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The Hawk Eye

The Student News Site of Charlotte Latin School

The Hawk Eye

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Sneaky Round 1 March Madness Upset Picks

UAB’s Daniel Ortiz drives to the lane in a January matchup against Rice (UAB Athletics)

College basketball this season has been one of the most balanced that we have seen in years. Ranked teams consistently lost on the road to unranked teams and the AP top 10 shifted numerous times during the course of the season. As the NCAA tournament is beginning and the brackets are set, millions of people all around the world are trying to make the perfect bracket, by picking the right upsets. However, a few upset opportunities are being neglected.

#12 seeded UAB didn’t have a hot start to the season. It was looking very, very bad for the Blazers, who were sitting at 4-5 through the first nine games. However, they turned it around and won nine of their last twelve games, and rolled through the AAC conference tournament to make it to the Big Dance. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Blazers have what seems like a tough test against the San Diego State Aztecs. As always, San Diego State’s main strength is a very stout defense, offset by a slightly below average offense. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, their superb perimeter defense is pointless against the Blazers, who shoot just over 32% from three. Instead, a lot of their buckets come from second chance points, as they rank twenty-second in offensive rebounds per game. San Diego State ranks just 155th in defensive rebound percentage, so the Blazers could have a ton of second chance points. Offensive rebounds always break a defense down, as teams will crash the boards in an attempt to grab the rebound, leaving open shots. While the Aztecs are good enough to once again go far in this tournament, this is just not a good matchup for them, as UAB’s play style can break down their defense and they just don’t have enough offensive firepower to win a high scoring game. The Blazers should roll on into the Round of 32, where they will fall to the Auburn Tigers.

The 11 seed Oregon Ducks are one of the hottest teams in the country, winning the last ever PAC-12 conference tournament as we know it. They are on a four game win streak, with both of the final two wins coming against NCAA tournament

N’Faly Dante showing his excitement as the Oregon Ducks beat Colorado in the PAC-12 Championship (Oregon Live)

teams: the #2 seeded Arizona Wildcats and the #10 seeded Colorado Buffaloes who will play in a play-in game tonight. The Ducks are led by senior center N’Faly Dante and senior guard Jermaine Couisnard. Dante averages 16.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while Couisnard averages 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Additionally, Oregon is headlined by freshman guard Jackson Shelstad. In terms of March Madness, the formula to win games has historically included multiple competent guards and an experienced big man, so, the Ducks seem to have the roster to lead them on in the tournament. Oregon is facing off against #6 seeded South Carolina, who played very well in a loaded SEC this season. However, Auburn revealed the Gamecocks’ weakness big time in two separate games at the end of the regular season. Auburn beat South Carolina by a combined 71 points in their two matchups, revealing that if defended tightly, the Gamecocks may not be able to handle the pressure. While the South Carolina Gamecocks are expected to win this game, no one should be surprised if the Oregon Ducks win the first round matchup and continue on their hot streak in the later rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Picking a Kentucky Wildcats game this year is a crapshoot. John Calipari’s Wildcats might have the highest ceiling and the most talent in the entire tournament, however they also have the lowest floor and one glaring

Oakland coach Greg Kampe gives his team instructions during the Golden Grizzlies’ quarterfinal game in the Summit League tournament (Detroit Free Press)

weakness: guarding the other team. Kentucky averages the second most points per game of any team in Division I, however in points allowed per game, the Wildcats rank 340th. They’ve beaten some of the best teams in the country, yet lost to UNC Wilmington. Their opponents in the first round are the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, the Horizon League champs. The Golden Grizzlies are very balanced, boasting a good offense and an average defense, and also have the Horizon League player of the year Trey Townsend to lean on in close games. The Golden Grizzlies aren’t scared of big games either, as they have notched a Quad 1 and Quad 2 win, and only lost to #3 seeded Illinois by eleven. Oakland also has the experience advantage, and that could be enough to push them over the top. If Kentucky is off their game, Oakland could steal this game from them, and pull off an incredible #3 seed vs #14 seed upset. If they get past the Wildcats, the Golden Grizzlies will be primed to sneak into the Sweet 16, as Texas Tech and NC State are both very beatable.

The New Mexico Lobos headline the Mountain West as they just won the conference championship over the San Diego State Aztecs. The Lobos were selected as a #11 seed for March Madness this season, and will ride their hot streak into Memphis, Tennessee as they face off against the #6 seeded

Jaelen House pointing to his teammate for a screen during a regular season home game for the New Mexico Lobos (Mountain West Connection)

Clemson Tigers. New Mexico is led by three stud guards and a freshman forward who have been on fire in the last few games. Jaelan House, Jamal Mashburn Jr., and Donovan Dent are all experienced guards who combine to average 44.7 points per game. The freshman JT Toppin averages 12.5 points and 9 rebounds per game, adding an important spark to the Lobo lineup. With those four starters and a bench full of solid players, the Lobos are primed for a run in this tournament. On the other hand, the Clemson Tigers have been playing very poorly as of late, losing 3 of the last 4 games. Not only did they lose important conference games, but none of the teams they lost to even made the NCAA tournament. As the Tigers are on a downward slide and the Lobos are soaring up, this game is an upset waiting to happen.

While anything can happen during March and it is always hard to pick upsets, we are fairly confident that the aforementioned matchups may lead to busted brackets. With teams peaking at the right time and stars beginning to shine brighter with all the attention on them, upsets may be plentiful this March and the viewers should have a great time watching the top seeds go down. On the other hand, because this year is so balanced there might be very few upsets this tournament. Sit back, relax, and bask in the excitement of March Madness. Happy March everyone!

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Tommy Beason
Tommy Beason, Editor in Chief
If I could choose any celebrity to have lunch with, I would have two answers. The first one would definitely be Kevin Hart. I would choose him because he is one of the funniest comedians and actors of all time. I know the conversations would never get dull and we would have a great time together. He has my kind of humor yet the things he says, never lack to amaze me. His mind is so creative in ways many others could never imagine. It would definitely be an experience that I would never forget. If I were in the mood to learn something during our meal so I could come out smarter, then I would choose Benjamin Franklin. He is one of the greatest inventors of all time yet not many people realize that he must have had many creations that he couldn’t pursue due to his lack of resources. Nowadays, resources are improved and more accessible than they ever were for Benjamin Franklin. I would make sure to ask many questions so I could obtain as much knowledge as possible. After the meal, I would start brainstorming for an invention that would change the world. I have always pictured in my mind that I could change the world in one facet or another. With him, that would be entirely possible. I've always been someone who has wanted to gain knowledge anytime I could. My motto is the more you know, the more you can do.

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