March Madness: 5 squads in danger of busting brackets with early NCAA tournament exits

Today’s March Madness assignment is to find a few high seeds who could be on first-round upset alert. Get out your brackets and let’s sort through some teams in possible danger.

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Marquette, No. 2 seed in East region

Marquette picked up Creighton’s slack in the Big East, cruising to the league title. Head coach Shaka Smart is going to need a new trophy case to house all of his end-of-season awards. But Marquette is a curiously small 10.5-point favorite over Vermont; the betting public has been all over the Catamounts since this game opened. Vermont has the type of things you want to see from a live underdog: it’s a low-turnover team, the roster is experienced, and the team is in fine form, rattling off 15 straight wins to enter the tournament. The NCAA tournament isn’t a novelty for Vermont, either; the Cats have made nine trips over the past two decades. I’ll grab the points, and an upset wouldn’t shock me.

No. 2 seed Marquette shouldn't overlook Vermont despite being a double-digit favorite. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
No. 2 seed Marquette shouldn't overlook Vermont despite being a double-digit favorite. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Virginia, No. 4 seed in South region

Although Virginia is a No. 4 seed, it’s only a 5.5-point favorite over Furman. The Cavaliers play at a slow pace; they rarely run and they’re coached to eschew the offensive boards. And it’s not like the Virginia half-court offense is humming, either; you can see how much they miss forward Ben Vander Plas, who's out for the season. Furman is an efficient offensive team entering the tourney on a 14-1 streak. This game should be competitive for two hours.

Duke, No. 5 seed in East

Full disclosure, I expect Duke to go far in the tournament. It’s the tallest team in the field and the nation’s best recruiting class has grown up nicely after a slow liftoff. But the selection committee did Duke no favors in Round 1, sending Oral Roberts for a Thursday showdown. Oral Roberts is a mid-major with a star scorer (Max Abmas), an interior disruptor (7-foot-3 center Connor Vanover), and a March resume (this team made the Sweet 16 in 2021). The Golden Eagles won’t be intimidated by the moment.

Miami, No. 5 seed in Midwest region

We know 5-12 matchups often lead to upsets, and Miami couldn’t be thrilled to draw an experienced, cohesive Drake team. Sophomore Tucker DeVries (playing for his Dad, Darrian) is a star, and he’s surrounded by four senior starters. Miami is worried about interior ace Norchad Omier, who suffered an ankle injury early in last week’s loss to Duke. Miami is merely a 2.5-point favorite.

Creighton, No. 6 seed in South region

Creighton has been a tease program all year. Picked as the Big East favorite, Creighton fell into a six-game losing streak in December and fell out of the Top 20 entirely. The roster glass can be half-full or half-empty, depending on your view — Creighton has one of the best starting fives in the nation but gets very little production from its bench. North Carolina State takes excellent care of the basketball and is one of the more experienced teams in the tournament. Good guard play makes any underdog deliciously live; I’ll grab N.C. State at +5.5, and explore the money line.