9. The underdog has reliable guards who can handle pressure. That Santa Clara upset of Arizona in 1993 marked the coming-out party of a freshman backup named Steve Nash, who made six free throws in the final 31 seconds to help the Broncos hold on. At the same time, powerhouse teams that get through the regular season without stellar guard play often stumble in the tournament, when moderate tempo and pressure-cooker atmosphere conspire to keep the ball in the mitts of the little guys.
This year? George Washington's Shawnta Rogers and Detroit's Jermaine Jackson (insert your Jackson 5 joke here) carry the hopes of their 11th- and 12th-seeded teams.
10. Providence—and we don't mean that non-qualifier from the Big East—is looking out for the underdog. Sometimes an upset is just meant to happen, and to support this supposition we offer this historic trinity: Lorenzo Charles, Harold Jensen and Bryce Drew. N.C. State doesn't beat Houston in 1983 unless Charles happens to be standing near the basket to catch Dereck Whittenburg's air ball and lay it in at the buzzer. (It was only Charles's second field goal of the game.) Number 8 Villanova doesn't beat top-seeded Georgetown in the '85 title game unless Jensen suddenly turns into Larry Bird and makes all five of his shots from the field. And Valparaiso doesn't beat Mississippi unless Drew converts a miracle 23-footer.
With all that in mind, we're ready to shimmy out on that limb and predict these four upsets:
•Delaware over Tennessee, first round. The Volunteers, particularly point guard Tony Harris, looked abysmal in a 62-56 loss to Mississippi State in the SEC tournament. And neither Blue Hens star Mike Pegues nor coach Mike Brey (a Mike Krzyzewski protégé) will be intimidated.
•A matched, first-round set: Detroit over UCLA and Murray State over Ohio State. Those two would then play in the second round, with the winner wearing the slipper into the Sweet 16.
•George Washington over St. John's, second round: This one will leave Red Storm coach Mike Jarvis pondering if he shouldn't have accepted the lifetime contact offer that was made by his previous employers...at GW.
You'll notice that we weren't so bold as to predict a 16th seed over a No. 1, something that has never happened in the NCAAs. In this decade top dogs have beaten bottom 'dogs by an average of 27.2 points, and only two 1-against-16 games (Purdue over Western Carolina by 73-71 in 1996, and Michigan State over Murray State by 75-71 in overtime in '90) could be considered to have been cliffhangers. But, listen, you 16th-seeded Florida A&M Rattlers, whose 12-18 record earned a first-round date with Duke: Has coach Mickey Clayton considered picking a fight with one of you at halftime?
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]