You can’t just pick the favorites. Upsets happen every year and picking the right ones can win your bracket.
With the understanding that an upset is a team seeded two seeds lower winning, in 26 of the last 33 seasons there have been between 10 and 16 upsets with an average of just over 12 upsets per tournament. There have been as few as four upsets (2007) and as many as 19 (2014) in recent memory but it would make sense to pick at least five, and probably 10 upsets to have a chance to win.
Here are five upsets we really like in the first round to get you started:
No. 10 Texas over No. 7 Nevada
Texas has one of the best players in college basketball in Mohamed Bamba. Bamba averages a double-double and blocks almost four shots per game. They are battle tested in the Big 12 and are one of the best defenses in the country. Nevada, meanwhile, has lost in the only top-25 battle they’ve had this year playing in the mid-major Mountain West. Texas has faced a ranked opponent 12 times (5-7).
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago over No. 6 Miami
Do you know what the MVC is? We had to look it up too — it’s the Missouri Valley Conference and it has had historical success in the NCAA Tournament. Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Creighton each had a reign of terror in the conference making deep runs, and this year’s Loyola-Chicago squad, making its first appearance in 33 years, could carry the torch. Miami got decimated by UNC in the ACC Tournament and isn’t playing its best basketball. This is upset city.
No. 12 Davidson over No. 5 Kentucky
Davidson is always a March Madness darling and gets to start its run against the Wildcats on a (relatively) down season. Kentucky turns the ball over and is not a very good rebounding team. Davidson made an exciting run through the A-10 Tournament, ultimately upsetting top-seeded Rhose Island for the conference crown (taking away an at large bid from Notre Dame in the process).
No. 13 College of Charleston over No. 4 Auburn
Charleston is good, not great, from top to bottom. But they are an excellent three-point shooting team. They play at a slow pace on offense and shoot better than 40 percent from long range. All of this means they are a variable team. If they can hit their shot and control the pace of the game, an upset is very possible. They’ll have a tough test, however, against one of the best Auburn teams since the Charles Barkley days.
No. 16 Pennsylvania over No. 1 Kansas
We would like to offer this upset pick with a warning: It will probably, definitely, absolutely not happen. But it could. UPenn is one of the best 16-seeds we’ve ever had, going against one of the weaker No. 1 seeds. Of course, it’s still Kansas and an Ivy League team that is far from big conference tested. Penn made short work of the Ivy before pulling off a comeback win against Harvard to win a title. Every single thing would have to go right for this to be the first ever No. 16-seed upset. The Quakers could keep it close, and if you want to be ballsy, they are a fun pick.