When you talk about march madness with people, more specifically the first round of the tournament, they want to know one thing: Where are the upsets going to be?
Filling out brackets and gambling on the NCAA men's tournament is an age-old tradition. The tournament never goes as planned. In fact, the very reason people love march madness so much has to do with teams pulling big upsets and Cinderella teams making it deep into the tournament, a la George Mason.
When talking about upsets in the tournament I don't mean your average No. 9 seed defeating an 8 seed or a 10 seed defeating a 7. For it to be considered an upset, it needs to be at least an 11 seed winning. Here are my three likeliest upsets to look out for in the first round of the tournament.
No. 11 Utah State over No. 6 Marquette
Don't get me wrong, Marquette had a great season in the toughest conference in America, the Big East. Going 12-6 in that conference is nothing to scoff at.
They will be, however, without one of their best players, Dominic James, who sets up Marquette's offense and is their leading assist man. Marquette has only posted a record of 1-5 without James in the lineup which should cause considerable concern for Marquette fans.
Meanwhile, Utah State comes into this game as the unheralded 11 seed having posted a 30-4 record out of the WAC Conference. Utah State is led by versatile forward Gary Wilkinson and should present problems for the guard oriented Marquette Golden Eagles. Don't be surprised to see an upset in this one.
No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth over No. 6 UCLA
This will be a match up of two tremendous point guards with Commonwealth's Eric Maynor going toe-to-toe with UCLA's Darren Collison. UCLA had another solid year in the PAC 10 going 13-5 and 25-8 overall but the PAC 10 had a down year this year compared to previous years.
UCLA also lost significant players from last year's team that made the Final Four including Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook; two NBA lottery picks, and has certainly not looked like the dominant team they have been for the past few years. Virginia Commonwealth, meanwhile, has experience in the tournament and more specifically experience pulling off an upset as they defeated the Duke Blue Devils in the '07 NCAA tournament.
Virginia Commonwealth star Eric Maynor, who is a Senior now, put on a show in that game against Duke and has experience playing in the NCAA tournament. The bright lights of the tournament should not phase Eric Maynor, nor should it phase this solid Virginia Commonwealth team.
No. 14 North Dakota State over No. 3 Kansas
Kansas has a very young team losing four starters off last year's National Champion squad. They also played in a very down Big 12 this year sans Oklahoma. North Dakota State on the other hand is a senior-laden team that features an array of offensive weapons.
They can score in bunches and are an excellent three-point shooting team. North Dakota State may have enough fire power to dethrone defending champions Kansas before they even get their feet wet in the tournament.
Of course all of these upset predictions will probably end up being terribly wrong and I will look like a fool. But hey, isn't that why we love march madness? The unpredictability of it is what makes it the single greatest sports spectacle going right now.
So pick these upsets in your bracket, enjoy march madness, and get mad at me when none of these upsets come to fruition.