HOUSTON — The 2023 NCAA Tournament begins this week, with play-in games starting on Tuesday and the majority of teams tipping off Thursday or Friday.
Every year, brackets are busted in the first few days thanks to surprising upsets from teams seeded 10 or below. In fact, a 12 seed upsetting a five seed is so common that it has happened in 12 of the last 14 NCAA Tournaments - making it an easy prediction for those filling out their bracket, if they can guess the correct matchup(s) to predict.
Below is a look at five high seed programs that could get upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For a larger breakdown of the bracket, check out the Locked on College Basketball podcast.
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South Region: 5) San Diego State Aztecs vs. 12) Charleston Cougars
Death. Taxes. And 12-5 upsets in March Madness. 12 of the last 14 NCAA Tournaments have seen a 12 seed upset a five seed, and this year's crop of 12 seeds is primed to do it again.
The most likely of the bunch is the Charleston Cougars, a 31-win team in the regular season who showed up in the AP poll briefly this year. The Aztecs are an experienced team with Matt Bradley and Darrion Trammell in the backcourt, but they don't score particularly well around the rim and Charleston is among the best three-point defensive teams in the country - which could spell trouble for Brian Dutcher's squad.
West Region: 5) Saint Mary's Gaels vs. 12) VCU Rams
Saint Mary's is one of the strongest defensive teams in the entire country, and the emergence of freshman point guard Aidan Mahaney has been an unheralded but excellent story in college hoops.
However, this team struggles when pressure is applied, which Gonzaga proved in their final regular season matchup and again when these two teams met in the WCC Tournament championship.
VCU is 12th in the country in steals per game, using their elite defense to force the other team to make mistakes and capitalize in transition. That strength lines up well against SMC's biggest weakness, and that doesn't even factor in the fact that the Gaels will travel from Moraga, California to Albany, New York before playing this contest.
The Rams boast the nation's seventh longest winning streak, won a tough mid-major conference in the A-10, and could find themselves winning a tournament game as another 12-5 upset.
East Region: 4) Tennessee Volunteers vs. 13) Louisiana Rajun Cajuns
The Rajun Cajuns of Louisiana won the Sun Belt Tournament after a second place finish in the regular season. Led by Jordan Brown, who averaged nearly 20 a game, this Louisiana team averaged 78 points per game (38th in the country) while shooting 37.8% from beyond the arc (23rd).
They'll take on a Tennessee team that boasted one of the best defenses in the entire country, holding opposing teams to just 26.2% shooting from deep. Something will have to give in this contest, and considering the Volunteers' struggles from beyond the arc - and the loss of star point guard Zakai Zeigler - it's possible the Rajun Cajuns pull off a big upset in the first round.
Midwest Region: 4) Indiana Hoosiers vs. 13) Kent State Golden Flashes
Experienced guard play is often a critical measure of success in the big dance, and the 13 seeded Golden Flashes of Kent State have that in Sincere Carry, a senior point guard who averaged 17.6 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.7 rebounds this past year.
Kent State played with both Houston and Gonzaga in the non-conference, and they have had the look an feel of a Sweet 16 darling all season long. Indiana has been inconsistent this season, but the presence of All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis and freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino will make this a tough battle between two very good squads.
Midwest Region: 2) Texas Longhorns vs. 15) Colgate Raiders
Texas has been playing great basketball as of late, with many believing they deserved to be a one seed on Selection Sunday, but instead they draw one of the best shooting teams in the entire country in the 15 seeded Raiders out of Colgate.
Colgate is the only team in the country to shoot over 40% from deep this season, and they have the top effective field goal percentage in the country.
Texas is a good defensive team, and their guard play gives them a nice advantage heading into the big dance, but it's hard to ignore the upset potential in a team like the Raiders with their efficient offensive attack and dominance this season in the Patriot League.