In our series Tipico Edge, we work with both our internal analysts and external experts to provide you with betting insights and tips on key games or tournaments.
By Colin Gay
March Madness is here.
Starting Tuesday with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, the 2023 NCAA Tournament will officially kick off, trying for a trip to the Final Four in Houston April 1.
With the tournament bracket set, which teams may have a first-round upset waiting for them Thursday or Friday? Here are three teams to steer clear from when setting up your bracket.
San Diego State
San Diego State comes into the NCAA Tournament relying on its defense.
Coming into March Madness with a Mountain West regular season championship and a conference tournament championship, the Aztecs have shut opposing offenses down, limiting teams to 63.6 points per game with a 41.6 percent field goal percentage.
The Aztecs’ main assignment will be slowing down College of Charleston, a top-30 offense in terms of tempo that has the second-most 3-point shot attempts per game and which hasn’t lost a game since Feb. 2.
While the Cougars have a 33.4 percent success rate from deep, the team has three players — guard Reyne Smith, guard Dalton Bolon and guard Ryan Larson — that attempt at least five 3-point shots per game. And with a 6-foot-10, 229-pound bruiser in the paint in Antre Brzovic, College of Charleston should get its fair share of chances on the offensive glass, averaging 13.6 as a team per game this year.
Even while San Diego State has one of the best 3-point defenses in the country, it struggled against Arizona and New Mexico: losing two of three games against these two opponents that average more than 80 points per game on more than 70 possessions per 40 minutes — both of which the College of Charleston average.
With a three-game losing streak in the first round of the NCAA Tournament since advancing to the Sweet 16 against Duke in 2015, the Aztecs’ path to the second round is looking difficult again.
No. 5 San Diego State takes on No. 12 College of Charleston at 3 p.m. Thursday on truTV.
Tennessee started the season looking like one of the best teams in the country.
Through January, the Volunteers had three losses in 21 games, earning ranked wins against then-No. 3 Kansas, No. 13 Maryland and No. 10 Texas. Since then, Tennessee has struggled, losing seven of its last 12 games even with wins against No. 25 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama.
And things have gotten worse for the Volunteers recently, losing guard Zakai Zeigler for the season with an ACL injury, who’s been the team’s main distributor on offense, leading Tennessee in assists while averaging two steals per game defensively.
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The Volunteers come in with one of the best defenses in the country, allowing 58 points per game and a nation-leading 26.2 percent 3-point percentage. But without Zeigler, Tennessee has allowed an average of 71 points against Auburn, Ole Miss and Missouri, which shot 46.7 percent from the field combined.
Louisiana, coming off a Sun Belt conference championship, comes into the NCAA Tournament averaging 78 points per game with a team that shoots 48.4 percent from the field. The Ragin’ Cajuns are led by forward Jordan Brown with his 19.4 points per game and nine games of 25 points or more this season.
In its third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, Tennessee could struggle to get out of the first day, let alone the first weekend with either Duke or Oral Roberts looming.
No. 4 Tennessee takes on No. 13 Louisiana at 9:30 p.m. Thursday on CBS.
Iowa State has seen its share of challenges in 2022-23.
With a packed Big 12 schedule, the Cyclones have faced 14 ranked teams, including wins against then-No. 1 North Carolina, No. 7 Texas, No. 5 Kansas State and No. 8 Kansas. But Iowa State has been on a significant slide, losing four-straight against the Wildcats, Longhorns, Oklahoma and West Virginia before beating No. 7 Baylor on the road to finish the regular season.
Iowa State’s offense is nothing special with Jaren Holmes and Gabe Kalscheur as the team’s only double-digit scorers, averaging 26.3 of the team’s 68.4 points per game. This comes with a defense that’s been solid, with opponents shooting 42.2 percent from the field while trying nearly as many 3-point tries to two-point shots per game.
With the first-round matchup to be determined based on the First Four game between Mississippi State or Pittsburgh, either opponent could give the Cyclones trouble.
The Bulldogs are extremely stout defensively, 61 points per game and a 39.4 percent field goal percentage, along with forward Tolu Smith, who has made a name for himself offensively and on the glass. Pittsburgh, with the duo of Jamarius Burton and Blake Hinson, have ranked wins against North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami.
After a trip to the regional semifinal in 2022, Iowa State’s NCAA Tournament has the chance to be short, especially with a possible date against Xavier in the second round.
No. 6 Iowa State will take on either No. 11 Mississippi State or Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. Friday on truTV.
Photo credit: IMAGO / ZUMA wire