3 potential first round upsets in March Madness

Montana State in Laval, Quebec November 2023. Photo by Chris McKee.

Taking a look at three potential lower seed upsets in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

With the 2023 March Madness bracket set, here are 3 potential first round upsets to keep an eye on.

In the east bracket, I like No.12 seed Oral Roberts to upset No.5 seed Duke. 

Every year we have at least one twelve seed take down a five seed.

Here is why I like Oral Roberts to do so this year. 

First of all, the ACC is having a down year. They’re nowhere near as good as they have been in years past so Duke being ACC champs isn’t as impressive in years past.

When was the last time an ACC champ Duke would only get a five seed and not a one or two seed, so that tells you what the committee thinks of the ACC as well. 

Also remember, no Coach K, he retired at the end of last year so they have a first-year head coach in Jon Scheyer who has coached a grand total of zero March Madness games. 

Meanwhile, Oral Roberts went to the Sweet 16 just two years ago led by their head coach Paul Mills.

Mills and much of his squad have been there before including superstar guard Max Abmas. 

Abmas was the guy who led Oral Roberts on that run two years ago and he is still there and he’s still good. He was the No.6 scorer in all of college basketball this year averaging 22.2 points per game. 

Oral has a net rank of 36th in the NCAA compared to Duke at No.16, so its not as big of a gap as some may think. 

Oral Roberts was 30-4 on the season and have won 17 games in a row entering March Madness. Duke was 26-8 on the year, winning nine in a row. 

Oral is No.25 in the country in field goal percentage. Duke is 152nd. 

Oral is No. 43 in 3-point field goal percentage. Duke is 214th. 

Oral is No. 12 in the country in free-throw percentage with Duke not far behind at No.21. So close game late, Oral can hit those free-throws. 

The Golden Eagles enter the NCAA Tournament ranked third nationally in scoring, averaging 84.2 PPG.

So write it down, down go the Dukies courtesy of Max Abmas and Oral Roberts. 

My second first round update is also in the east bracket with No.14 Montana State beating No.3 Kansas State.

K-State is backing into the tournament having won just five of their past 10 games including losing two in a row. Montana State comes in winning 9 of their past 10.

I had the chance to see Montana State play in person for three games in three days in Montreal back in November. 

I love their big man Jubrile Belo who is a 6-foot-9 senior forward who plays much bigger. He’s a man and can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. 

Neither team can shoot the three very well, K-State is just No.184 in the NCAA with Montana State No.202 and so the bigman Belo will be key in this game.

Montana State has the edge in field-goal percentage at No.48 in the country with K-State just 136th. Montana State is also a better free-throw shooting team than K-State at No.37 in the NCAA.

I expect a scrappy, maybe ugly game that Montana State squeaks out late. 

My final first round upset is the winner of Mississippi State and Pittsburgh vs No. 6 Iowa State in the Midwest bracket. 

Iowa State comes in having won just 3 of their past 10 games and just six of their past 17 games. They won all their games early and have been terrible past Christmas and all throughout 2023. 

Also, some key stats on Iowa State. They are one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the NCAA ranking 316th in the country. Plus they’re a poor 3-point shooting team ranking just 195th in the country. 

I don’t care whoever it is between Pitt or Mississippi State that gets through, I’m just not sold on Iowa State at all, they’ll go down to the 11th seed in their bracket. 

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Chris McKee is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association and has done play-by-play for Fox Sports, Sky Sports, One Soccer, CBC Sports and TSN radio calling professional, college and high school basketball, volleyball and soccer. You can see him in the CBC TV series "Anyone's Game" as the voice of Orangeville Prep. He also works as a traffic reporter in Toronto for TSN 1050, 97.7 HTZ FM, Jazz FM 91, 610 CKTB, Funny 820, Bounce 102.9, Move 105.7, Newstalk 1010 and more. Host of 'This Week in Golf' on Newstalk Sauga 960 & studio host for LIV Golf. Prior to working in sports, McKee was an award winning music agent and concert promoter for 20 years having produced concerts for the likes of Rihanna, The Black Eyed Peas, Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Norah Jones and many more. Author of the book "Life on the road with the Wu-Tang Clan."