5 Potential Round of 64 Upsets in the 2024 NCAA Tournament

Skyler Carlin
Skyler Carlin@skyler_carlin
5 Potential Round of 64 Upsets in the 2024 NCAA Tournament

It's officially the time of year where sports fans throughout the world will fill in their college basketball brackets for the NCAA Tournament. Picking upsets is essentially a requirement during the bracket-filling process as the tourney tends to have plenty of unexpected results.

With the teams and seeding being decided for this year's tournament, there are a bevy of interesting matchups scheduled for the first round of games. Rooting for an underdog or random team is an annual tradition that is popular among fans who hope that they'll produce the closest-to-perfect bracket.

It is undoubtedly fun to try and predict upsets throughout the tournament, but we can do so in a well-informed manner by using stats and metrics. Using a mixture of numberFire's nERD metric -- along with numbers from KenPom and Bart Torvik -- let's dive into a handful of potential round of 64 upsets for teams who are the No. 11 seed or lower.

Potential Round of 64 Upsets in NCAA Tournament

5. Kansas (4) vs. Samford (13)

The Kansas Jayhawks aren't entering the NCAA Tournament in great form, losing four of their last five games, including a 72-52 defeat to the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas was without Hunter Dickinson (18.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG) and Kevin McCullar (18.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG) in the loss to Cincinnati, and they likely won't be fully healthy to begin the tournament.

Besides their injury woes, the Jayhawks have been matched up against a high-scoring Samford Bulldogs team in the first round of the tourney. While averaging the fifth-most points per game (86.0) in the country, the Bulldogs have the 67th-best adjusted offensive efficiency (111.7) and the seventh-best effective field-goal percentage (56.9%), via Bart Torvik's stats.

Samford also operates at the 14th-highest adjusted tempo and boast the 87th-best three-point rate (40.9) compared to Kansas being 334th in three-point rate (29.7). If the Bulldogs can force the Jayhawks to play at their pace and they knock down their outside shots, they have the recipe to beat a 4 seed Kansas squad that is dealing with injuries.

Of the 13 seeds in this year's tourney, numberFire is giving Samford the second-best chance (32.1%) to win in the first round. The Bulldogs are currently 7.5-point underdogs to the Jayhawks entering Thursday's showdown.

4. Wisconsin (5) vs. James Madison (12)

In an exciting contest in the Big Ten Championship, the Wisconsin Badgers fell to the Illinois Fighting Illini by the score of 93-87. Guard AJ Storr (16.9 PPG) was phenomenal in the conference tourney, totaling 90 points in the four games leading up to the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the Badgers playing great basketball recently, they won't want to overlook the James Madison Dukes in the round of 64. As a 12 seed in the South region, James Madison owns the 64th-best adjusted offensive efficiency (112.0) and the 34th-best effective field-goal percentage (54.4%) while also having the 39th-best turnover rate on defense (19.8).

The Dukes won the Sun Belt conference tournament with relative ease, defeating two of their three opponents by 17-plus points. James Madison deploys three double-digit scorers as upperclassmen Terrence Edwards (17.4 PPG), T.J. Bickerstaff (13.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG), and Noah Friedel (12.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) are relied on heavily.

Neither of these teams make many mistakes -- both teams are top 42 teams in turnover rate -- so the outcome could be determined by who takes care of the basketball better. With James Madison amid a 13-game winning streak, Wisconsin is officially on upset alert as a 5 seed.

3. Saint Mary's (5) vs. Grand Canyon (12)

Since the tournament field was expanded in 1985, there have been 53 teams that are a 12 seed that defeated a 5 seed. Furthermore, we've witnessed three 12 seeds since 2021 record a victory in the Round of 64 against a 5 seed.

Besides the Wisconsin-James Madison matchup, the impending clash between the Saint Mary's Gaels and the Grand Canyon Antelopes is one to keep an eye on. The Gaels registered a 29-4 record en route to winning the regular season title and conference tournament title in the WAC.

Despite Saint Mary's owning the 30th-best adjusted offensive efficiency (115.8) and the 13th-best adjusted defensive efficiency (93.7), Grand Canyon has the 38th-best turnover rate on defense (19.9), the 29th-best offensive rebound rate (34.6), and the fifth-best free throw rate (45.3).

Among the No. 12 seeds, numberFire is giving Grand Canyon the best chance (47.3%) to win in the first round. With the Antelopes leaning on Tyon Grant-Foster (19.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG), Rayshon Harrison (13.7 PPG), and Gabe McGlothan (13.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG), they also have the shortest odds to reach the Sweet Sixteen (+490) of the 12 seeds.

2. Texas Tech (6) vs. NC State (11)

One of the most popular upsets entering the round of 64 is undoubtedly going to be the matchup between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. NC State is red-hot right now after earning an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament by defeating the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels during their impressive run to win the ACC Tournament.

DJ Horne (16.9 PPG) returned to the starting lineup in the ACC Tournament Championship versus North Carolina and posted 28 points while D.J. Burns (12.4 PPG) registered 20 points. Even though Texas Tech is 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency (117.5) and 47th in adjusted defensive efficiency (98.4), NC State tallies the ninth-best turnover rate on offense (13.7) and the 47th-best adjusted offensive efficiency (114.0).

The 11 seeds have had slightly better results than 12 seeds since 1985, notching 58 wins against 6 seeds in that span. On top of that, at least one 11 seed has advanced to the second round of the tournament since 2004.

For the time being, the Wolfpack are 4.5-point underdogs to the Red Raiders, and numberFire is giving them a 41.2% chance to win. NC State also has +1300 odds to reach the Elite Eight in this year's NCAA Tournament.

1. Clemson (6) vs. New Mexico (11)

Does it count as an upset if the lower-seeded team is favored to win the game? The New Mexico Lobos -- who are the MWC Tournament champions -- are currently 1.5-point favorites over the 6 seed Clemson Tigers in the first round of the tourney.

Aside from being 39th in adjusted offensive efficiency (114.8), the Lobos are 22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency (95.5) and have the 14th-best turnover rate (13.9). New Mexico also loves to play at the eighth-highest adjusted tempo with Jaelen House (16.1 PPG), Jamal Mashburn (14.4 PPG), and Donovan Dent (14.3 PPG, 5.6 APG) leading the charge.

The fact the Lobos are an 11 seed is mind-boggling as they have the 20th-best nERD metric (13.24), are ranked 23rd in KenPom's ratings, and 26th in Bart Torvik's rankings. Meanwhile, Clemson enters this contest having lost three of their last four games, including a 76-55 blowout loss to the Boston College Eagles to begin the ACC Tournament.

Ahead of Friday's matchup, numberFire is giving New Mexico a 58.6% chance to secure a victory over Clemson. Lastly, the Lobos have the seventh-shortest odds to win the West Region (+1800) in this year's NCAA Tournament.

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