line: Georgetown cannot focus on stopping one player; it will have to defend the basket from all corners.
(12) Buffalo vs. (5) West Virginia | 2:10 p.m. ET Friday on TNT
Playing in its first NCAA tournament, Buffalo is going to get a lot of attention. Hey, Bobby Hurley, who played at Duke, is the coach (never mind he also was an assistant at Wagner and associate head coach at Rhode Island; Duke is the name to know …). That said, Hurley’s Bulls are legit: 23-9 and the Mid-American Tournament champions.
The names to know: Justin Moss, the MAC Player of the Year, leads the conference in scoring (17.7 ppg), rebounds (296), free throws made (166) and double-doubles (15) — the only Division I player to lead his conference in all four of those categories. (He’s also battling an ankle injury, so keep on eye on that.) … Shannon Evans, an All-MAC Second Team selection, has at least 10 points and three assists the past 11 games, and he’s one of just five DI players with at least 150 assists, 60 3-pointers and 50 steals this season. … Jarryn Skeete has relied on 3-pointers for the majority of his scoring this season, with nearly 70 percent of his points coming from behind the arc. Skeete has scored 183 of 265 points on 3s, while netting just 50 points on 2-point field goals and 32 points on free throws.
Bottom line: Buffalo won’t beat itself. In the MAC tournament, the Bulls made 41 free throws, while their opponents attempted just 40. On the season, the Bulls have outscored their opponents by 164 points at the free-throw line (573-409) — the 10th-largest point differential on free throws among DI teams.
Psst, did you know: Hurley owns the Division I record for career assists (1,076) and won two national championships with Duke?
(13) Valparaiso vs. (4) Maryland | 4:40 p.m. ET Friday on TNT
“Bryce Drew has won it for Valparaiso!” — Ted Robinson, March 13, 1998
Drew’s Crusaders are in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years, and it anyone knows Cinderella’s slipper size, it’s Drew. Valpo upset fourth-seeded Ole Miss in 1998 on Drew’s buzzer-beater. Will he catch lightning in a bottle again? If so, Vashil Fernandez will be in the middle of the action — on the defensive end.
Fernandez ranks fifth nationwide in blocked shots with 98. He now holds Valparaiso’s single-season record for blocked shots, surpassing the former mark set by Moussa Gueye last season (71). Fernandez’s 170 career blocked shots are second all-time at Valparaiso behind Raitis Grafs (228). Fernandez also set Valpo’s single-game record with eight blocked shots against Goshen on Dec. 21. He has blocked multiple shots in 28 of his 33 games played this season, including 16 of his past 17 games.
Valparaiso has been aided by big improvements away from its home court. The team is 8-4 in road games and 5-0 at neutral sites, after going 5-9 on the road and 1-1 at neutral sites last season. Valpo also is holding opponents to 38.0 percent field-goal shooting, 32.8 percent 3-point shooting and 59.3 points per game, all Horizon League bests. The Crusaders also lead the conference in scoring margin (+10.5) and rebounding margin (+7.2).
Bottom line: If Valparaiso is leading at the half, it may be “game over.” The Crusaders are 23-2 when leading at the break.
(14) Albany vs. (3) Oklahoma | 7:27 p.m. ET Friday on truTV
Albany has relied on junior college transfers en route to its third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance: Evan Singletary, Ray Sanders and Richard Peters.
Singletary (Moberly Community College) has scored the second-most points for the Great Danes this season with 417. He is Albany’s best long-range threat, making 40.1 percent of his 3-pointers (59-of-147). Sanders (Pensacola State) ranks fourth on the team with 309 points, second in rebounds (145), and second in assists (70), while leading the team in steals (45). Peters (Tallahassee Community College) started the final 22 regular-season games before a contusion to his abdominal wall kept him out of the America East tournament quarterfinal game versus Maine and limited him to four minutes in the semifinal game against New Hampshire. Peters returned to the starting lineup and played 14 minutes in the title game.
However, Peter Hooley is the player most fans are familiar with: a 1,000-point scorer who missed eight games this season when he flew home to Australia to be with his mother, who was fighting cancer and passed away while he was home. In the America East title game against Stony Brook, Hooley drained the game-winning 3-pointer with less than two seconds remaining to put the Danes ahead 51-50. It was the first and only 3-pointer made in the game for Albany.
Bottom line: Every tournament has its Cinderella. In 2015, she may be riding a Great Dane.