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Five first-round games with upset potential

Casper Ware

Long Beach State guard Casper Ware, left, celebrates with fans after defeating UC Santa Barbara 77-64 in an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of their Big West Conference tournament, Saturday, March 10, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. Ware scored 31 points as Long Beach St. won 77-64. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)


The opening rounds of the NCAA tournament are about upsets. Been that way since the field started expanding, TV got involved and people started entering their brackets in pools.

So, on that note, I’ll keep this simple. Before the Madness begins in earnest Thursday and you fret over your picks, here’s a list of the five most likely first-round upsets. (Yes, it’s the first round. The First Four are just play-in games.) Not that any of them are locks. Fair warning.

Note: Belmont over Georgetown isn’t listed here, but only because Rob was mad enough to write a separate post on anyone foolish enough to pick the Hoyas.

No. 12 Long Beach State over No. 5 New Mexico
This would be far more appealing if wing Larry Anderson – Long Beach’s best defender – hadn’t missed the entire Big West tournament because of an injury. But the 49ers still have an incredible guard in Casper Ware, they’re experienced and played a schedule I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s also the most popular upset pick here. But word of warning: New Mexico just won the MWC tournament and has spent the season playing the “disrespected card.”
Upset chance: Moderate

No. 13 Davidson over No. 4 Louisville
The Wildcats have already beaten Kansas this season, in Kansas City, no less. That’s hardly a neutral site to play the Jayhawks. They’ve got plenty of guys who can score, they have size they’re excellent at taking care of the ball, which bodes ill for Louisville’s press. Can enough Cardinals fans will the seats in Portland to provide a home-court edge for the Big East tournament champs? That could be the difference.
Upset chance: Moderate

No. 13 New Mexico State over No. 4 Indiana
Both teams want to run, but the Hoosiers don’t have senior Verdell Jones, who tore his ACL last week That’s a senior wing out for a team that’s in its first NCAA tournament since 2008. New Mexico State won’t have any pressure and fared well the last time it was in this seed seeding, nearly knocking off Michigan State. Still, the Hoosiers have Cody Zeller, a motivated team and aren’t the type to overlook an opponent.
Upset chance: Decent

No. 12 Harvard over No. 5 Vanderbilt
The only reason Vandy’s in this spot is because the Commodores have lost their last three NCAA tournament games, all in the 4 or 5 seed spot. They have three future NBA players and are great shooters. The only way this happens is if Harvard slows the pace way down and knocks John Jenkins off his game in a big way.
Upset chance: Slim

No. 14 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 3 Florida State
Given the Seminoles’ offensive issues, there are no gimmie games for them. The ACC tournament champs have to be focused on defense and if their shots aren’t falling, disrupt the opponent and force enough turnovers to swing things in their favor. The Bonnies are just delighted to be here. I’m not sure another team will be more relaxed entering a game.
Upset chance: Moderate

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.