Upset Alert: 4 NCAA Tournament First Round Sleeper Picks

ncaa tournament upset picks
PHOTO CREDIT: DAVID KOHL-USA TODAY SPORTS

The NCAA Tournament brackets are set. Like every year, that means it is time to scour the matchups for the perfect upset spots in the Round of 64.

We have compiled one underdog from each region that could pull off a March Madness upset and perhaps become one of this season’s Cinderella teams. Here are four NCAA Tournament sleeper picks for first round games.

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Four NCAA Tournament First Round Sleeper Picks

March is here, and given the chaos that unfolded regularly throughout the season, underdogs figure to be as active as always in NCAA Tournament first round games.

Below, we detail why among all of the potential NCAA Tournament upset picks some select teams stand out above the crowd and appear poised to make noise this weekend.

East Region: No. 9 St. Bonaventure (+104) over No. 8 LSU

The Bonnies may have played the fourth least games of any team in the NCAA Tournament field, but they proved their worth throughout their 20 games, with just four losses and an A-10 Tournament title.

They’ve had four layoffs longer than that which they will endure this week. The most recent being the week off before the A-10 Finals game against VCU, so they’re accustomed to long pauses.

St. Bonaventure went 8-3 away from Allegany, NY and found success via a suffocating defense that was one of the toughest in the nation to crack. The Bonnies shoot it well from deep and profile as the type of defensive team that has had success against LSU this season.

The Tigers, despite their recent hype, were only a .500 team away from Baton Rouge this year, including just 2-4 against teams in this tournament.

West Region: No. 13 Ohio (+320) over No. 4 Virginia

What a tough spot for Virginia. They had to drop out of the ACC Tournament before their semifinal matchup and now are just trying to make sure they have enough negative tests in time to travel Friday and play Saturday.

It’s hard to say which players will be cleared, what practices will look like, and what shape the guys who do get a green light will be in when they get on the court.

Making matters worse for Virginia, Ohio possesses a red-hot offense that presses the pace all game long, coming from the high-scoring MAC.

The Bobcats were the MAC Tournament Champions, easily dismissing the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 seeds in that tournament. While they did play just two NCAA Tournament teams this season, they beat Cleveland St. by 55 and lost to No. 1 seed Illinois by just two.

This contrast in style and the poor timing for UVA’s quarantine is eerily reminiscent of when De’Andre Hunter when down for UVA right before their historic loss to UMBC as a No. 1 seed back in 2018.

Could UVA see ghosts here and fall once again in a shocker in their first tournament game? Absolutely.

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South Region: No. 13 North Texas (+280) over No. 4 Purdue

Keep in mind, a No. 13 has beaten a No. 4 seed in all but three of the last ten NCAA Tournaments.

North Texas could sneak up on Purdue here like they did the entire Conference USA in their recent tournament.

The Mean Green entered the C-USA Tourney as No. 3 seed, but rattled off four straight wins for the title, beating the No. 1 seed from both the East and West and No. 2 seed from the West to do it.

They are content to play low-scoring games and know how to win close with their Top 25 scoring defense and an efficient offense that makes quality shot selections.

As for Purdue, the Boilermakers did most of their good work this season at home where they were 11-1.

When away from their own court, they were a sub .500 group at just 7-8.  Purdue, a No. 4 seed, has not won its first game of an NCAA Tournament by more than 10 points as a No. 4 seed or worse in any of their last eight tries, dating back to 2007.  In fact, they lost two of the last three in that span outright.

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Midwest Region: No. 11 Syracuse (+125) over No. 6 San Diego St.

San Diego State could be primed for a letdown here as they enter on the heels of finally getting the Utah St. monkey off their backs in Saturday’s Mountain West Conference Tournament Finals.

That game helped the Aztecs avoid a three-loss season to the Aggies, while also avoiding losing to Utah St. for the third time in a row in the MWC Tourney Finals. Can they mentally refocus quickly enough to prepare for the unique Syracuse zone defense?

The Orangemen defend the perimeter well with that zone, which could take away a major strength of SDSU’s otherwise pedestrian offense.

Plus, Syracuse is one of the best foul shooting teams in the country and comes from a quality ACC schedule. With Coach Boeheim’s son, Buddy, playing out of his mind right now, we see the Cuse knocking off the Aztecs.

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