NCAA Tournament 2019: Early Upset Picks for March Madness Bracket

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2019

Northeastern's Vasa Pusica has an excellent chance to lead the Huskies to a first-round upset over Kansas.
Northeastern's Vasa Pusica has an excellent chance to lead the Huskies to a first-round upset over Kansas.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The most memorable moments of the NCAA Tournament usually come from sensational buzzer-beating shots delivering unbelievable upsets.

In most cases, a lower seed beating a higher seed is viewed as an upset, but in the following picks for potential bracket busters in the opening round, the lower-seeded team had to be a point-spread underdog.


Northeastern (13) over Kansas (4)

The Northeastern Huskies come into the tournament having won seven games in a row and are the Colonial Athletic Association postseason tournament champions.

The winning streak is no fluke, because Northeastern closed the year with 12 wins in its last 13 games, and the team has been playing excellent basketball for more than a month.

The Huskies have four upperclassmen who are averaging in double figures, so they share the basketball well and believe in themselves.

Head coach Bill Coen has a versatile lineup that includes high-scoring guard Vasa Pusica, who is averaging 17.8 points and 4.2 assists per game. The Serb is going to take the ball in most key situations, and he can handle it well when running the break.

He'll take the ball to the hole, then look for his own shot or find an open teammate. He rarely makes the wrong decision, and that's what makes him so difficult to guard. 

The Huskies shoot the ball well, and three of their top four scorers shoot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc.

This is not the Kansas fans are used to seeing. The team did not win the Big 12 regular-season or conference tournament title, and head coach Bill Self just does not have the talent level that fans are used to watching. 

The Jayhawks lost in the Big 12 title game to Iowa State, and they were just 5-3 in their last eight games as they come into the tournament.  

Kansas has a go-to scorer in forward Dedric Lawson, who is averaging 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. However, if the Huskies can slow him down, the Jayhawks are going to have a hard time finding enough scoring.

Northeastern has lengthy defenders who are capable of doing just that, even as an eight-point underdog, per OddsShark

Kansas is missing center Udoka Azubuike (torn hand ligaments), Silvio De Sousa (ineligible) and Lagerald Vick (leave of absence), and that's too much of an obstacle to overcome. This team has not been able to come through in its biggest games, so it can't have the real confidence needed to survive and advance.

Northeastern sends the Jayhawks home.


Murray State (12) over Marquette (5)

The Murray State Racers feature Ja Morant, who is one of the top players in the country and is likely to be a top-five pick in the NBA Draft.

They romped to a 77-65 victory over Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title game, and they have won 11 games in a row coming into the NCAA Tournament. 

Morant is averaging 24.6 points and 10.0 assists per game, and he can simply take over at any time he chooses. He also has three other teammates who are averaging in double figures, so the Golden Eagles can't just concentrate on stopping him or they will pay a price.

The Racers are an elite, athletic team, and they can get up and down the court in a way that will be difficult for Marquette to match. They pass the ball well, earning assists on 58.5 percent of their baskets, according to Brian Mull for ESPN, which ranks 37th in the nation.

Marquette will have a big problem when the tournament starts because the Golden Eagles have lost five of their last six games.

Marquette is led by guard Markus Howard, who is scoring 25.0 points and 4.0 assists per game. He has had three 50-point games in his career, and he is an outstanding long-range bomber who connected on better than 40 percent of his three-point shots this season.

The key to stopping Marquette is not only bottling up Howard, but also making him work on the defensive end. The more the Racers can occupy him on that end, the better off they will be, since Marquette is challenged on offense after Howard.

Marquette is a 4.5-point favorite, but we see Murray State causing problems from the start and winning this game against a team that ranks 241st in turnover percentage, according to Shane McNichol for ESPN.


Additional upsets

Saint Mary's (11) over Villanova (6)

The defending champion Wildcats are 6.5-point favorites, but they won't get past the Gaels. Saint Mary's upset Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference title game and is riding high.


Seton Hall (10) over Wofford (7)

The Pirates are three-point underdogs to the Terriers, but look for the Big East representative to assert themselves and take advantage of Wofford's defensive issues. 


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