OPINION — Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: The unexpected to be expected this week

It took just the second game of the 2024 NCAA Tournament to prove how flawed the field could be.

Virginia wasn't just taken over the likes of St. John's, Seton Hall, Oklahoma and even Indiana State, it was seeded 10th. The Cavaliers had five first-half field goals and lost to a decent Colorado State team 67-42.

That could mean this tournament is ripe for upsets and here's a few possible Cinderella teams in no particular order:

Starting with a longshot, No. 15 seed Long Beach State takes on No. 2 Arizona this afternoon in what may or may not be Coach Dan Monson's last game. Before the end of the season, he and his bosses agreed to part ways at the end of the season, which didn't happen in Big West Conference Tournament.

The Beach is team-oriented and has five players averaging in double figures. Basically they have nothing to lose.

Another longshot is No. 14 Morehead State against No. 3 Illinois. Morehead State lost to Arkansas-Little Rock in the regular season as the Trojans out-muscled them all night.

When the two met in the Ohio Valley Tournament championship game, the Eagles had learned their lesson and were much more physical in their 69-55 victory, although the Trojans' Mahkel Mitchell had injured his shoulder and was limited. Early in the season, the Eagles faced Alabama, Purdue and Penn State. All were losses, but they have experience against bigger programs.

What could grab the nation's attention is No. 13 Samford taking on No. 4 Kansas. The Bulldogs are 29-5 and are a solid team that makes more than 39% of its threes. Kansas has some injury issues. Senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr., the team's best on-ball defender and leading scorer, is out for the entire tournament.

Hunter Dickinson is back and practicing full speed, but he separated his shoulder just 12 days ago. What might help the Jayhawks is thinking about last year, when as a No. 1 seed they lost to No. 8 Arkansas.

It won't be an upset in my opinion if No. 12 James Madison has one of those classic wins over a No. 5-seeded team, in this case Wisconsin. The Dukes, the Sun Belt Conference champs, like an uptempo game compared to the Badgers, who milk the clock on almost every possession. So controlling the tempo is huge in this game.

James Madison is one of three teams to win more than 30 games -- Houston and McNeese State are the others -- and while they haven't faced this kind of competition, the Dukes are fearless. James Madison has only been on the BCS level for two years and are having an impact in football, too.

Another 12-5 possible upset is No. 12 McNeese State against No. 5 Gonzaga. The Cowboys are 30-3 and are led by Shada Wells, who was with TCU in March Madness last year. Gonzaga had an up-and-down year but finished winning nine in a row before dropping the WCC championship game to Saint Mary's.

The Cowboys average about 80 points per game but are known for their defense, allowing just 61 points per game. Gonzaga averages about 85 points per game while holding their opponents to 69.

One worth watching is No. 11 Oregon against No. 6 South Carolina. Oregon and South Carolina have never played, but each lost to Alabama and defeated Florida A&M this season. The Ducks also beat Georgia to open the season, while the Gamecocks split the season series with the Bulldogs.

There you have it. Nothing is guaranteed but the way the tournament started Tuesday night, nothing is going to be too surprising. Oh, the pick here to win it all is the Houston Cougars.

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