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March Madness: Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Kansas on upset watch

Coach Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers won the last edition of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament in 2019, but face a challenge due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program as they head into their first-round game Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. File Photo by Bryan Woolston/UPI
Coach Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers won the last edition of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament in 2019, but face a challenge due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program as they head into their first-round game Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. File Photo by Bryan Woolston/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, March 18 (UPI) -- Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Kansas are four teams that should be on upset watch at the 2021 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament due to tough matchups, COVID-19's impact on rosters and tournament history.

The tournament starts with four First Four matchups Thursday in Indiana. Texas Southern battles Mount St. Mary's in the first game at 5:10 p.m. EDT in Bloomington, while Drake takes on Wichita State at 6:27 p.m. EDT in West Lafayette.

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Appalachian State then faces Norfolk State in the third First Four game at 8:40 p.m. EDT in Bloomington, while the final First Four game tips off at 9:57 p.m. EDT in West Lafayette and pits Michigan State against UCLA.

Thursday's First Four includes two games that feature four No. 16 seeds and two games that feature four No. 11 seeds.

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The two winning No. 16 seed teams then move on to face the No. 1 seeds in the first round. The two winning No. 11 seeds move on to face No. 6 seeds in the first round.

Historically, No. 1 seeds win nearly 100% of their first-round matchups against No. 16 seeds, which makes an upset highly unlikely. No. 16 seeds have a 1-139 record against No. 1 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

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No. 15 seeds have been slightly more successful in first-round games against No. 2 seeds, with five victories in 140 appearances since since 1985.

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The likelihood of an upset for an underdog statistically increases as the teams' respective seeds get closer. Some of fans' favorite picks in annual bracket pools involve No. 12 seeds upsetting No. 5 seeds, No. 13 seeds beating No. 4 seeds and No. 11 seeds beating No. 6 seeds.

This year's tournament also could feature a unique way for teams to advance: by forfeit.

Teams are required to have at least five players available for games throughout the tournament. If a team has an outbreak from COVID-19 and is unable to produce five players, its game will be declared a no-contest and the opponent will advance.

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Friday upset watch

No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech

The No. 7 Florida Gators could be one of the first teams on upset watch. Florida battles No. 10 Virginia Tech at 12:15 p.m. EDT Friday on CBS.

Virginia Tech is ranked No. 24 in the coaches poll, while the Gators are unranked.

The Hokies have the same 3-point shooting percentage as the Gators, but average more attempts per game. They also average more rebounds, more assists and fewer turnovers than the Gators.

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Several sports betting sites have Virginia Tech and Florida with even odds for winning the matchup.

No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 12 Winthrop

Winthrop has the second-best odds to advance to the second round out of the four No. 12 seeds. The Eagles carry a seven-game winning streak into the tournament and are 23-1 this season, tied for the second-best record in college basketball behind undefeated Gonzaga (26-0).

Villanova has lost three of its last four games.

The Eagles edge the Wildcats in nearly every statistical category. They have a higher overall shooting percentage and a better 3-point percentage. Winthrop also averages more offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, steals and blocks than Villanova.

Villanova also enters the game with injury issues. The Wildcats will be without second-leading scorer Collin Gillespie, due to a season-ending injury. Sophomore guard Justin Moore -- their third-leading scorer -- has been limited by an ankle sprain.

The Wildcats face the Eagles at 9:59 p.m. EDT Friday on TNT.

No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 Liberty

Oklahoma State is favored to advance to the second round, but they have the smallest point spread of the No. 4 seeds in the first round of the tournament. The Cowboys face No. 13 Liberty and could in for an upset.

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Oklahoma State ranks No. 12 in the coaches poll, while Liberty is unranked. The Flames (23-5) carry a 12-game winning streak into the tournament. They also have a betting shooting percentage, overall and from 3-point range, and average more assists per game than the Cowboys.

The Cowboys -- led by projected No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Cade Cunningham -- had won eight of their last nine games until they lost to Texas in the Big 12 tournament championship.

Oklahoma State and Liberty tip off at 6:25 p.m. EDT Friday on TBS.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 Syracuse

San Diego State is just a three-point favorite over Syracuse, the smallest projected point margin for any No. 6 seed in the tournament.

Syracuse averages more points per game, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per game than San Diego State. San Diego State has allowed fewer points fewer points per game and has a better shooting percentage than Syracuse.

The Aztecs also are on a 14-game winning streak.

San Diego State faces Syracuse at 9:40 p.m. EDT Friday on CBS.

Saturday upset watch

No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Georgetown

Colorado battles Georgetown in another No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup Saturday in Indianapolis. The No. 5 Buffaloes carry a 22-8 record into the contest, but lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament championship.

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Georgetown enters the game on a four-game winning streak and just beat Creighton in the Big East tournament title game. Colorado is just a 5.5-point favorite to win the matchup, the smallest margin of victory among the No. 5 seeds in first-round games.

Colorado battles Georgetown at 12:15 p.m. EDT Saturday on CBS.

