NCAA Tournament Upset Alert: 5 Top-25 Teams Primed For Early Exit

Written By Eli Hershkovich on March 3, 2022 - Last Updated on March 4, 2022
NCAA Tournament Odds

With March Madness tipping off in less than two weeks, there’s no better time to dive into the betting market and break down which teams could be on NCAA tournament upset alert. This isn’t to say that bettors should automatically fade them in the Round of 64, yet keep an eye on which matchups present the biggest mismatches.

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5 Teams on NCAA Tournament Upset Alert

1. Auburn Tigers ():

Bruce Pearl’s team was one of the most hyped-up programs in the country at the beginning of conference play, but it’s come back down to earth of late because of its perimeter play at both ends.

Although the Tigers boast five-star freshman Jabari Smith, who’s the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, their 3-point clip (32.0%) sits just outside the bottom-100 across college basketball. When they’re stuck in the halfcourt, their offense appears pedestrian at times without much floor-spacing — especially away from home.

They’re also surrendering the SEC’s sixth-highest percentage of open looks from behind the arc (via ShotQuality).

Plus, 7-foot-1 Walker Kessler is reportedly dealing with a shoulder injury, which could minimize his workload come mid-March. Considering the importance of Kessler’s length on each side of the court, Auburn could be in trouble if it faces a methodical, perimeter-oriented attack.

2. Purdue Boilermakers ():

Admittedly, I was very high on the Boilermakers entering the season, as they represent one of my four title futures (with Kentucky being the midseason addition).

Nevertheless, this defense doesn’t resemble a typical Matt Painter-led unit. Not only has his ball-screen coverage been carved up throughout Big Ten play, yet Purdue’s point guard combo (Eric Hunter and Isaiah Thompson) also struggles to consistently stay in front of their counterpart.

To make matters worse, sharpshooter Sasha Stefanovic suffered a dislocated pinky in Tuesday’s loss at Wisconsin. Even with a dominant duo in the frontcourt and a likely lottery pick in Jaden Ivey, the Boilermakers appear to be headed for another early exit as a prime candidate to be put on NCAA Tournament upset alert before the bracket even comes out.

3. Wisconsin Badgers ():

Here come the boo birds, but let’s ignore those Badgers fans for a minute.

Yes, Wisconsin showcases Wooden award candidate Johnny Davis (). However, it’s gone 15-1 in “close games,” which is taken into account if a matchup is decided within a six-point margin or overtime. That’s tied for the most wins in that department since 2008.

Weigh that as a product of sound execution down the stretch if you’d like, but that takes a whole lot of positive variance to pull off. There should be some negative shooting luck en route as a result.

Moreover, Greg Gard’s bunch owns the worst post-up defense in college basketball (per Synergy) while letting up the conference’s highest percentage of open shots from distance. Unless the Badgers ride banked-in jumpers all the way into April, regression should occur sooner than later.

4. Providence Friars ():

“How are the Friars only a three-point favorite against Vermont? Hammer Providence!”

I can already see the tweets for Providence’s potential Round-of-64 matchup. Keep in mind, though, that Ed Cooley’s squad has outperformed its shooting metrics by eight wins (via ShotQuality) — the most of any Division I program.

Why? Similar to the Badgers, the Friars are 11-2 in “close games.” On top of that, Providence’s experienced rotation owns a bottom-100 transition defense and is almost as vulnerable against ball-screen action as Purdue.

At the other end, Cooley’s offense turns into a shot clock-draining machine when it fails in pick-and-roll sets with big man Nate Watson. It’s been ultra-reliant on Al Durham drawing last-second fouls and Jared Bynum’s 3-point heaves, but don’t expect that success to continue at this rate.

5. USC Trojans ():

Last March, we saw now-pro Evan Mobley carry USC to the Elite Eight before it was blitzed by runner-up Gonzaga. Their 56th-rated Adjusted Defensive Efficiency has taken a step back — especially in transition.

  • Adjusted Efficiency accounts for the estimate efficiency (points scored or allowed per 100 possessions) a team would accrue or allow against the average Division I opponent.

Offensively, Andy Enfield’s squad is outperforming its shooting metrics by five wins — in part because of some shooting luck around the rim. Despite Isaiah Mobley’s presence inside, losing his brother to the NBA, along with Isaiah White’s declining production, delivers an average-looking offense that will struggle against a lengthy opponent.

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Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich