We're only hours away from the start of the Sweet 16 and I'm already noticing the buzz about the potential for more major upsets. It seems many people expect this year's tournament to send another non-traditional power to the Final Four in the tradition of George Mason's 2006 run.
First, I do not consider Xavier and Butler to be in that category. While a Final Four berth would be unexpected, both are traditional mid-major powers that cannot sneak up on any team in the tournament. Tennessee, Washington and Purdue, all lower seeds in their games, would never be written-off by anyone.
However, there still are several teams that may be dismissed without a second thought. I only like one: St. Mary's.
St. Mary's will upset Baylor and move to the Regional Final. I was impressed with how the Gaels took care of Villanova and not all that excited about the Bears, which did not impress with its win over Old Dominion. This game seems like a toss-up on paper, but I could see St. Mary's dominating the front court, which would open up its perimeter game. How cool would it be for St. Mary's and Duke or Purdue to play for a Final Four berth? Then I really would be rooting for an upset.
Cornell will lose to Kentucky. Sorry Ivy League fans. Despite blowing out Wisconsin and Temple, I don't see the Big Red doing the same to Kentucky. The Wildcats have some size in the post to match-up with Cornell's bigs as well as speed and shooting at the guard position. Kentucky's youth will catch up with them at some point in this tournament, but it won't be in this game. Cornell is just over-matched and out-talented.
After upsetting Kansas, Northern Iowa will lose to Michigan State. This game screams upset, especially after State's star Kalin Lucas went down for the season with an injury. I think an upset is possible, but won't happen. The Panthers were out-played statistically against the Jayhawks, shooting a lower percentage overall and grabbing fewer rebounds, yet still won. Kansas may not have been able to capitalize on the rebounding edge, but Michigan State will. Sparty also will play much better defense, especially on the perimeter, than Kansas. This game will be close, but Michigan State's rugged style of play will win out.