No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Ohio

Virginia is perhaps the team most impacted by COVID-19 entering the tournament. The No. 4 Cavaliers have the majority of their players in quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program.

That quarantine isn't expected to end until Thursday, and the Cavaliers won't arrive in Indianapolis until Friday. They then battle No. 13 Ohio on Saturday.

The limited practice time will limit the Cavaliers' opportunities to prepare for the first-round matchup. The Cavaliers also struggled to end the season, with a 3-3 record in their last six games. The Cavaliers haven't met in person since they dropped out of the ACC tournament Friday due to the positive COVID-19 test result.

Ohio was on a six-game winning streak, but lost their final game of the regular season. The Bobcats then won the MAC tournament title and finished the season with nine wins in their final 10 games.

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The Cavaliers, who technically are the reigning champions due to last year's tournament cancellation and their 2019 title, face the Bobcats at 7:15 p.m. EDT Saturday on TruTV.

No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Eastern Washington

The Kansas Jayhawks also have had issues with COVID-19 as they enter the tournament. Kansas coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks arrived in Indianapolis on Monday, but were without forwards Jalen Wilson and David McCormack and guard/forward Tristan Enaruna.

The Jayhawks withdrew from the Big 12 tournament Friday due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program. Wilson, McCormack and Enaruna were away from the team due to COVID-19 protocol.

Self told reporters Wednesday that McCormack will arrive Friday in Indianapolis and is expected to play Saturday. Wilson is not expected to play Saturday, but could be available for a potential second-round game.

Enaruna has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play for at least the first two games of the tournament.

McCormack is the Jayhawks' second-leading scorer. Wilson is the third-leading scorer and the Jayhawks' top rebounder.

Kansas is still favored to beat Eastern Washington by more than 10 points, but could have a much tougher time of getting the win if McCormack, Enaruna and/or Wilson miss the game.

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The Jayhawks are 10-6 over their last 16 games. The Eagles are 13-1 over their last 14 games and beat Montana State on Saturday for the Big Sky title.

Kansas battles Eastern Washington at 1:15 p.m. EDT Saturday on TBS.

First Four schedule

Thursday

No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's at 5:10 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 11 Drake vs. No. 11 Wichita State at 6:27 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 16 Appalachian State vs. No. 16 Norfolk State at 8:40 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 11 Michigan State at 9:57 p.m. EDT on TBS

First round

Friday

No. 10 Virginia Tech vs. No. 7 Florida at 12:15 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 14 Colgate vs. No. 3 Arkansas at 12:45 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 16 Drexel vs. No. 1 Illinois at 1:15 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 11 Utah State vs. No. 6 Texas Tech at 1:45 p.m. EDT on TNT

No. 15 Oral Roberts vs. No. 2 Ohio State at 3 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 16 Hartford vs. No. 1 Baylor at 3:30 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 9 Georgia Tech vs. No. 8 Loyola at 4 p.m. EDT on TBS

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No. 12 Oregon State vs. No. 5 Tennessee at 4:30 p.m. EDT on TNT

No. 13 Liberty vs. No. 4 Oklahoma State at 6:25 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 9 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 UNC at 7:10 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 15 Cleveland State vs. No. 2 Houston at 7:15 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 13 North Texas vs. No. 4 Purdue at 7:25 p.m. EDT on TNT

No. 10 Rutgers vs. No. 7 Clemson at 9:20 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 6 San Diego State at 9:40 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 14 Morehead State vs. No. 3 West Virginia at 9:50 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 12 Winthrop vs. No. 5 Villanova at 9:57 p.m. EDT on TNT

Saturday

No. 12 Georgetown vs. No. 5 Colorado at 12:15 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 13 UNC Greensboro vs. No. 4 Florida State at 12:45 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 14 Eastern Washington vs. No. 3 Kansas at 1:15 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 9 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 8 LSU at 1:45 p.m. EDT on TNT

No. 16 Mount St. Mary's/Texas Southern vs. No. 1 Michigan at 3 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 12 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 5 Creighton at 3:30 p.m. EDT on TruTV

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No. 15 Iona vs. No. 2 Alabama at 4 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 11 Wichita State/Drake vs. No. 6 USC at 4:30 p.m. EDT on TNT

No. 15 Grand Canyon vs. No. 2 Iowa at 6:25 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 10 Maryland vs. No. 7 Connecticut at 7:10 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 13 Ohio vs. No. 4 Virginia at 7:15 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 9 Missouri vs. No. 8 Oklahoma at 7:25. p.m. EDT on TNT

No. 16 Norfolk State/Appalachian State vs. No. 1 Gonzaga at 9:20 p.m. EDT on TBS

No. 11 UCLA/Michigan State vs. No. 6 BYU at 9:40 p.m. EDT on CBS

No. 14 Abilene Christian vs. No. 3 Texas at 9:50 p.m. EDT on TruTV

No. 10 VCU vs. No. 7 Oregon at 9:57 p.m. EDT on TNT

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