March Madness: 5 Potential Round of 64 Upsets

It's bracket-filling season! And you know what that means -- picking upsets!

One of the best parts of March Madness is rooting for our upset specials in the round of 64. For those first couple of days -- one shining moment, if you will -- we can be filled with optimism and hope that this is the year our bracket wins it all. You know, before our bracket is inevitably busted by Sunday night.

But that's all part of the fun, right?

Let's take a look at this year's most likely round of 64 upsets, ranking them from least to most probable, according to numberFire's game projections. For the purposes of this exercise, we'll be looking strictly at teams that are seeded 11th or lower.

5. Alabama (6) vs. Notre Dame/Rutgers (11)

We won't find out who the Alabama Crimson Tide will face until Wednesday, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish or Rutgers Scarlet Knights could give the Crimson Tide a run for their money. After all, Alabama finished their campaign on a three-game losing streak.

According to numberFire's model, Notre Dame would have a 30.47% chance of defeating Alabama, while Rutgers would have a 21.87% likelihood.

It's clear the Fighting Irish are the preferred team for the upset. While the Crimson Tide are the nation's 25th-best team, per KenPom, the Irish aren't pushovers at 52nd.

Alabama earns its ranking due to their fantastic play on offense, ranking 12th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per They also aren't total slouches defensively, sitting just outside the top 100 in adjusted defense.

But Notre Dame possesses a top-30 adjusted themselves, and they get the slight edge on defense at 80th.

There are a couple of areas where ND would have a distinct advantage, too.

Despite Alabama's strong overall offense, they're terrible from beyond the arc, ranking 305th out of 358 teams in three-point shooting percentage. On the other hand, Notre Dame cracks the top 20 in that category.

The Crimson Tide also turn the ball over at a high clip, ranking 268th in turnover rate, whereas the Irish are 28th.

Should Notre Dame shoot the three well and win the turnover battle, they could find themselves moving on.

If it's the Scarlet Knights taking on the Crimson Tide, they're a slightly longer shot, but they're still a top-75 squad, per KenPom.

Rutgers is the better defensive team (44th) and is still solid enough offensively (106th) to hang around. Alabama scores most of their points from inside the arc, and Rutgers is a top-50 team in defensive two-point percentage as well.

While both Notre Dame (7-3) and Rutgers (6-4) endured their share of losses over their last 10 games, they were actually two teams whose play was trending upward down the stretch, per our Brandon Gdula.

4. St. Mary's (5) vs. Indiana/Wyoming (12)

That's right, back-to-back play-in winners make this list. Go figure, right?

Our model sees the Indiana Hoosiers besting the Saint Mary's Gaels 36.61% of the time and gives the Wyoming Cowboys a 28.35% chance. While Saint Mary's is a formidable team, coming in at 16th in KenPom's rankings, Indiana is 36th and Wyoming is just outside the top 50.

If it's the Hoosiers that move on to face the Gaels, it will be a battle of defensive-minded teams. While Saint Mary's boasts the 10th-best adjusted defense, Indiana only sits two spots behind them at 12th. They also rate similarly in adjusted offensive efficiency at 52nd and 71st, respectively.

And speaking of offense, Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis was a one-man wrecking crew in the Big Ten tournament, scoring 24, 21, and 31 points. Saint Mary's will be on upset alert if he carries that strong play into this week.

Wyoming will have a more difficult time pulling through, but they're also a top-60 adjusted offense and rank top 75 in effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover rate, and free throw rate. They aren't an elite D by any means but still crack the top 85 in adjusted defense.

3. Providence (4) vs. South Dakota State (13)

Here's where things get really interesting. Despite being a 13 seed, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits are showing a 37.91% likelihood of pulling off the upset against the Providence Friars.

You see, although Providence is a 3 seed, they're 49th in KenPom's rankings, which is far lower than either of the previous favorites in Alabama and Saint Mary's. South Dakota State is only 22 spots back at 71st.

The Jackrabbits don't exactly play stellar defense (213th), but they more than make for that as the country's 16th-best adjusted offense. They rank 1st in eFG%, 24th in turnover rate, 54th in free throw rate, and 1st in three-point percentage. They aren't about to bow out quietly.

Unsurprisingly, the Friars rate far better defensively (88th), and they can hold their own on offense, too (29th). But this is a tighter matchup than the seeding would suggest, and this will be a tough test for Providence if this South Dakota State offense comes out firing.

2. Texas (6) vs. Virginia Tech (11)

The Virginia Tech Hokies earned an automatic bid by running through Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Duke on their way to winning the ACC title. They beat Duke and UNC by double-digit points, which are both top-30 teams in KenPom's rankings.

Needless to say, the Hokies are entering the NCAA tournament on a roll, and this should be a pretty even matchup against the Texas Longhorns. Per KenPom, Texas and Virginia Tech are both top-25 teams with only 8 spots separating them.

The Hokies are 17th in adjusted offense, ranking 18th in eFG% and 3rd in three-point percentage. They should be able to give the Longhorns' 13th-ranked adjusted defense everything they can handle.

Texas' 31st-ranked adjusted offense gets a slightly easier matchup against Virginia Tech's defense, but the Hokies still carry a top-60 adjusted D, so it won't be a cakewalk. Additionally, the Longhorns are a poor three-point shooting team, ranking 240th in three-point shooting percentage, which could get them in trouble if they fall behind early.

Overall, numberFire's model gives Virginia Tech a 40.57% win probability, which is the second-best mark among teams that are 11 seeds or lower.

1. Colorado State (6) vs. Michigan (11)

The Michigan Wolverines are far and away the most likely low-seeded team to pull off the upset. Our model views their matchup against Colorado State Rams are a toss-up, giving the Wolverines a 49.59% shot of winning.

Both teams come in with top-25 adjusted offenses and top-100 adjusted defenses. Per KenPom, Colorado State is the 31st-best team in the country and Michigan is 33rd. It doesn't get much closer than that!

Michigan could also have a distinct advantage on the defensive glass. Colorado State ranks 337th in offensive rebounding rate, while Michigan is just outside the top 30 in defensive rebounding rate. Second-chance points could be hard to come by for the Rams.

And while the Wolverines went 5-5 over their last 10 games, they played better down the stretch than their record would suggest.

Despite the gap in seeding, all the data points to an even matchup, making Michigan one of the top upset picks in the round of 64.