There are certain inalienable truths when it comes to the NCAA tournament: There will be upsets, one of them will be in a 5-12 matchup and at least one Cinderella team will emerge and ruin everyone's bracket.
Thus, everyone likes to peer into the crystal ball and predict which team will don the glass slipper. And that means every year, a few trendy upsets emerge and find their way onto way too many brackets. Sometimes those upsets hit, sure, but just as often going against the favorite is the wrong move.
So I'm here to steer you clear of three trendy picks that will muck up your bracket right off the bat. You'll hear more than a few folks taking the lower-seeded teams below, but I suggest you avoid them.
Let me explain why.
Midwest: No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon
A lot of people really love the Ducks in this game, and it makes sense. Oregon was dramatically under-seeded, has quality wins over UNLV, Arizona and UCLA and plays very solid defense, as KenPom.com has them ranked as 16th in defensive efficiency.
But Oregon doesn't shoot well from the perimeter (31.3 percent from beyond the arc, 280th in the nation) and turns the ball over way too often to love them as an upset pick in this game. This is not a team that will simply shoot Oklahoma State out of the gym.
Meanwhile, Marcus Smart (15.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.2 PPG) is an absolute beast despite only being a freshman, and the Cowboys have a better defensive efficiency (ninth according to KenPom) and offensive efficiency than Oregon.
I'm not sure Oregon can contain Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash, and I don't think Oregon's pressure defense will affect Smart in the least. Plus, Oklahoma State is talented enough in the post to make Oregon shoot jumpers, a surefire way to slow down the Ducks offensively.
Remember, Oklahoma State beat Kansas in Lawrence this season—this is a very good Cowboys team. Oregon may be getting a lot of love as a 12-seed and sympathy for being under-seeded, but this simply isn't a great matchup for the Ducks.
West: No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss
So have you heard of that Marshall Henderson guy? You know, the one that has become as well-known for his game (he's averaging 20.1 points per game this year and carried Ole Miss to a SEC tournament championship, averaging 23.6 points) as for his brash antics?
Well, he alone is making Ole Miss a trendy pick to upset Wisconsin. Don't buy the hype.
If you take away Henderson, Ole Miss becomes pretty stagnant on offense. That's easier said than done, of course—Henderson is hardly shy about launching shots from anywhere on the court—but the Rebels are probably too much of a one-man show to beat the Badgers.
Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the country (third in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom) and one of the most disciplined, as well. They grind out possessions, limit turnovers, control the game's tempo and try to turn each contest into a slow and physical defensive struggle.
Remember, this is a team that beat Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State this season—Wisconsin can beat anyone.
Henderson could go crazy and shoot Ole Miss past Wisconsin in a close game. He could also end up frustrated by the Badgers' suffocating defense and shoot Ole Miss right out of the tournament.
I'm betting on the latter.
South: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
I know the knocks against Michigan. They don't play great defense. They aren't a great rebounding squad, either. They are very young and inexperienced. They hardly finished the season with a bang, going 6-6 down the stretch.
But Michigan is also really, really talented. Trey Burke (19.2 PPG, 6.1 APG) might be the best player in the country. Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas also average double-digit points per game. The Wolverines have the nation's top offensive efficiency and turnover percentage, according to KenPom.
If guard play is vital in the NCAA tournament, Michigan has more than enough talented options at the position to go around. If Michigan plays up to its immense potential, it will steamroll South Dakota State.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits are no slouches on the offensive side of the ball (47 percent from the field, 25th in the nation) and can be deadly from beyond the arc (39.1 percent from three, 12th in the nation), and guard Nate Wolters (22.7 PPG, 5.8 APG) is the sort of player that can lead a team on a Cinderella run.
Make no mistake about it—if the shots aren't falling for Michigan, South Dakota State is capable of simply outgunning the Wolverines. But on sheer talent alone, I don't think Michigan loses this game. Burke alone is good for at least one win in this tournament.
I understand the temptation to roll with South Dakota State. Ignore it.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are busting brackets and beating the buzzer all week long.