Predicting the correct Final Four is seen as the key to winning a March Madness office pool, but picking opening-round upsets is also important. Getting points in the first two days of the 2015 NCAA Tournament can mean the difference between winning and losing.
There are a few general rules that should always be followed when making first-round picks, such as picking every No.1 seed to win and making sure at least one No.12 seed advances in your bracket. But each year is different, and knowing a little bit about every team can make a significant difference.
Below are picks for every game in the Round of 64 in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky could win their first game by 30 points and Notre Dame should advance with ease, but the Midwest could see a few upsets. Kansas isn’t likely to lose, but they could have some trouble with New Mexico State. Buffalo has a good chance to be one of the No.12 seeds that pulls off an upset, considering West Virginia has been a .500 team for the past two months. At first glance, Butler might seem like the obvious pick over Texas, but even though the Longhorns are the No.11 seed, Las Vegas oddsmakers have them favored to win the game.
No.1 Kentucky vs. No.16 Hampton
No.8 Cincinnati vs. No.9 Purdue
No.5 West Virginia vs. No.12 Buffalo
No.4 Maryland vs. No.13 Valparaiso
No.6 Butler vs. No.11 Texas
No.3 Notre Dame vs. No.14 Northeastern
Pick: Notre Dame
No.7 Wichita State vs. No.10 Indiana
Pick: Wichita State
No.2 Kansas vs. No.15 New Mexico State
There might not be many upsets in this portion of the bracket. Wisconsin and Arizona were both good enough to be No.1 seeds, and they should win with no problems. Wofford might be the weakest No.12 seed in the tournament, and Arkansas is likely to advance and meet North Carolina in the Round of 32. Ohio State has the best chance of pulling off an upset. The Buckeyes have one of the best players in the nation in D’Angelo Russell.
No.1 Wisconsin vs. No.16 Coastal Carolina
No.8 Oregon vs. No.9 Oklahoma State
No.5 Arkansas vs. No.12 Wofford
No.4 North Carolina vs. No.13 Harvard
Pick: North Carolina
No.6 Xavier vs. No.11 Ole Miss
No.3 Baylor vs. No.14 Georgia State
No.7 VCU vs. No.10 Ohio State
Pick: Ohio State
No.2 Arizona vs. No.15 Texas Southern
The top three seeds are much better than their competition, and while Louisville has struggled of late, they have one of the nation’s best head coaches and should be able to avoid an early round upset. No.7 vs. No.10 matchups aren’t always easy to predict, but it’s hard to pick against Michigan State, considering they’ve won at least one NCAA Tournament game in seven of the last eight years. No.9 seeds beat No.8 seeds more often than not, but LSU has lost six of their last 12 games.
No.1 Villanova vs. No.16 Lafayette
No.8 N.C. State vs. No.9 LSU
Pick: N.C. State
No.5 Northern Iowa vs. No.12 Wyoming
Pick: Northern Iowa
No.4 Louisville vs. No.13 UC Irvine
No.6 Providence vs. No.11 Boise State/Dayton
No.3 Oklahoma vs. No.14 Albany
No.7 Michigan State vs. No.10 Georgia
Pick: Michigan State
No.2 Virginia vs. No.15 Belmont
No matter who Duke faces, they won’t lose their first NCAA Tournament game for a second consecutive year. Seeds No.1-3 shouldn’t have much of a problem advancing, but the rest of the bracket could feature multiple upsets. Georgetown has a history of losing to lower seeds in the first round, while Stephen F. Austin won as a No.12 seed just a year ago. The rest of the games could go either way, though San Diego State does have the edge over St. Johns with the news that the Red Storm’s No.2 rebounder has been suspended for two weeks.
No.1 Duke vs. No.16 UNF/Robert Morris
No.8 San Diego State vs. No.9 St. John's
Pick: San Diego State
No.5 Utah vs. No.12 Stephen F. Austin
Pick: Stephen F. Austin
No.4 Georgetown vs. No.13 Eastern Washington
Pick: Eastern Washington
No.6 SMU vs. No.11 UCLA
No.3 Iowa State vs. No.14 UAB
Pick: Iowa State
No.7 Iowa vs. No.10 Davidson
No.2 Gonzaga vs. No.15 North Dakota St.