The 5 vs. 12 — also known as the matchup every bracket master thinks is the key to winning his/her office pool.
In the history of the NCAA Tournament (since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985), a grand total of forty-one 12 seeds have taken down the 5 seed in the first round. Just a year ago, it happened three times.
41 wins in the first round, 20 wins in the second round, and just one win in the Sweet Sixteen. Not a great history, yet America has a love affair with the 5 vs. 12 matchup.
What does the 2014 NCAA Tournament have in store in the 5 vs. 12 department? Let’s take a quick look.
#12 Stephen F. Austin vs. #5 VCU
SFA comes in at 31-2 and winners of 28 straight games. Their strength of schedule stinks (SOS: 328) and they have just one top 100 RPI win (Towson). But they’re hot. VCU, on the other hand, enters the tournament following a tough loss in the Atlantic 10 title game, a SOS of 36, and five wins against top 50 RPI teams.
The Lumberjacks’ 28-game winning streak is all well and good, but their best win during the streak is against Towson. Not to take anything away from Towson, but they’re not exactly Saint Louis, George Washington, or Dayton, teams that the Rams beat already.
VCU would be my pick based solely on experience and a schedule that has them battle-tested for the postseason.
#12 North Dakota State vs. #5 Oklahoma
Don’t get it twisted, the Sooners are a good team but are they a legit threat to Arizona in the West Region, probably not. They have just one bad loss (at Texas Tech), can put up points in bunches with Buddy Hield and Cameron Clark as the potent 1-2 scoring punch, and have played a devilish schedule. North Dakota State is hot and senior guard Taylor Braun is a matchup nightmare. At 6-foot-7, he can post you up down low but isn’t afraid to launch from deep (44.1 3PT%).
Can Braun carry the Bison past a solid Oklahoma team, probably not, but it’ll be fun to watch him on the big stage.
#12 NC State/#12 Xavier vs. #5 Saint Louis
For the sake of the nation, let’s hope ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren can lead the Wolfpack past Xavier in their First Four matchup. Not knocking the Musketeers, but Warren is a special talent, the type of talent that can certainly help NC State take down a stumbling Saint Louis squad.
The Billikens are 26-6 but have lost four of their past five games. Like conference-mate VCU, Saint Louis has a pretty good strength of schedule but unlike VCU, they’ve stumbled of late and really can’t be taken seriously as a 5 seed.
If NC State can get past Xavier, their chances against SLU are pretty good.
#12 Harvard vs. #5 Cincinnati
It was just a year ago that Harvard, as a 14 seed, took down New Mexico in the second round. Can the Crimson strike twice? It depends, can they contain Sean Kilpatrick?
Kilpatrick averages 20.7 points per game for a Cincinnati team that has no real secondary scoring threat. Harvard and Cincinnati are both top-50 in the country in opponent field goal percentage, so this one figures to be a game played in the 50s.
Harvard will be the pick in many a bracket and while they might pull it out, it’s hard to go against Kilpatrick and the Bearcats.