NCAA Tournament predictions: Four smartest first-round upset picks of March Madness

Winning your NCAA Tournament bracket pool can be contingent on making smart picks. But the smartest picks aren't just making a No. 1 seed your national champion — you know, since everyone is probably picking Gonzaga or Baylor or Illinois (sorry, Michigan).

The first round is where all the decisive picks can separate your bracket from the pack, and the best way to win the first round is by selecting the right upsets and being a little gutsy. Every year, there's a handful of them that nobody saw coming (ahem, No. 16 seed UMBC over No. 1 Virginia last year). But then there are the ones where you can essentially see the writing on the wall. 

CAPSULES FOR EVERY TEAM:   East  |  Midwest  |  South  |  West

DON'T COUNT ON US: These teams have been ranked all season. But don't rely on them in March.

MORE UPSET PICKS: Full list of first-round upsets from our experts

MASTER MARCH: Get the bracket help you need. Sign up for our daily newsletter here and we'll deliver!

Here's a look at the four best bets for bracket-busting by double-digit seeds:

No. 12 Winthrop over No. 5 Villanova

The No. 12 seed-over-No. 5 seed is the most predictable upset – there have been 50 upsets by No. 12 seeds since 1985 with 36% odds – and it's even more the case in this particular matchup in the South Region. That's because the Wildcats (16-6) are extremely susceptible after losing top player Collin Gillespie, the Big East co-player of the year, this March. Coach Jay Wright's team has a scattered identity at the worst possible time, and it showed in a Big East Tournament upset to Georgetown. But this is also the perfect storm because Winthrop has Cinderella written all over it as a No. 12. The Eagles (23-1) only lost once this year while dominating the Big South Conference. Led by 6-7 senior guard Chandler Vaudrin (12.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.9 apg, 1.3 spg) this team has the key ingredients for a mid-major bracket-buster.  

No. 11 Michigan State over UCLA, then No. 6 Brigham Young

Consider the fact that the Spartans (15-12, 9-11 Big Ten)  beat No. 1 seeds Illinois and Michigan in the last three weeks, and that's evidence of how good coach Tom Izzo's squad can be when it plays up to its potential. While there's a reason Michigan State was on the bubble and facing UCLA in a play-in game, these matchups favor the Spartans. Michigan State is playing better than a UCLA team that's lost its last four and trending backwards in March. Against BYU, the second-place finisher to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, MSU can rely on its athleticism to throw the Cougars (20-6) out of their offensive rhythm. The Big Ten Conference was the best in the country, based on NET rankings, and the West Coast was the eighth best. That will show.  

SportsPulse: It's time to fill out your bracket and our college basketball guru Scott Gleeson is here to provide you four potential Cinderellas that will either bust your bracket or help you rise above the rest.


No. 12 UC-Santa Barbara over No. 5 Creighton 

The Big West champion Gauchos (22-4) are the real deal as a giant killer candidate. Coach Joe Pasternack has this team playing great defense, ranking 19th nationally in points allowed to opponents. They also shoot at a high rate, ranking 20th nationally at 49% field goal percentage. Senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin (16.2 ppg, 41% three-point shooting) paces a balanced offense. UCSB faces a Creighton team that was a preseason top 10 team but isn't exactly thriving as a No. 5 seed. The Bluejays (20-8) lost by 25 points in the Big East Tournament final to Georgetown and recently dealt with in-house adversity, as coach Greg McDermott was suspended one game for a racially insensitive speech that prompted team members to speak out against him. 

Source: Read Full Article