The 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Sunday night, and while the seeding seemed to be spot-on for the majority of college basketball's best teams, upsets are bound to occur. There might not be a matchup riper for that than Thursday night's game between the South Dakota St. Jackrabbits and Baylor Bears.
The Jackrabbits, led by St. Cloud, Minn., native Nate Wolters, have a 19 percent chance to pull out a first round victory using their role as "giant killers," according to ESPN. A "giant killer" seems like it might be a vague term, and 19 percent doesn't seem all that high, but ESPN apparently has their upset formula down to a science.
The basis of our research, then, relies on figuring out what characteristics differentiate those 71 teams from the squads who failed to pull off major upsets or the Giants who avoided an early exit. A number of similarities have emerged, and in a nutshell, successful Giant Killers tend to play a higher risk/reward game than their losing mid-major counterparts.
That means they tend to excel in at least one of a few key areas. They take a lot of 3-pointers and connect at a high percentage. They force a lot of turnovers and protect the ball when they have possession. They dominate the offensive glass and hold their own on the defensive boards. The best Giant Killers embody many of these qualities, and, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense that those strategies lead to upsets. When everything clicks, a team that plays this way generates a ton of extra possessions (and maximizes them with the 3-ball). And all it takes in the tourney is that one good day to move on to the next round.
It makes sense that ESPN thinks the Jackrabbits could be giant killers since that was already mentioned on the CBS Sports selection show, but is it really possible for South Dakota State to be a much more athletic team in the Baylore Bears?