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NCAA Brackets 2018: Upset Picks for Each Region

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 03: Head coach Kevin Willard of the Seton Hall Pirates his his senior players Desi Rodriguez #20, Khadeen Carrington #0 and Angel Delgado #31 after playing in their final home game of their career against the Butler Bulldogs at Prudential Center on March 3, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. Seton Hall defeated Butler 77-70. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Unforeseen upsets put the madness in March. It's one of the most exhilarating occurrences to see in sports—a program that barely earns a tournament bid and knocks off a favorite. It's the classic David vs. Goliath storyline. Will the 2018 men's college basketball field produce another compelling Cinderella story?

For some bracketologists, it's all fun and games. You may feel lucky and choose a No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed for the first time. For those who don't know, LIU-Brooklyn guard Joel Hernandez finished 34 contests with double-digit scores during the year. Check him out against Radford in a First Four matchup Tuesday.

Realistically, No. 16 seeds will continue to go winless in the tournament through 2018. However, small tidbits like the one above should encourage bracket enthusiasts to think outside the box a little. Don't forget No. 7 South Carolina's trip to the Final Four last year or No. 10 Syracuse before them. 

Which program has the personnel to venture further than our wildest imagination? Let's take a look at potential upset picks that rank No. 5 or lower in each region.

             

South Region: No. 5 Kentucky 

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

This one counts as a no-brainer choice when it comes to No. 5 seeds and lower. It's rare anyone would consider Kentucky an upset pick, but the Wildcats lost eight conference games for the first time since the 2008-09 term. It's worth noting competition in the SEC vastly improved with the second-most programs in the Big Dance among the conferences:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Teams by Conference 9 - ACC 8 - SEC 7 - Big 12 6 - Big East 4 - Big Ten 3 - American 3 - Atlantic 10 3 - Pac-12 2 - Mountain West #SelectionSunday

After a strong start, Kentucky lost four consecutive games within the conference late in the season but managed to win the SEC title over Tennessee Sunday. Shortly before tournament play, the Wildcats started to click, but it's hard to guess which team shows up on game day.

Nonetheless, we do know head coach John Calipari has a knack for developing a roster of young talents. Despite going through a season that fell below the program's standards, it's still a dangerous group led by freshmen Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

             

West Region: No. 5 Ohio State

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 02: Keita Bates-Diop #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes handles the ball on offense against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 2, 2018 in New York C
Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Look no further than Ohio State's victories over Michigan State, who led the country's rankings at the time, and Purdue on the road.

The Buckeyes have a dominant player in junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who scores on the inside and from the perimeter, rebounds and takes pride in swatting shots. C.J. Jackson must find ways to consistently contribute on the offensive end, and Jae'Sean Tate's help on the boards could easily push this program toward the Final Four.

Despite losing in the first round of the Big Ten tournament to Penn State on a buzz-beater, head coach Chris Holtmann's group could pull off multiple shockers en route to San Antonio, Texas. 

Assuming Ohio State beats South Dakota State Thursday, there's an opportunity to put the country on notice with a win over Gonzaga if they take care of business against UNC-Greensboro.

                 

East Region: No. 6 Florida

KNOXVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 21: Chris Chiozza #11 and Egor Koulechov #4 of the Florida Gators look on during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena on February 21, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won 62-57. (Photo by Joe Rob
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A strong backcourt alone garners attention, especially when there's strong chemistry between the talents. Four Florida guards average double figures in points per game.

Chris Chiozza sets the proverbial table for the offense. Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov shoot 40 percent from three-point territory. When the Gators move the ball to find cracks in the defense, it's tough to defend. 

With a guard-dominant team featuring players 6'5" or shorter, it's fair to question the potential difficulties in rebounding and defending an offense that flows through a big body. 

Koulechov led the team in boards with 6.5 per contest, but the Gators will need to see more from Kevarrius Hayes, who serves as their best rim protector. 

In the East Region, Florida could face off against Purdue with 7-footers Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms attacking the lane. On the other hand, two Florida guards on a hot streak could take down a tough opponent.

                

Midwest Region: No. 8 Seton Hall

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 03: Angel Delgado #31 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates after a dunk against the Butler Bulldogs during the second half of a game at Prudential Center on March 3, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. Seton Hall defeated Butler 77-70. (Photo b
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

When considering Seton Hall's senior leadership, analysts expected the Pirates to finish with a record better than 21-11.

In consecutive seasons, Angel Delgado averaged a double-double. As the primary ball-handler, Khadeen Carrington knows how to set up the offense and find finishers. Myles Powell, the sophomore sharpshooter, adds a soft touch to the starting five.

What's not to like about Seton Hall? Their resume doesn't illustrate the full potential of the talent on the court. If the group hasn't clicked over the course of the season, it's reasonable to question why now? 

Head coach Kevin Willard's squad faces some urgency. On paper, the talent should propel them to a first-round victory. Perhaps, it's a win that instills confidence in a team that needs a spark. 

The Pirates find themselves in a loaded region with Kansas, Duke and Michigan State, but the roster possesses enough experience and skill to compete with the top seeds.

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