The top 10 bets for NCAA tourney upsets 

March, 10, 2011

Without any further ado, here are the top 10 potential Giant Killers, based on our statistical model's ratings. Some already have tickets to the Big Dance, while others are still working their way through conference championships. In the latter cases, you'll know whom to root for over the next few days if you like watching NCAA tournament upsets.

Please note that these teams' actual chances for beating Giants will depend greatly (in fact, we'd say by about 50 percent) on their opponents. We'll get to head-to-head odds once we get tournament seedings. Also, we're going into more detail here with these teams than we're going to go into with the Giants. You probably know quite a bit about the BYU Cougars and North Carolina Tar Heels already. Here's your chance to begin delving into lesser-known assassins. Happy hunting!

1. Belmont Bruins (57.8 percent chance of pulling an upset)

We're trying to think of a calm, subtle, non-panic-inducing way to put this: If they get anything that even resembles a favorable first-round matchup, go bet the ranch on the Bruins. Most Giant Killers generate extra possessions by either crashing the boards inside or engaging in pesky, risky guard play on the outside, but very few have the personnel to do both. The Bruins do: they rank 13th in the NCAA in offensive rebounding (ORs on 37.9 percent of misses) and second in generating turnovers (a whopping 27.6 percent of opponent possessions). Add in the fact they can shoot from anywhere (52.4 percent on 2-point FGs, 38.1 percent on 3s), and Belmont has the third-highest GK score of any team since our data sample started in 2004.

It's true that most Giants won't lose sleep over having to face the champion of the Atlantic Sun Conference. But it's also true that Belmont scores a hefty 35.2 percent of its points from behind the arc, while its opponents are unusually reliant on free throws (25.3 percent of scoring, 22nd in the NCAA). That's a recipe for the kind of scoring pattern that lets underdogs catch better teams.

Peter Keating

ESPN Senior Writer
Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. His column, The Numbers, appears in every issue.

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