NCAA Tournament 2019: Guaranteed Upset Picks for Your Printable Bracket

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2019

Northeastern's Vasa Pusica will attempt to lead the Huskies to a first-round upset of Kansas.
Northeastern's Vasa Pusica will attempt to lead the Huskies to a first-round upset of Kansas.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

The NCAA men's basketball tournament isn't always about buzzer-beaters and other thrilling finishes. As much as we like to think about a length-of-the-court pass that leads to the winning turnaround jump shot, there are plenty of games that feature a 20-point blowout with a top seed ending the lower seed's season.

But for every bracket we fill out, we are looking for upset possibilities. Upsets help make the tournament memorable and give it bright, beautiful color.

The upset by UMBC last year over Virginia was the ultimate, the only victory by a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 in tournament history. It turned out to be a 20-point blowout, but that victory was anything but guaranteed.

Read on for the potential upset picks that you can use in your printable bracket.

No. 13 Northeastern over No. 4 Kansas

The Jayhawks are one of the traditional powerhouse teams in college basketball, along with Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina, and Bill Self is one of the most respected head coaches in the nation.

But this year's team is not like previous versions that seemed like a sure thing to get to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.

The Jayhawks did not win the Big 12 regular season and got beaten decisively in the conference tournament championship game by Iowa State. Kansas lost big man Udoka Azubuike to a season-ending wrist injury early in the season, while Lagerald Vick, a key outside shooter, left the team.

Kansas looks pretty ordinary, and the No. 4 seeding has never been kind to this team. The Jayhawks also had that seed in 2006 when they lost to the Bradley Braves. The Jayhawks are 6.5-point favorites in this game, per OddsShark.

Northeastern has the kind of team that will give Kansas big problems. The Huskies love to shoot the three-pointer and they are quite successful at it. Led by Vasa Pusica, they throws a four-guard lineup on the floor and have excellent options when it comes to hitting the long ball.

Head coach Bill Coen believes Pusica's game has matured this season. "He's always been an outstanding player, and now he's taking more and more ownership for the team's success," Coen said, per Nicole Yang of Boston.com.

Pusica (team-leading 17.8 PPG) has knocked down 57 of 142 trey attempts, while Jordan Roland has the most threes on the team (97 of 238). Bolden Brace has the best percentage among the starters (.415 on 56-of-135 shooting), and Donnell Gresham is 55-of-140.

Dedric Lawson is averaging 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, and Devon Dotson is adding 12.1 points per game. Those two will do everything they can to help Kansas avoid the upset, but the Jayhawks will fall to the Boston school.


No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin

Every college basketball expert will tell you that this has not been a dynamic year for Pac-12 basketball. Many will use much stronger language than that for explaining how far that conference has fallen. The UCLA era ended decades ago, and Arizona's years of dominance seem to be a relic of the past.

While the conference cannot be defended as a whole, the Oregon Ducks have a lot to offer, and they come into the tournament on an eight-game winning streak that includes a triumph in the Pac-12 tournament.

Wisconsin managed an unimpressive 66-62 Big Ten tournament victory over Nebraska before losing by double digits to Michigan State.

The KenPom.com ratings favor Wisconsin, as the Badgers are the No. 12 team while the Ducks are 43rd, but the Badgers are not going to cause any stress because of their slow pace. Wisconsin is favored by two points, per OddsShark.

Ethan Happ is a big-time player who has had an impressive career for the Badgers, and he averages 17.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while connecting on 53.1 percent of his shots.

The Ducks are not going to stop him, but they could slow him down. D'Mitrik Trice (11.7 PPG) and Brad Davison (10.7 PPG) are both decent scorers, but neither should take over when the Badgers need points.

On the other hand, the Ducks have demonstrated that they know how to play without big man Bol Bol, who played just nine games before he suffered a season-ending foot injury. Forward Louis King and guard Payton Pritchard are both averaging 12.7 points a game and will assert themselves here.

The Ducks continue their hot streak and knock Wisconsin out of the tournament.


No. 11 Saint Mary's over No. 6 Villanova

The Gaels are brimming with confidence after beating No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference title game, and they are a smart team that does an excellent job of preventing turnovers.

Saint Mary's likes to attack in transition, while the Wildcats are not strong when it comes to defending an opponent that is attacking with speed.

Jordan Ford is one of the most improved players in the nation who is averaging 21.3 points per game, and he is also knocking down 42.3 percent of his three-point attempts. Malik Fitts is contributing 15.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and the forward can also hit the long ball.

The Wildcats are the defending champions, and head coach Jay Wright's team has plenty of toughness. However, the talent level the team had in winning two of the last three national titles has taken a big hit.

Even though Nova won the Big East title, the team is just 5-4 over its last nine games. Phil Booth is averaging 18.6 points per game and Eric Paschall averages 16.5 points, but Villanova should not have enough to intimidate Saint Mary's.

The Gaels survive and advance as 4.5-point underdogs.