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When it comes to March Madness, upsets are often the difference between winning your pool and finishing out of the money.
But some of the picks are easier than you might think. If you take a look at the odds in Las Vegas, many of the first-round matchups are mostly a coin flip, regardless of the two teams’ seeds.
Below, we’ve collected the best upset picks for the first round of your NCAA Tournament bracket based on Vegas odds. Chances are you don’t need to add every one of these potential upsets to your bracket, but see which potential Cinderella catches your eye.
No. 10 Butler (-1) vs. No. 7 Arkansas
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The Butler Bulldogs are favored over the Arkansas Razorbacks despite being the lower seed. FiveThirtyEight also gives the Bulldogs a 60% chance of prevailing.
If you’re looking for an easy way to spice up your first round, this is your only chance in the tournament to pick an upset without backing an underdog.
No. 10 Oklahoma (PK) vs. No. 7 Rhode Island
The Oklahoma Sooners had a rocky second half of the season, but they’re a straight pick ’em against the Rhode Island Rams.
Though the Rams are a strong team, they’re coming off a loss in the conference championship, and the Sooners will have the best player on the court in Trae Young.
No. 10 Texas (+1) vs. No. 7 Nevada
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The Texas Longhorns are barely underdogs against the Nevada Wolfpack in their first-round matchup.
The Longhorns have five wins against ranked opponents on the season, whereas the Wolfpack lost against their only ranked opponent of the season. Plus, Texas head coach Shaka Smart knows how to manage a team through the tournament.
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (+2.5) vs. No. 6 Miami
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The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers come into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won 10 straight games en route to their Missouri Valley Conference championship.
Meanwhile, the Miami Hurricanes will be playing without their leading scorer and rebounder, Bruce Brown Jr., due to injury.
I like Loyola-Chicago as a pick to make it to the Sweet 16 – if anything, I’m worried about it being too trendy.
No. 11 San Diego State (+3.5) vs. No. 6 Houston
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While the San Diego State Aztecs are the biggest underdogs we’ve discussed so far here, 3.5 points isn’t all that much in the realm of basketball gambling – it’s almost just a bet on intentional fouls at the end of a game.
The Houston Cougars are no pushovers, having defeated Wichita State twice this year and been responsible for one of Cincinnati’s four losses, but the Aztecs come into the game hot, as winners of nine straight.
No. 9 Florida State (+1) vs. No. 8 Missouri
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Matchups between No. 8 and No. 9 seeds are almost always a coin flip anyway, but it’s worth noting here that the odds reflect that as well.
FiveThirtyEight’s model gives the Florida State Seminoles a whopping 71% chance of winning, so this could be another easy one for you to slot into your bracket.
No. 9 Alabama (+2.5) vs. No. 8 Virginia Tech
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Again, these matchups are mostly a coin flip, but if you feel like fine-tuning your bracket, Alabama is a team to watch in the first round.
Pick the Tide to roll, and you’ll be backing the best player on the court that day: guard Collin Sexton, who is expected to be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft.
No. 12 New Mexico State (+5) vs. No. 5 Clemson
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As we look for slightly more dramatic upsets, the spreads will inevitably get a bit wider. That said, the No. 5-No. 12 matchup is one of the most fabled in college basketball.
The New Mexico State Aggies have already proved this year that they can hang with the top teams in college basketball, beating a sixth-ranked Miami rather handily in December.
Meanwhile, the Clemson Tigers enter the tournament on shaky ground, having lost five of their past eight games.
No. 12 Davidson (+6) vs. No. 5 Kentucky
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Davidson hasn’t had a chance of flying under the radar since the ascendance of Stephen Curry during the 2008 tournament.
A decade later, the Wildcats have another sharpshooter, Peyton Aldridge, who has shot over 70% from beyond the arc in three of his past five games, making six or more of his threes in each game.
With any other No. 5 seed, this line would most likely be even lower.
No. 14 Stephen F. Austin (+11.5) vs. No. 3 Texas Tech
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Now we get to the deep cuts.
While the biggest upsets in the tournament are the hardest to predict, they also almost always happen – in 22 of the past 25 years, a team seeded second, third, or fourth has fallen in the first round to its lower-seeded counterpart.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders haven’t won a tournament game since 2005, while the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are more than comfortable in the underdog role – since 2014, they’ve had two wins as a double-digit seed in the first round of the tournament.
No. 14 Bucknell (+13.5) vs. No. 3 Michigan State
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This spread doesn’t necessarily mean the Bucknell Bison are likely to win in the first round, but they have a puncher’s chance. Zach Thomas is one of the best players you’ll find from a smaller school, and despite Tom Izzo’s aura of March mysticism, he and the Spartans have lost in the first round of the tournament five times since 2002; an early exit would not be unprecedented.
More March Madness:
- The 14 best bets to make on the NCAA Tournament before your bracket gets busted
- Warren Buffett is offering employees $1 million a year for life if they predict a perfect Sweet 16 during March Madness
- 7 strategies for casual fans filling out their March Madness bracket
Now check out our best bets to make before March Madness tips off on Thursday.
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