NCAA Tournament Bracket 2018: Predictions for Biggest Upsets of 1st Round

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 14, 2018

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13: Matt Mobley #2 of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies celebrates after his team defeated the UCLA Bruins in the First Four game in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 13, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. The St. Bonaventure Bonnies defeated the UCLA Bruins 65-58.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Predicting upsets in the NCAA men's basketball tournament round of 64 is a tradition fans love to participate in.

However, picking the teams who will earn victories in the first round is an inexact science, as any program seeded lower than No. 10 has a chance to win, except for most No. 16 seeds.

A season ago, five double-digit seeds won in the first round, with at least one upset occurring in each of the four regions.

Before play begins Thursday, analysts and fans will try to find the perfect recipe for an upset, but as we've learned in the past, the programs who pull off surprise victories are the ones we sometimes don't pay any attention to between Selection Sunday and the start of the round of 64.

      

1st-Round Upset Predictions

No. 13 Charleston over No. 4 Auburn

Both Midwest region games being played in San Diego on Friday contain the potential for upsets.

While No. 12 New Mexico State beating No. 5 Clemson is becoming a popular pick, No. 13 Charleston deserves attention as well for its clash with No. 4 Auburn.

The Colonial Athletic Association tournament champion enters March Madness as one of the hottest teams, with victories in 14 of its last 15 games.

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Grant Riller #1 of the College of Charleston Cougars puts up a shot against forward Shaquille Morris #24 of the Wichita State Shockers during the second half on November 13, 2017 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The only contest the Cougars lost since January 18 came in overtime against William and Mary on February 24.

Charleston isn't exactly battle-tested on a national level, since its best nonconference wins came against Siena and Charlotte.

However, the Cougars are in good position to pull off an upset because of their recent form, three scorers who average 17 points per game or more and Auburn's struggles to end SEC play.

Grant Riller, Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley form a dangerous trio Auburn might not be able to stop, and not only can the three Charleston players score, they contribute in other areas of the court, as Brantley is the team's top rebounder, while Chealey leads in assists and Riller tops the Cougars in steals.

Auburn was a popular pick to do damage in the Big Dance entering February, but it stumbled down the stretch with five losses since February 7, including a quarterfinal exit in the SEC tournament at the hands of Alabama.

With two wins since February 17, the fourth-seeded Tigers don't exactly inspire confidence, which is why the Cougars should be on your radar more than other potential Cinderella teams.

     

No. 13 Marshall over No. 4 Wichita State

No. 13 Marshall ended a 31-year NCAA tournament drought with a remarkable run through the Conference USA tournament that included a one-point win over Western Kentucky in the final.

Although Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, two teams that could've caused trouble if they were in the Big Dance, aren't representing C-USA, Marshall has an opportunity to shock us all in its round-of-64 matchup with No. 4 Wichita State.

Jon Elmore, who averages 22.8 points, 6.9 assists and six rebounds per game, is one of the reasons why the Thundering Herd can pull off the upset.

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 19: Jon Elmore #33 of the Marshall Thundering Herd celebrates with teammates after a basket against the Xavier Musketeers in the first half of a game at Cintas Center on December 19, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Xavier won 81-77. (P
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Containing Elmore isn't the only thing the Shockers defense must do in order to avoid an upset, as C.J. Burks and Ajdin Penava possess threats of their own.

Penava is a nice complement to Elmore on the boards, as he averages 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest, while Burks serves as Marshall's top distributor at 3.1 assists per game.

In order for Marshall to set up a potential rivalry clash with No. 5 West Virginia in the round of 32, Elmore and Penava must clean up on the boards against a Wichita State team that ranks ninth in the nation in rebounding.

Marshall has the capability to close out games at the free-throw line, as it ranks 24th in the nation with a 76.7 free-throw percentage. The Thundering Herd sit sixth in that category among the 68 NCAA tournament teams.

     

No. 11 St. Bonaventure over No. 6 Florida

Since the First Four came into existence in 2011, at least one team that earned a victory in Dayton, Ohio, went on to win another game in the round of 64. 

No. 11 St. Bonaventure should be that team this season, as it comes into Thursday with momentum from a second-half surge that led it past No. 11 UCLA Tuesday.

The Bonnies scored 12 points in a row in the second half, even with star guard Jaylen Adams struggling to make a shot, in order to earn the matchup with No. 6 Florida.

Adams made a few big shots down the stretch to clinch the victory, but other than that, he was ineffective as Courtney Stockard took control of the offense to score 26 points.

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13:  Courtney Stockard #11 of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies celebrates the basket against the UCLA Bruins during the second half of the First Four game in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 13, 2018 in Dayton,
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The main reason why the Bonnies were able to stay in the game despite Adams and Matt Mobley shooting a combined 6-of-28 from the field was the 20 turnovers they forced.

If the Bonnies bring the same tenacious defensive attitude to the court against Florida, and Adams and Mobley improve their shooting, they could be in line for a trip to the round of 32.

Shutting down Florida's Chris Chiozza should be a primary part of St. Bonaventure's defensive game plan, but as we saw Tuesday, it is capable of frustrating a talented backcourt distributor, as it forced UCLA's Aaron Holiday into 10 turnovers.

While timing has been an issue in the past for teams traveling out of Dayton, it shouldn't be a concern for the Bonnies since their scheduled tip time is 9:57 p.m. ET.

     

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com and NCAA.com.

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