Selection Sunday has concluded, the bracket is set, and college basketball fans are ready to rock. Following a one-year absence, the NCAA Tournament is back and kicks off on Thursday with the First Four play-in matchups.
With chaos usually taking center stage early on in the NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look at the board and dial in on three potential March Madness first round upsets.
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NCAA Tournament Upset Picks
Upsets occur in the first round every single year. Lower-seeded teams often find success early on. For instance, No 13 seeds have won at least one game in 7 of the last 10 tournaments. Heck, even UMBC knocked off Virginia three years ago to become the first No. 16 seed to ever advance to the second round. Will we see something like that this time around?
Let’s dive into our three main upset sleeper picks for the upcoming first round.
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East Region: No. 12 Georgetown over No. 5 Colorado
The Hoyas are hot, having just blown through the Big East tournament. They’ve now advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
They’ll match up with Colorado, who came up short in the Pac-12 title game at the hands of No. 12-seed Oregon State.
It’s tough to overlook Georgetown’s recent success — the Hoyas just demolished No. 5 Creighton in the Big East Championship by a whopping 25 points. And statistically speaking, No. 12 seeds have great success in the first round.
There have actually been just five NCAA Tournaments in which no No. 12 seeds advanced to the round of 32 (No. 12 seeds are 50-90 all-time in the first round).
Momentum is key in this event, and Georgetown certainly possesses that at the moment. And with +180 odds to win outright at DraftKings Sportsbook? This pick has significant value and is one to dial in on this Saturday afternoon.
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Midwest Region: No. 11 Syracuse over No. 6 San Diego State
This Syracuse team is obviously well-coached under Jim Boeheim. Despite its lower-than-usual seeding, the Orange remain dangerous, particularly with how Buddy Boeheim is playing down the stretch.
Syracuse notched a pair of late regular-season wins over UNC and Clemson (both in-conference teams who are in the Big Dance) and lost by just three (courtesy of a buzzer-beater) in the ACC Tournament to Virginia, who’s a No. 4 seed in the West region.
Simply speaking, this Syracuse team can compete, and it also possesses formidable talent. Boeheim (17.1 points per game) and forward Quincy Guerrier (8.8 rebounds per game) provide a nice interior and perimeter blend for the Orange.
San Diego State is coming off a conference title but in not as prestigious of a conference in the Mountain West. The Aztecs losing a pair of games this season to Utah State (a No. 11 seed) and a matchup to Colorado State (a non-NCAA Tournament team) isn’t the best look either.
The concern here is that San Diego State, after finally beating Utah State, could come into this one a bit flat.
Expect it to be a close game the entire 40 minutes, and we think the Orange should find a way to advance.
No. 9 Georgia Tech (+128) over No. 8 Loyola Chicago
I love to see a team like Loyola-Chicago make the tournament and find success, but to be honest, it’s unclear if it can compete with any of the big-time Division I schools. Throughout the season, the most notable program it faced was Wisconsin — the Ramblers lost by 14 in that December matchup.
Loyola doesn’t face a great level of competition, which is why it may be stunned by Georgia Tech, a No. 9-seed who recorded the fourth-best winning percentage in the ACC (a better league than the mostly-weak Missouri Valley Conference).
We talk all the time about teams peaking ahead of the tournament, but for some reason, nobody is saying that with the Yellow Jackets.
They come in ona roll and have won eight consecutive games, including a win over No. 4 seed Florida State in the ACC Tournament Championship Game. That win streak also includes a 16-point victory over Virginia Tech (No. 10-seed in the South) and a seven-point victory over Syracuse (No. 11-seed in the Midwest).
Both teams carry momentum right now, but Georgia Tech’s wins have come against consistently superior competition, which is why I’m going with the Yellow Jackets at +128 in this first-round game.
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