Below are five teams — all lower seeds that aren’t favored in their first-round matchups — that could make runs to the second round and beyond.
Seed: 11, South Region
First-round opponent: Miami (Fla.)
Game time: 3:10 p.m. ET, Thursday
Spread ( via Westgate SuperBook): Miami (-2)
Loyola-Chicago’s chances to win ( via FiveThirtyEight): 40 percent
Loyola-Chicago is a classic March Madness story. The Ramblers are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985 and are a trendy upset pick with a favorable first-round draw vs. Miami. But Loyola-Chicago is more than a good story. The team has just 5 losses on the season — its most recent defeat came on Jan. 31 — and is incredibly balanced. Loyola-Chicago has five players with scoring averages in double figures, and Miami won’t be able to key in on one player defensively. The Ramblers also have experience beating big names from the Sunshine State. They took down Florida, then ranked No. 5 in the country, on Dec. 5.
San Diego State
Seed: 11, West Region
First-round opponent: Houston
Game time: 7:20 p.m. ET, Thursday
Spread: Houston (-3)
San Diego State’s chances to win: 28 percent
San Diego State is not supposed to be in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. On Feb. 10, the team was 13-10 and 5-7 in the Mountain West. Fast forward a little more than a month later, and the team has won 9 straight games, captured the Mountain West Tournament title and has a solid chance to notch a win in the big dance. The Aztecs are one of the hottest teams in the field. Their run includes a pair of wins over Nevada — a 7 seed in the tournament — in the last 10 days. Like Loyola-Chicago, San Diego State has five players score in double figures, and the team holds opponents to 67.9 points per game. It won’t be easy for Houston in the first round.
College of Charleston
Seed: 13, Midwest Region
First-round opponent: Auburn
Game time: 7:27 p.m. ET, Friday
Spread: Auburn (-10)
Charleston’s chances to win: 20 percent
This upset pick is a little bit about Charleston and a little bit about Auburn. Charleston has three players capable of putting up huge scoring numbers. Grant Riller (18.7 points per game), Joe Chealey (18.5) and Jarrell Brantley (17.0) provide a potent three-headed offensive monster for the champions of the CAA Tournament. Charleston will be a handful for an Auburn team that is limping into the tournament. The Tigers have only 7 losses this season, but four of them have come in the team’s last six games.
Seed: 10, West Region
First-round opponent: Texas A&M
Game time: 12:15 p.m. ET, Friday
Spread: Texas A&M (-3.5)
Providence’s chances to win: 42 percent
Providence is not quite as high of a seed as some of the other upset picks, but the Friars are capable of making a run to the Sweet 16 in this tournament. Providence nearly won the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Friars knocked off Xavier and took Villanova to overtime — all while coach Ed Cooley dealt with a rip in his trousers). Opponents — not Texas A&M and not North Carolina in a potential second-round matchup — should not take Providence lightly.
New Mexico State
Seed: 12, Midwest Region
First-round opponent: Clemson
Game time: 9:57 p.m. ET, Friday
Spread: Clemson (-5)
New Mexico State’s chances to win: 38 percent
New Mexico State and Clemson meet in the final game of the first round, and the Aggies have a chance to end the round with a bang. New Mexico State is used to winning (the team enters with a 28-5 record) and have an exciting guard in Zach Lofton who is capable of going for 30 points any time the Aggies take the floor. New Mexico State also should be able to control the glass. The team has the nation’s second-best rebounder in Jemerrio Jones, who pulls down 13.2 boards per game.