NCAA tournament: 5 first-round upsets to avoid picking in your bracket

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Picking the proper upsets in your NCAA tournament bracket often yields the loudest barstool bragging rights. But winning your pool is often determined by the upsets you don’t pick, as the team you errantly cast aside on the opening Friday can haunt you for the next two weeks. Here’s a look at the tempting upsets in this tournament field you should pass on to save a fortnight of muttering at yourself.

No. 12 Davidson over No. 5 Kentucky – America fell in love again with Bob McKillop over the weekend after he eloquently summed up Davidson’s A-10 tournament title: “We played with joy.” It would be a joy for many to see McKillop top Kentucky’s John Calipari, who is one of the more divisive coaches in college basketball. But joy doesn’t always trump talent, and Calipari’s young team appears to be finding itself. (Even with 6-foot-9 forward Jarred Vanderbilt unlikely to play). The Wildcats have won seven of their last eight games, and they rank No. 3 nationally in 3-point defense (29.9 percent). Davidson is No. 29 nationally in 3-point percentage, hitting 39 percent. Hard to imagine it’ll get the same looks it got in Atlantic 10 play.

No. 13 Buffalo over No. 4 Arizona – The Wildcats are college basketball’s most decorated drama majors. From being ensnared in the federal investigation into college basketball to losing three consecutive games in November, nothing has been easy for Arizona. It had an assistant coach arrested, a star player suspended and reinstated (Allonzo Trier) and coach Sean Miller miss a game after a report that he was discussing paying a player on an FBI wiretap. (He strongly denied the report and was allowed to coach again.) Buffalo is a stout team and could’ve been a threat against a lesser opponent, but Team Turmoil has found itself by winning the Pac-12 tournament and running off five straight victories. Pick against future No. 1 NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton at your own peril.

Deandre Ayton is peaking in March, which should have Arizona’s potential NCAA opponents terrified. (AP)
Deandre Ayton is peaking in March, which should have Arizona’s potential NCAA opponents terrified. (AP)

No. 12 Murray State over No. 5 West Virginia – The Racers live up to their name, as they prefer an uptempo style and are unlikely to be rattled by WVU’s bruise-and-grind defense. Expect this to be a close game, but the difference will be WVU’s Sagaba Konate. The 6-foot-8 center has the No. 3 block percentage in the country, and Murray simply hasn’t seen a post-eraser of his caliber. File this under a classic scare, but the Mountaineers will advance. (And could well keep advancing.) Murray State has won 13 in a row, and it’ll fall just short of 14.

No. 14 Stephen F. Austin over No. 3 Texas Tech – The Lumberjacks’ upset of West Virginia two years ago is another reason you are tempted to pick against the Mountaineers. Second-year coach Kyle Keller has kept the uptempo DNA in the program, as the Lumberjacks have the No. 1 turnover defense in the country. But Texas Tech is a veteran team, comfortable controlling the game at a deliberate pace. And more important, star guard Keenan Evans appears to have a healthy toe. Tech has lost five of its last seven, but a healthy Evans should be a difference maker.

No. 10 Oklahoma over No. 7 Rhode Island – So you’ve heard about Trae Young. You’ve seen his viral clips, straight from the Steph Curry school of range indifference. You’ve seen him projected in the top 10 in NBA mock drafts. Well, if you haven’t seen he and his Sooners implode down the stretch, please pay attention. Oklahoma has lost 11 of 15 games and is perhaps the coldest team heading into the postseason in NCAA history. Rhode Island also guards like its per diem depends on it, as star guard Jared Terrell and redshirt senior Stanford Robinson should be able slow Young. Don’t believe the hype. Check the schedule.

More NCAA tournament on Yahoo Sports:
March Madness bracket: Tournament field of 68 revealed
Printable bracket: Start making your picks
Selection Sunday winners and losers: Kentucky, Duke get rough roads
Five biggest tournament snubs
Everything you need to know before filling out a bracket
For beginners: Tips and tricks to filling out a bracket
Non-traditional ways to spice up your bracket pool

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