They happen every year: 12s over 5s, 10s over 7s. Last year, even a 15 over a 2. Oh, the drama is magnificent.

The question is not whether upsets will happen, but which Cinderellas will be the Cinderellas. They’re hard to pinpoint. How many times has a trendy upset pick disappointed? How many brackets have been reduced to fire-starters after an I’m-Sorry-Who?!? squad comes out of nowhere? Lots, OK?

That fateful No. 15 seed of last year, Florida Gulf Coast, went on to the Sweet Sixteen, the first 15 to do so. I only know one person that had that, and he picks his bracket by rolling dice (not a bad strategy, now that we mention it). But while not every upset can be predicted by mortal man or even Ken Pomeroy, the prime candidates can identified based on matchup, momentum and all the elusive intangibles. If all these flips happened, it would be a crazy first round.

It would also be two great days of basketball.

Here’s who I think has a shot, rated by confidence like so:

Dagger Swagger: Oh yeah, it’s good. Count it.

Solid Shot: A 50-50 midrange jumper.

Please Don’t Airball: Heaving it from half-court here, people.


Thursday’s games

(11) Dayton over (6) Ohio State 11:15 a.m., Ch. 4

Line: Ohio State by 6

Why it will happen: The Buckeyes have been hard to predict this year. First a 15-game winning streak. Then five losses in six games. Then six wins in seven games. Then a pair of mind-boggling drops at season’s end. Then a run to the Big Ten tournament semifinals, nearly upsetting top-seeded Michigan. What a weird team. But if Ohio State plays like the most recent version, handling Dayton’s respectable scoring attack shouldn’t be a problem.

Confidence meter: Please Don’t Airball

(12) Harvard over (5) Cincinnati 1:10 p.m., TNT

Line: Cincinnati by 3

If you are a Ken Pomeroy devotee, I need say no more. The efficiency ratings simply love the Crimson, who have dominated the Ivy League this year. They also give Harvard a 44 percent chance of winning this game, which is pretty darn good for a 12-5 matchup. Last year the Crimson was a trendy pick for advancing, and it should be again now — it has the tools and the composure to stay in it with any team.

Confidence meter: Solid Shot

(14) Western Michigan over (3) Syracuse

1:45 p.m., Ch. 4

Line: Syracuse by 13

Why it’ll happen: In case you haven’t noticed, the Orange isn’t playing so well right now. After being the second-to-last undefeated team in the nation (the other, Wichita State, still is, of course), Syracuse has fallen apart down the stretch, failing to reach the one-point-per-possession threshold in four of its past seven games. The team appears to be floundering mentally as well. And that, my friends, is a recipe for a first-round boot.

Confidence meter: Solid Shot

(10) St. Joseph’s over (7) Connecticut

5:55 p.m., TBS

Line: Connecticut by 4½

Why it’ll happen: UConn is playing pretty well you say? OK, that’s fair. But you know what the Huskies don’t have? A mascot that flaps its arm the entire game, every game, all season. And as for St. Joe’s, it’s going to be unflappable. See what I did there? The Hawks have all the ingredients: veteran leadership, a schedule with some challenges, a top-70 offense and defense and a current hot streak. Move aside, Puppies.

Confidence meter: Dagger Swagger

(12) North Dakota State over (5) Oklahoma

6:27 p.m., truTV

Line: Oklahoma by 3½

Why it’ll happen: The Sooners can be burned by a good offense, and that’s exactly what NDSU has. The Bison rank 11th in the nation in effective field goal percentage and make the most of its opportunities by taking good care of the ball. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has struggled to get over the hump at times.

Confidence meter: Dagger Swagger



Friday’s games

(11) Nebraska over (6) Baylor

11:40 a.m., truTV

Line: Baylor by 3½

Why it’ll happen: The Cornhuskers ended the regular season hot, only to lose an 18-point lead to Ohio State in their first Big Ten tournament game. You’d better believe Tim Miles and Co isn’t happy with that. Baylor has shown the capability to unravel. And it’s hard to bet against a team, even an inexperienced one, that somehow took 12th-place expectations in the Big Ten and turned them into a fourth-place finish. I’m still amazed.

Confidence meter: Solid Shot

(11) Providence over (6) North Carolina

6:20 p.m., TNT

Line: North Carolina by 4

Why it’ll happen: Where are the Friars right now? I don’t know. Providence just cruised through the Big East tournament, but struggled to win the big games at the end of the season. Bryce Cotton is a legitimate star the world is just waiting to find out about, and Providence has no struggles putting the ball in the basket. That, combined with the fact that UNC has been one of the most mind-numbingly inconsistent teams all year could spell trouble. The again, when the Heels are on, they can be terrifying.

Confidence meter: Please Don’t Airball

(12) Stephen F. Austin over (5) VCU

6:27 p.m., truTV

Line: VCU by 6

Why it’ll happen: Everyone loves those 12-over-5 upsets, and this is one of the beauties of this year’s dance. This game is going to be a thriller, with two of the best turnover-forcing teams in the nation. One had its ups and downs in the deep A-10; the other dominated the sleepy Southland Conference. Stephen F. Austin heads to San Diego hoping to out-“Havoc” the team that coined the phrase. Either way, you won’t be able to turn away from this one.

Confidence meter: Dagger Swagger