Every season several underdogs pull off the upsets that bust NCAA tournament brackets all across the country.
Some of these teams will rely on a mismatch that should prove too much to overcome for its opponents; some will rely on the hot hand of its leading scorer.
Either way, these teams will put a damper on the hopes of some top-seeded teams.
But before we get into three potential upset picks, let’s take a look at the bracket.
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Midwest: No. 12 North Carolina State (22-13) Over No. 5 Saint Louis (26-6)
When: Thursday, 7:20 p.m. ET on TNT
The Wolfpack showed it was deserving of an NCAA berth by tossing aside Xavier, 74-59, in its First Four matchup Tuesday night.
ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren continued his hot streak, pouring in 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Guard Ralston Turner chipped in as well, breaking out for 17 points.
With the win, North Carolina State has now won five of its last six games. That includes a victory over then-No. 11 Syracuse, 66-63, in the ACC tournament last week.
Conversely, the Billikens have lost four of their last five games, including a stinker to lowly Duquesne (13-17).
But if the momentum isn’t enough to carry the Wolfpack over Saint Louis, ESPN Stats & Info adds that history may be on their side:
NC State beats Xavier, will play Saint Louis in 12-5 NCAA matchup ... No. 12 seeds are 5-3 vs 5 seeds in last 2 seasons— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 19, 2014
Although the Billikens have solid defense—No. 18 in the nation in points allowed (61.2 PPG)—nobody has been able to stop Warren. The sophomore forward has scored at least 20 points in 18 straight games while averaging 29.7 points over the last nine games.
Warren could make all the difference on Thursday.
West: No. 13 New Mexico State (26-9) Over No. 6 San Diego State (29-4)
When: Thursday, 9:57 p.m. ET on TruTV
The Aggies have ridden a fine-tuned offense to nine wins in their last 10 tries, including the WAC tournament crown. Thus far, the team ranks No. 39 in scoring (77.2 PPG) and No. 9 in field-goal percentage (49.1).
But New Mexico State’s size could give it the edge against the Aztecs.
The Aggies have three players that boast a height advantage in forward Renaldo Dixon (6’9”), center Tshilidzi Nephawe (6’10”) and center Sim Bhullar (7’5”). Two of those players—Nephawe and Bhullar—also happen to be in the team’s starting lineup.
Bhullar is a player San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher will especially be concerned about.
“I think they said (Bhullar) is the biggest player in college basketball,” he told the media, per Goaztecs.com. “He’s a force. He’s a hard guy to maneuver around and they throw it to him early and often in that low post …He will present a challenge for us, no question.”
Along with Bhullar (10.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.4 BPG), Nephawe (11.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG) has also been productive this season and could create nightmares for the Aztecs down low. After all, this is the same San Diego State team that struggled against the size of New Mexico this season, losing two of the three meetings.
If New Mexico can continue to shoot consistently and impose its height down low, an upset could be in the making.
Midwest: No. 11 Iowa (20-12)/No. 11 Tennessee (21-12) over No. 6 Massachusetts (24-8)
When: Friday, 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS
Whoever wins between the Hawkeyes and Vols during Wednesday’s First Four matchup will have the advantage over the Minutemen on Friday.
Although the team’s season on the whole has been pretty impressive, UMass didn’t help itself with its final stretch of the regular season. After starting 16-1, the team stumbled to an 8-7 mark the rest of the way, including an early exit in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Meanwhile, both Iowa and Tennessee have been battle tested throughout the year and simply have too much talent on the roster.
There’s no doubt the Minutemen’s 2013-14 campaign is a remarkable story for the program, but that’s all it will be.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and other information are courtesy of ESPN.com.