The 2013 NCAA Tournament is upon us, and every person filling in teams for an office pool is searching for the upset picks that will set their bracket apart.
Picking upsets in the tournament is something of an art, but there’s also some logic involved. Every year at least one No. 12 seed will upset a No. 5.
In fact, since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 12 has defeated a No. 5 38 times, or 34 percent of the time.
In 2009, 12 seeds were 3-1, with only Northern Iowa failing to pull off the upset.
But NCAA tournament upsets can come out of the blue as well.
Though No. 2 seeds win their matchup against No. 15 seeds 95 percent of the time (only six times overall has it happened), two No. 15 seeds won last year — Lehigh and Norfolk State.
So where will the tournament upsets come from this year?
Here are some potential upset picks for the 2013 NCAA Tournament:
No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA
This is more of an indictment of UCLA than a vote of confidence in Minnesota, but the Bruins have limped into the tournament after losing one of their best players. Freshman guard Jordan Adams, the team’s leading scorer with 15.2 points per game, broke his foot in the Pac-12 tournament.
Minnesota failed to meet expectations for this season, but still competed in a strong Big 10 league this year and have the toughness and experience to knock off the Bruins and advance to the round of 32.
This 2013 NCAA Tournament upset pick may not come out of the blue — Minnesota remains a popular upset selection for the tournament.
No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Oklahoma State
Oregon is an experienced postseason team that enjoyed a great run in the better-than-advertised Pac-12. The Ducks also ride a wave of momentum from the conference tournament into a match-up with the Cowboys.
The key for Oregon is containing freshman sensation Marcus Smart. If they can do that, the Ducks could be looking at a tournament upset.
No. 11 Bucknell to the Sweet 16
Can a team from the little Patriot League pull off a big upset in the NCAA Tournament? Don’t ask Duke of last year.
The No. 2 seeded Blue Devils were knocked off by the Patriot League champion Lehigh in last year’s tournament, and this year the league got more respect, with Bucknell an 11 seed.
So why do the Bisons have the resume this year to pull off an upset of not only No. 6 Butler but also the winner of No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Davidson? Mike Muscala. Write down that name and tell all your friends now, because by the time the tournament is done the 6-foot-11 senior will be a household name.
Muscala averages a double-double (19 points and 11.2 rebounds), and is the centerpiece of the Bisons offense. He is definitely up to shoulder the load and lead Bucknell on to a 2013 NCAA Tournament upset.
No. 4 St. Louis to the Final Four
Hailing from the Atlantic 10, St. Louis failed to get the attention that it would have in the Big 10 or Big East. But the physical squad has a few things in its favor this postseason — confidence, experience, and one heck of a motivator.
Just after the season started, the team’s former coach Rick Majerus passed away of a heart ailment. Though his health forced him to step down before this season, Majerus has his fingerprints all over this team. The Billikens have Majerus’ trademark depth, with the five leading scorers all within 3.1 points of each other.
To advance to the Final Four, St. Louis would have to advance past Louisville, the popular pick to win it all. But if the team’s run through the A-10 (and handling of Butler) is any indication, the Cardinals might have a run for their money and St. Louis could be the biggest 2013 NCAA Tournament upset pick.