Upsets define the NCAA tournament.
Without them, it the next two weekends would probably be cool but not nearly as memorable.
Picking the right upsets — and avoiding the wrong ones — is a key to winning bracket pools, too.
That’s a shame because those are the hardest things to do.
Well, I can’t tell you which upsets to pick, but here are 10 matchups that caught my eye for one reason or another.
They are rated by likelihood with “1” meaning we don’t think it will happen, but it’s not out of the question and “5” meaning put it down in ink.
Davidson vs. Kentucky
John Calipari’s Wildcats are talented, as always. They also seem to be heating up at the right time, having won seven of their last eight games and the SEC tournament.
Davidson has won eight of nine, including two wins over Rhode Island, one of which got them into the Big Dance.
The 12th seed has a star senior forward in Peyton Aldridge and a star freshman guard in Kellan Grady.
They can really score but have a hard time defending while Kentucky is in KenPom’s top 25 in both.
Murray State vs. West Virginia
The Mountaineers come from perhaps the toughest league in the country, and they play a unique style that can be hard to prepare for.
They endured a cold stretch in the middle of the season but finished with a strong showing at the Big 12 tournament.
The Racers handle the ball well, but it’s tough to go against the experience of the Mountaineers — especially if big man Sagaba Konate avoids foul trouble and is able to patrol the paint.
Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin
The Red Raiders are one of the nation’s elite defenses, and they play at a pretty slow pace.
The Lumberjacks are also a defense-first team, but they want to play fast.
Which style will win out?
Montana vs. Michigan
The Grizzlies are good, and they have plenty of size to match up with a power-conference team.
Michigan was hot when last we saw them… but that was more than a week ago. Have they been resting or rusting?
Three-point defense is a big concern for Montana.
Marshall vs. Wichita State
The Thundering Herd are one of the feel-good stories of the tournament thanks to quirky coach Dan D’Antoni.
Wichita State has an elite offense but is just ordinary on defense.
Styles make fights, but I tend to like WSU’s experience edge here.
South Dakota State vs. Ohio State
This game immediately caught my eye because the power-conference team will be at a big NCAA tournament experience disadvantage.
These are two defense-first teams that revolve around a future NBA player.
Which one will be better Thursday, SDSU’s Mike Daum or Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop?
The Buckeyes should benefit from some time off, but how long will it take them to get into a rhythm offensively?
St. Bonaventure or UCLA (First Four) vs. Florida
Florida has some familiar names, and the Gators rank in the top 40 in offense and defense at KenPom.com.
The Bonnies and the Bruins are both offense-first teams who will have a chance to get into a groove with a First Four game.
Someone inevitably parlays a win in Dayton to one in the round of 64, too.
Loyola-Illinois vs. Miami (Fla.)
The balanced Hurricanes will be without one of their key players, injured guard Bruce Brown, and they only rank six spots ahead of the Ramblers in KenPom.com rankings anyway despite being seeded five spots higher.
Loyola has the No. 24 defense in the country and a solid offensive rating, too.
Wright State vs. Tennessee
The biggest challenge for the Raiders will be scoring enough points. They have the defense to keep it close and a big lineup for a small-conference team, so they don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed from that standpoint.
The Volunteers have four players who average at least nine points per game and can shoot the three. They foul a lot, though, and aren’t a great rebounding team.
Clemson vs. New Mexico State
The Aggies are no average mid-major. They are in the tournament for the fifth straight year, and they rank 14th in the country in defensive efficiency.
They also have a point guard from Dayton — Dunbar’s A.J. Harris — so we’re extra interested in this game.
Clemson is tough defensively, too, but the Tigers have lost five of their last eight games and will be missing No. 2 scorer Donte Grantham, who is out for the year with a knee injury.
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