2017 March Madness predictions: Early upsets, Cinderella picks in NCAA tournament

By The Sports Xchange   |   Updated March 15, 2017 at 11:55 AM
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The bracket for the 2017 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship has been released and missing from it are a handful of elite teams many expected to be challenging right through the end.

There is, however, always a Cinderella story in the making when March rolls around; take a look below at our early upset predictions for each of the NCAA Men's Basketball Regions.

SOUTH

3 EARLY UPSETS

No. 12 Middle Tennessee State over No. 5 Minnesota: The Blue Raiders know how to win in March Madness as an underdog. That's dangerous for a higher-seeded team going up against them. They won as a No. 15 seed last year, knocking off Michigan State in the first round before falling to eventual Final Four participant Syracuse.

No. 10 Wichita State vs. No. 7 Dayton: Wichita State won the Missouri Valley regular season title and the conference tournament and bring a 15-game winning streak to Indianapolis. The Shockers are a balanced team with five players averaging between 9.2 and 11.8 points per game, led by sophomore forward Markis McDuffie.

No. 13 Winthrop vs. No. 4 Butler: Winthrop finished the regular season 26-6, winning the Big South title for the first time since 2010. The Eagles won a Division I-best 12 road games. This is their first NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years. Butler is coming off a first-round loss in the Big East tournament against Xavier.

WEST

3 EARLY UPSETS

No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast University over No. 3 Florida State: The Eagles' high- flying 2013 team crashed the Sweet 16, and this Dunk City squad could be better. The Seminoles' size will be problematic, but Florida Gulf Coast can still soar if it gets running, able to rely on its 50.2 percent shooting from the field.

No. 12 Princeton over No. 5 Notre Dame: The Tigers have won 19 games in a row and went unbeaten in the Ivy League, including in the conference's first-ever postseason tournament. They have balanced scoring, led by guard Devin Cannady (13.7 points per game) and forward Steven Cook (13.7 ppg).

No. 11 Xavier over No. 6 Maryland: The Musketeers lost point guard Edmond Sumner for the season because of a knee injury, but Xavier is tournament-tested and can't be out-toughed. Chris Mack's team has star guard Trevon Bluiett (17.6 points per game), and Xavier beat Butler in the Big East tourney.

EAST

3 EARLY UPSETS

No. 12 UNC-Wilmington over No. 5 Virginia: An upset in the 5-12 game is a rite of the NCAA tournament and UNC-Wilmington has a history of winning first round games and scaring teams in its losses. Even if UNC-Wilmington is forced to slow the pace due to Virginia's defense, it seems highly possible. The Seahawks are on a seven-game winning streak while Virginia is a pedestrian 4-5 in its last nine contests.

No. 10 Marquette over No. 7 South Carolina: These games aren't upsets in the traditional sense since teams in this portion of brackets are evenly matched. It's a matchup of contrasting styles and if Marquette can find holes in a defense that was among the best in the SEC, an upset can occur.

No. 13 East Tennessee State over No. 4 Florida: This is another part of brackets where upsets often happen and East Tennessee State seems to have enough scoring punch to pull it out. The Gators despite their two national championships in 2006 and 2007 also have a history of early exits and dropped three of four after winning nine straight.

MIDWEST

3 EARLY UPSETS

No. 11 Rhode Island over No. 6 Creighton: The Rams have better athletes than the Bluejays, particularly since point guard Maurice Watson was lost for the season with an injury when Creighton was a top-10 team. What's more, Rhode Island rides into the tournament with all kinds of momentum after capturing the Atlantic 10 tournament. Book this one.

No. 12 Nevada over No. 5 Iowa State: The Wolf Pack were the best of a rather mediocre lot in the Mountain West Conference this season, but they have the balance and toughness to hang with and possibly take the Cyclones out. While Iowa State has a terrific backcourt, led by point guard Monte Morris, it can also be exploited inside by most teams and Nevada is equipped to take advantage.

No. 14 Iona over No. 3 Oregon: The season-ending ACL tear to Ducks center Chris Boucher gives the Gaels some hope. Tim Cluess-coached teams can score at will, and even though Iona has no one to match up with Dillon Brooks, Boucher's absence should enable the Gaels to attack the bucket. If Oregon has an off-night shooting the ball, it could be one-and-done.

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