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Upset picks for the First Round of March Madness 

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

March 18th, 2021

The most insane part of March Madness often transpires during the first round, when upsets run rampant.

No. 1 seeds rarely experience trouble from the No. 16 seeds, but the unthinkable happened not long ago. In 2018, No. 16 UMBC not only knocked Virginia out of the tournament, but the Retrievers annihilated the top seed, 74-54!

This year, No. 1 seeds Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois, and Michigan are likely safe in the first round, but a few No. 2 seeds drew dangerous opponents.

Usually, the most difficult matchup to predict is between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. Since 1985, when the tournament expanded to a 64-team format, No. 9 seeds own a 72-68 record in the first round.

No. 10s fare well, too, as they boast a 55-85 record against No. 7s. In games decided by three points or fewer, the lower-seeded team is 11-15.

With all that in mind, a few first-round clashes scream upset potential in the 2021 edition of the NCAA tournament. Let’s take a look at three underdogs likely to pull off an upset this weekend.

No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 6 San Diego State

Sat, March 20 2021, 1:40 AM

San Diego State

Moneyline

-155

Spread

-3

Total

O 139

Syracuse

Moneyline

+125

Spread

+3

Total

U 139

Of all the coaches in this year's tournament, only UNC's Roy Williams has more NCAA tournament victories (77) than Jim Boeheim (57).

While Boeheim's 2020-21 squad is not nearly as good as some of his teams in the past, the 76-year-old coach will have an edge over San Diego State's Brian Dutcher, who has little experience as a head coach in the Big Dance.

Since 1985, Boeheim is 23-5 in the first round. The 2021 tournament will mark just the third time Syracuse has earned a double-digit seed, but in that position, the Orange have excelled.

In 2016, as a No. 10 seed, Syracuse reached the national semifinal, where it lost to North Carolina. In 2018, as a No.  11 seed, the Orange fell to Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.

This time around, Boeheim has a special weapon in his son Buddy, who averages 17.1 points per game and scored a career-high 31 against Virginia in the 2021 ACC Conference Tournament.

The Aztecs are particularly tough on defense, but so is Syracuse, with its 2-3 zone.

Another Boeheim win in the tournament would hardly be a shocker.

No. 13 Ohio vs. No. 4 Virginia

Sat, March 20 2021, 11:15 PM

Virginia

Moneyline

-335

Spread

-7

Total

O 131

Ohio

Moneyline

+255

Spread

+7

Total

U 131

Shortly after Syracuse lost at the buzzer to Virginia in the ACC tournament, the Cavaliers were forced to withdraw from the conference semifinal because of a positive COVID-19 test.

For the past week, Virginia has been in quarantine and will practice for the first time as a team on Friday morning, before it leaves for Indianapolis in the afternoon.

Even as a No. 4 seed, just a day of on-court preparation may not be enough to cruise past No. 13 Ohio on Saturday.

Five players average double figures for the 16-7 Bobcats, who won nine of their last 10 games, and lost by a bucket to No. 1 seed Illinois in a road contest in November.

In Ohio's two most recent tournament appearances, the team advanced past the first round. Most recently, in 2012, the 13th-seeded Bobcats danced to the Sweet Sixteen, where they took North Carolina to overtime but ultimately lost 73-65.

No. 14 Colgate vs. No. 3 Arkansas

Fri, March 19 2021, 4:45 PM

Arkansas

Moneyline

-400

Spread

-8.5

Total

O 161.5

Colgate

Moneyline

+300

Spread

+8.5

Total

U 161.5

At least one No. 14 seed has defeated a No. 3 seed in 18 of the past 35 NCAA tournaments.

This year, Colgate could be the Cinderella to keep an eye on, as it takes on No. 3 Arkansas, who just snapped a nine-game win streak with a loss to LSU in the 2021 SEC Conference Tournament.

The Hogs are far from an easy out, but an afternoon of lights-out shooting from Colgate could squash Arkansas' hopes of a deep tournament run.

The Raiders rank second in the nation in scoring (86.3 points per contest), behind only Gonzaga, and shoot 40% from behind the arc, tied for third best in the country.

While the Hogs rank 42nd in turnovers forced, the Raiders rank second in assist-to-turnover ratio.

If Arkansas' defense doesn't step up from the start, Colgate could become the next No. 14 seed to go marching to the round of 32.

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