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NCAA Tournament bracket has much upset potential

The NCAA Tournament bracket usually features surprises and snubs that keep stakeholders talking and debating. But this year, the possibility of upsets on the road to the Final Four in Dallas may be the biggest story for the field of 68.

The greatest potential for a takedown is on the Greenville 2 side of the bracket, in No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 UNLV. Despite a strong start on the year, the Wolverines have been somewhat streaky, and lost to every ranked conference opponent, as well as Wisconsin. They bowed out in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Mountain West Conference champion Rebels, on the other hand, are 31-2 and haven’t lost a game since Dec. 18. The Selection Committee might have mixed up the seedings, because UNLV should win this one.

Also in this region, No. 10 Princeton could take care of struggling 7-seed NC State. No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Miami could go either way, and should be a hard-fought game, with the edge going to the Cowgirls, who are riding high on the momentum of the weekend’s Big 12 Tournament. No. 5 Washington State vs. No. 12 FGCU is intriguing, as both teams play physical, fast-paced basketball, and can shoot the three. Whomever wins will have earned every bit of the ice bath they will need afterward.

In the Greenville 1 region, the matchup between No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 12 Portland could be tough. The Sooners will seek to avenge their Big 12 Tournament semifinal loss, while the WCC tourney champ Pilots, who play tough, disciplined basketball, are hungry to prove themselves after being shut out of the Tournament in 2020.

No. 7 Arizona and No. 10 West Virginia could be a fiery game, as the Wildcats have been streaky lately, and the Mountaineers are motivated in returning to the Dance. No. 8 South Florida vs. No. 9 Marquette will feature two fundamentally-sound, scrappy teams that have a lot of fight, and the win could go either way.

Perhaps the most interesting matchup of the entire bracket is in Seattle region 4, as No. 8 Ole Miss and No. 9 Gonzaga face off. The two teams have very different styles of play, and it will be fascinating to see how each coach prepares her squad for the task. Last year the Rebels lost in the first round of the Tournament to mid-major power South Dakota State. Will something similar happen this year? Can’t wait to see.

Also in that region, No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee is a pretty even matchup, with the edge going to the Raiders, who have been on a tear of late, winning their conference tournament title over the weekend. No. 7 Florida State vs. No. 10 Georgia is also too close to call, although if Seminole super-frosh Ta’Niya Latson has a night, as she’s had most of the year, the Bulldogs will be headed back to Athens sooner rather than later.

NCAA Tournament play-in games begin Wednesday, with first round action kicking off Friday.

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