About 85 percent of the fun of the NCAA tournament—give or take—is in the upsets. No. 16 Maryland–Baltimore County beating No. 1 Virginia was a more memorable part of the 2018 tournament than Villanova ripping Michigan limb from limb in a forgettable national championship game. George Mason getting to the Final Four in 2006 is at least equally memorable as Florida winning the title that year, and on and on. One thing you can count on: There will be March Madness upsets. And if you’re filling out a bracket this year (and putting some cash behind it), there’s money to be made in correctly guessing which ones will happen.
2023’s tournament is a bit peculiar. Like every year, there are elite teams in contention, but nobody stands head and shoulders above the rest. That means it’ll be hard for any upset to take on David-over-Goliath qualities. At the same time, it seems possible that lots of teams with prime seeding numbers will lose to potential Cinderellas. You should expect some measure of chaos in every NCAA tournament, but in the case of the 2023 men’s tournament, the chaos would be if better-seeded teams didn’t fall off early in droves.
Here’s a tournament bracket and schedule, and here are five upset picks to consider as you fill out your bracket. All five won’t happen, but one or two (or three!) should. Pick and choose as you like.
Related: March Madness 2023: 7 Teams to Watch This Year
2023 March Madness Upsets: 5 Teams to Pick for Your Bracket
The Aggies have the No. 13 offense in the country by Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency metric. The Tigers have the No. 178 defense. You get the idea.
Utah State makes tons of three-pointers, and Missouri has a lot of trouble guarding the three-point line. This one screams “bad matchup” for Mizzou, and the teams’ seed lines would be reversed if the Aggies played in the SEC and the Tigers in the Mountain West. A 10-over-7 win is barely an upset, but this one is arguably the best value pick on the board. Keep an eye out for USU’s scoring guard tandem of Steven Ashworth and Max Shulga.
Kentucky does not have a good team this year. 2023 looks poised to be the latest in a long line of John Calipari disappointments since his national title season with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in 2012. Calipari’s teams never lack athleticism, but they almost always lack shot-making ability, and 2023’s team has followed that trend. Other than voraciously pounding the offensive glass, there’s nothing Kentucky does that seems special.
Providence has a similarly prolific offense (No. 16 in adjusted efficiency, compared to Kentucky’s No. 14) and also a better defense. Kentucky’s individual talent advantage is real, and Oscar Tshiebwe could always drag his team to a win all by himself. But the Friars are good, and they don’t need to light up the scoreboard to have a solid chance of winning.
The 12th-seeded Bulldogs have a good bit going for them. Their only loss since Jan. 18 came in their regular season finale against Bradley, and they got revenge against the Braves by destroying them in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship. They have five seniors in their rotation to back up sophomore guard Tucker DeVries and his team-leading 19 points per game. They have a stingy defense that could be a good match for Miami’s very capable offense. They make a lot of three-pointers (36.7 percent, a top-50 rate nationally) and are 15–0 when they make at least 40 percent of their threes. Miami’s three-point defense has been a weakness. I think there’s a good chance Drake pulls this one off.
The Golden Flashes probably won’t win this game, but to me, they look like the best pick of any team seeded below the No. 12 line. They won both of their games against Toledo, a MAC team that happens to have one of the scariest offenses in college basketball. Back in December, they lost by just seven points to Gonzaga, which has maybe the scariest offense in college basketball. Back in December, they played another all-around elite team, Houston, and dragged the Cougars into a rockfight, losing 49–44.
The Hoosiers are a perfectly good team and could make a nice tournament run behind brilliant big man Trayce Jackson-Davis. But Kent State is legit and has played tough against better teams than IU. This game feels like a tighter matchup than most other 13-versus-4 pairings in the tournament.
It’s a big long shot, but the Gauchos are a nice pick if you’re committed to having a really low seed in the round of 32.
Baylor has one of the best offenses in Division I: a mix of offensive rebounding and three-point shooting that should give UCSB very little chance in this game. The Gauchos haven’t played anyone like the Bears, but they have a pretty good offense in their own right (No. 71 in adjusted efficiency) and have scored into the 80s eight times this year. They also have been stingy about offensive rebounds, though, again, Baylor will be a different beast than UCSB’s typical Big West competition.
There are no easy cases for 14th seeds to win, but if you squint, you can see the Gauchos putting something together. If you have a true lust for chaos and a desire for a really unique bracket, this is an upset to consider.