NCAA Brackets 2014: Popular Upset Picks You Shouldn't Fall for

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NCAA Brackets 2014: Popular Upset Picks You Shouldn't Fall for
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You've already been inundated with potential upset picks at this year's NCAA tournament, and by Thursday, you'll be completely immersed in them. 

But just because a matchup has become a popular upset pick doesn't mean you need to fall for it. Consider the most popular upset picks on ESPN.com brackets, passed along by Matthew Berry of ESPN:

Using those numbers, I'll break down the upsets I think you should avoid (it's important to note that while a No. 9 beating a No. 8 is technically an upset, I don't consider them to be as such, as those games are generally between extremely even teams).

 

All Your Bracket Essentials:

Bleacher Report

 

West Region: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State

People will like North Dakota State because they have the nation's 20th-most efficient offense, according to kenpom.com, and because Oklahoma doesn't play very good defense.

The problem with that line of thinking, of course, is that the Sooners have the nation's 13th-most efficient offense and also finished higher on the defensive efficiency rankings.

North Dakota State is good enough to beat the Sooners. They shoot 50.9 percent from the field—tops in the nation—and they'll crash the boards hard against the Sooners.

But Buddy Hield (16.8 PPG), Cameron Clark (15.3 PPG) and the high-flying Sooners can flat-out score with the rock, and have impressive wins this year over Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State (twice).

The key to an Oklahoma victory will be shutting down NDSU senior Taylor Braun. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports breaks down the Bison star:

 

 I know this next sentence is going to feel like it could apply to about 30 guys, but judging this team off the game I watched Tuesday night—and what little I've seen of Braun in online Synergy video—he seems like arguably the most valuable player to his team in the country. Maybe Shabazz Napier or Russ Smith comes close.

But the senior forward (18.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.9 APG) ranks in the top percentile in 14 KenPom.com categories. And he's a joy to watch. He committed back when NDSU made its first run to the NCAAs, and now he and his fellow seniors finally get to live out that dream. That's pretty sweet.

Win or lose, I hope the guy goes for 20/8/5 in the Round of 64. He's an efficient scorer that takes smart shots, doesn't give away the ball often and makes opportunities for himself and his team often on defense—both near and away from the rim.

If Oklahoma slows him down, they win. Even if they don't, they have the offensive firepower to get past the Bison. Expect this to be one of the most exciting round of 64 matches you'll see.

 

East Region: No. 5 Cincinnati vs. No. 12 Harvard

Cincinnati has the ninth-most efficient defense in the land, according to kenpom.com. They are really strong in the interior. They contest shots and force turnovers on the perimeter. They don't win pretty, but they normally win.

Yes, they'll need someone other than Sean Kilpatrick to step up and take some of the offensive burden off of his shoulders. And yes, they'll still need Kilpatrick to have a big night. But I just think Cincy's physicality will lead to them pushing Harvard around a bit.

Harvard is legit, though, and is not only very balanced on offense (five players average double-digit points) but also plays solid defense. It's a huge challenge—one that head coach Mick Cronin knows the Bearcats won't overcome by straying from their strengths, as he told Bill Koch of Cincinnati.com:

We have to be smart enough to know what our formula of success is. Our defense is going to have be dominant. Our mistakes are going to have to be few because Harvard is really good. When you're a top five defense in the country, you'd better be in the tournament or you're not going to advance because our offense is not going to be a top five offense all of a sudden.

 There is something to be said for a team that knows its identity and doesn't stray from it. If Cincy doesn't forget what got them to the tournament, they'll survive a stiff test from a dangerous Crimson team.

 

The Others

Beyond that, I generally agree with the popular upset picks. Saint Louis comes into the tournament having lost three of four, while UMass is the most over-seeded team in the entire field.

I have Stephen F. Austin going to the Sweet 16—call me a sucker for a Cinderella pick that comes into the tournament on the heels of 28 straight wins—while just 10 percent of the population picked New Mexico State over San Diego State, which doesn't exactly make for a popular upset pick.

You'd be wise to stick with San Diego State, which boasts one of the better defenses in the country.

 

Hey you crazy bracketeers, follow me on Twitter @TRappaRT. We can tear apart our brackets in anger together.

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