It’s that time of the year again: March Madness is finally here. With Selection Sunday over and the 68-team bracket officially released, everyone will be searching for this year’s Cinderella team.
Here are some upsets you should consider when filling out your bracket.
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (28-5) over No. 6 Miami (22-9)
This could be the most intriguing matchup of the first round and might not be seen as much of an upset if Loyola prevails. Both teams rank in the top 41 on kenpom.com, so this is essentially a No. 8 versus No. 9 matchup.
This will be Loyola-Chicago’s first NCAA appearance since 1985 — and the Missouri Valley Conference champs have the potential to make some noise. This team is good, as evidenced by its 28-5 record. One of those wins came on the road against fifth-ranked Florida, the best win by any mid-major team this season.
The Ramblers have an elite defense, ranked 24th in defensive efficiency on Kenpom, and rank in the top five percent in points allowed per possession. Miami will be without one of its key players, Bruce Brown Jr., who has been out the last six weeks with a foot injury.
No. 12 New Mexico State (28-5) over No. 5 Clemson (23-9)
The 12 seed versus 5 seed games are usually some of the most entertaining games, and this year looks no different. Since 1985, at least one 12 seed has defeated a 5 seed in all but four tournaments — 1988, 2000, 2007 and 2015 — and New Mexico State has a good chance of continuing that trend.
Like Miami's pairing with Loyola-Chicago, this is another tough matchup for an Atlantic Coast Conference team. New Mexico State comes into the tournament fresh off winning both the Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships, and it has lost just twice since the new year.
The Aggies have an elite defense — 14th ranked on Kenpom — and are led by WAC Player of the Year Jemerrio Jones and First Team All-WAC member Zach Lofton. The Aggies' offense struggles at times when Jones and Lofton have off games, so if they want to pull off the upset, they won’t be able to rely on defense.
Clemson, on the other hand, lost its best player, Donte Grantham, to a torn ACL in January. The Tigers are just 7-6 in his absence.
No. 12 South Dakota State (28-6) over No. 5 Ohio State (24-8)
Another 12 seed that has a chance of pulling the upset is South Dakota State. This will be the Jackrabbits' third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and they're looking to finally get a win in the Big Dance.
South Dakota State, winners of 20 of its last 22 games, does two things crucial to pulling off upsets in March: limiting turnovers and shooting 3-pointers. The Jackrabbits average less than 10 turnovers per game and shoot better than 39 percent from 3-point range.
If they’re going to beat the Buckeyes, the Jackrabbits are going to have to do both of those things. Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the country, so it could be a long night if South Dakota State can’t get hot from beyond the arc.
No. 10 Texas (19-14) over No. 7 Nevada (27-7)
This is an interesting matchup, as it pairs up one of the best offensive teams in the country with one of the best defensive teams.
Nevada has the 10th-best offense but the 105th-best defense, while Texas sports the 10th-best defense but the 94th-best offense, according to Kenpom. This looks like an even matchup.
The anchor of the Texas defense, Mo Bamba, is back from injury. The Longhorns will need his shot blocking and rebounding to slow down the Wolf Pack offense, which averages over 80 points per game and shoots around 40 percent from 3-point range as a team.
The madness will begin Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. with the first game of the First Four in Dayton between LIU Brooklyn and Radford. The winner of that game will face top-seeded 2016 champion Villanova.