No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA might be the most popular upset pick in the whole NCAA field. The Gophers may have lost 11 of their last 16 games, but the Bruins haven’t inspired much national confidence after falling to Oregon without Jordan Adams.
Here’s a quick predictions round-up.
ESPN: Myron Medcalf sips the Pac-12 haterade as he picks against all five teams in the first round. I like at least 12-seeded Oregon to take down Oklahoma State, but this was taken from a list of 10 “bold predictions.” The conference isn’t stellar, it was worse last year and still had Colorado in the round of 32.
Sports Illustrated: Pete Thamel takes the Gophers as one of his five upset picks. He writes: “Talented Minnesota, which has underachieved this year, has been battle tested by the Big Ten and won’t be intimidated by UCLA’s talent.”
ESPN’s Giant Killers: The metrics-based forecast gives Minnesota an impressive 74 percent chance to pull the upset.
Nate Silver: The political prediction king gives UCLA a 38.1 percent chance at beating Minnesota. The Bruins also have a 5.9 percent chance at making the Sweet Sixteen, 2.4 percent at the Elite Eight, and 0.6 percent at the Final Four.
SportsOnEarth: Matt Brown starts off by mentioning Tubby Smith’s hot seat and Minnesota’s lackluster second half, but thinks even less of their opponent. “Here the Gophers have a chance to pull an upset over an unspectacular UCLA from the unspectacular Pac-12, and for Minnesota to win and Tubby to keep going really wouldn’t be much of an upset at all.”
USA Today: “UCLA gets Minnesota, which was utterly underwhelming in the final two months of the season. Expect the Bruins to scoot along.” Finally, some love.
CBS Sports: Of the ten analysts who filled out entire NCAA brackets, five picked UCLA to beat Minnesota. The quintet includes Wally Szczerbiak, the lone soul to pick Gonzaga as national champion.
Grantland: Shane Ryan ranks every team in the field in lieu of head-to-head picks, and has UCLA at No. 29 overall. However, he also categorizes the Bruins as the sole “Victim of the Cruel Cosmos” due to Jordan Adams’ broken ankle. His description of Minnesota, which he slots at No. 35: “Weakness: Tubby Smith being allowed to coach.”
Las Vegas also has the Gophers as a slight favorite over UCLA. No. 9 Missouri, which plays No. 8 Colorado State, was the only other lower-seeded team to open with the advantage. I’m not inclined to pick the Bruins either, but they might be inspired from all this talk.