Predictions for Every NCAA March Madness 1st Round Game

University of North Carolina raising the trophy after an NCAA Tournament championship win over Gonzaga.

AP Photo

University of North Carolina raising the trophy after an NCAA Tournament championship win over Gonzaga.

The NCAA Tournament is finally here, and everyone is filling out their bracket. You could just choose based on the mascots or alphabetically; if you want to win, however, you should put some thought into every selection you choose. This guide to every game, based on the likelihood of an upset, is what you need to win your pool.




Keep in mind that even though I have these as locks, that does NOT mean I am guaranteeing these teams win. This is March Madness for a reason, so anything is possible. This just means that there isn’t any reason to pick the upset in these matchups.


#1 Virginia vs. #16 UMBC

#1 Kansas vs. #16 Penn

#1 Villanova vs. #16 Radford

#1 Xavier vs. #16 NC Central/Texas Southern


No 16 seed has ever upset a 1 seed since the bracket expanded to 64 teams, and that trend is going to continue on, as the talent and skill gap is too much for the 16 seeds to overcome.


#2 North Carolina vs. #15 Lipscomb

#2 Duke vs. #15 Iona

#2 Purdue vs. #15 CSU Fullerton


15-2 upsets are very few and far between, so it is very rare that they are a realistic possibility. However, note Cincinnati not being here for later.


#3 Tennessee vs. #14 Wright St.

#3 Michigan St. vs. #14 Bucknell

#3 Michigan vs. #14 Montana


14-3 upsets are more likely than 15-2 upsets are, but they are still by no means common. Note the lack of Texas Tech.


#4 Arizona vs. #13 Buffalo

#4 Auburn vs. #13 Charleston

#4 Gonzaga vs. #13 UNC Greensboro


Arizona and Gonzaga are both title contenders, and Auburn is a threat to make the Elite 8, so these were easy choices. Keep in mind Wichita St. isn’t here.




Now, we move into the range of games that could realistically bust your bracket. Every year, there is at least a few of these types of upsets. So when making your bracket, choose some upsets, but choose wisely.


#2 Cincinnati vs. #15 Georgia St.


For the past decade or so, it seems that there is a 15-2 upset every 2-3 years. We’re due for another. Cincinnati was a hot topic of whether they should be a 2 seed or if they should be lower, so they aren’t nearly as strong as the other 2 seeds, especially since the American Conference isn’t nearly as strong as the likes of the ACC and Big Ten. In 2015, Georgia St. was a 14 seed, and upset #3 Baylor in the first round of the tournament. That year, they were led by RJ Hunter. This year, D’Marcus Simonds is averaging more points than Hunter ever did. This upset is by no means likely, but it is in the realm of possibility


#3 Texas Tech vs. #14 Stephen F. Austin


Texas Tech is not playing its best ball right now. They went 2-5 to finish the season due to a Keenan Evans toe injury, after being a threat to end Kansas’s streak of Big 12 regular season championships. If the pre-injury Texas Tech team shows up, they have a legitimate shot to reach the Final Four. If the team that ended the season shows up, however, they could be going home early. Last time Stephen F. Austin was a 14 seed, they sent #3 West Virginia packing in the first round and were one missed tip-in away from upsetting #4 Notre Dame in Round 2. Sure, this team doesn’t have a superstar like Thomas Walkup was, but they are equally as dangerous.


#4 Wichita St. vs. #13 Marshall


This is not a normal Wichita St. team. First of all, Wichita St. was usually the one doing the upset, but since they moved to the American Conference, their seeding got a huge boost. Also, although their offense is spectacular, this defense is not up to par with normal Gregg Marshall teams. This could be very problematic against a Marshall team that beat fan favorite Middle Tennessee St. twice this year, as well as nearly upsetting Xavier.


#5 Kentucky vs. #12 Davidson

#5 West Virginia vs. #12 Murray St.

#5 Ohio St. vs. #12 South Dakota St.

#5 Clemson vs. #12 New Mexico St.


Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. In 29 out of the past 33 tournaments, a 12 seed has upset a 5 seed. No 5 seed will ever safely get out of the first round. If I were to guess, this is probably caused by the top mid-major teams being ranked at #12, and average power conference teams being ranked #5. If I were to choose one 12-5 upset, I would choose New Mexico St. to upset Clemson, as New Mexico St. has one of the best defenses in the country.


#6 Florida vs. #11 St. Bonaventure

#6 Houston vs. #11 San Diego St.

#6 Miami vs. #11 Loyola-Chicago

#6 TCU vs. #11 Arizona St./Syracuse


The 6-11 upset, though not as common as the 5-12 for some reason, is still common in the tournament. All 6 seeds are ranked there for a reason, they all usually have a glaring weakness. Miami and TCU are both missing a star player. Florida has had ice-cold stretches this season. Houston was only the 3rd best team in the non-power American conference. If these 11 seeds play the right way, they will advance. The most likely upsets are St. Bonaventure upsetting Florida, as the Bonnies have one of the best back courts in the country in Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, and Loyola-Chicago, with their stout defense and lights-out shooting upsetting Miami.




These games can go either way. There is no way to definitively choose any of these to win, and your choice boils down to personal preference. These are the games that will make or break your bracket, though, so make sure you’re confident in your selections.


#7 Nevada vs. #10 Texas

#7 Texas A&M vs. #10 Providence

#7 Arkansas vs. #10 Butler

#7 Rhode Island vs. #10 Oklahoma


#8 Creighton vs. #9 Kansas State

#8 Missouri vs. #9 Florida St.

#8 Virginia Tech vs. #9 Alabama

#8 Seton Hall vs. #9 NC State


There you have it. I am just as in the dark as everyone reading this, and I could easily be wrong on all of these. However, I hope that my logic makes sense, and I can help even a few people win their brackets. Anything can happen, that’s why it’s called March Madness.