Tourney's top early upset candidates

Le'Bryan Nash and Oklahoma State could surprise in the NCAA tournament. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

As we embark on our ninth annual search for big NCAA tournament upsets, an unfortunate reality is staring out from our spreadsheets: There just aren't many promising Giant Killers in the mid-majors this season, and even fewer are leading their conferences (and in turn projecting as automatic bid winners). Usually the numbers embolden us to believe deeply in at least one or two unheralded but clearly talented squads, like Cornell and Murray State in 2010, or VCU and Richmond in 2011. But this time around, upsets are more likely to come as a result of Giants who fail to overcome their vulnerabilities or extreme long shots who get good matchups.

Don't worry, in the coming weeks, we'll still get to mid-majors that could yet send Killers to the Big Dance, like the crazy Conference USA. But first we are going to show you the need to look for Cinderellas high (in power conferences) and low (in the smallest of leagues).

Here are five who are readying their slingshots.