Giant Killers: East upset picks

Top seeds look safe as Montana, Bucknell make poor 'Davids'

Updated: March 20, 2013, 9:10 PM ET
By Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner | ESPN Insider

UPSET ODDS BY REGION

West | Midwest | South | East

On Selection Sunday, we fired up the Giant Killers model to pump out the 10 most likely upsets in the opening round. But now it's time to go deeper. Much deeper.

For each of the four regions, we'll break down the six games with Giant Killers implications. (Reminder: A Giant Killer is a team that beats an opponent seeded at least five spots higher; check out our full methodology for more details.)

We also have sorted the games into four categories: Best Bets, Worth a Long Look, Not Completely Crazy and Stay Away. It's important to remember that we're dealing with probabilities here. No upset is a given -- if it were, it wouldn't be an upset in the first place. And even a game with a 10 percent chance of going in favor of the underdog means that one out of every 10 times, the underdog should win.

Instead, we can give you the likelihood of an upset, based on rigorous statistical analysis that merges a team's base power rating with our GK "Secret Sauce" -- the statistical similarity between potential Giant Killers and historical Davids, as well as Giants and their predecessors who were slain. By coming up with a rating for every team, we are then able to compute an upset percentage for each matchup.

What you choose to do with that information is up to you, and should probably depend on how many points you receive for picking an upset in your pool. Take a look at the upset chances for every game in all four regions, and check back with us on Wednesday when we look ahead to future rounds.

East Region

Cough, cough -- excuse us, but we looked at the East region and flashed back to 2011, when the air around our brackets was clogged with chalk dust. This sextet doesn't feature even one deep-'dog sharpshooter as good as Boise State, or an underseeded squad as talented as Oregon. Happy hunting elsewhere, and in the meantime, heed these warnings.

WORTH A LONG LOOK

No. 6 Butler Bulldogs (Giant rating: 57.4, on a scale of 0 to 100 percent chance of beating a generic Giant Killer) versus No. 11 Bucknell Bison (Giant Killer rating: 3.8, on a scale of 0 to 100 percent estimated chance of beating a generic Giant)

Upset chance: 29.4 percent

We will try not to belabor this analysis, because there's a pretty fair chance here that we're somehow going to insult fans of both of these teams. Let's first examine Butler, which rates as the second-most vulnerable Giant in our spreadsheets. The Bulldogs play smart and they play hard, and they've got obvious strengths (rebounding on both ends, interior defense) and weaknesses (turnovers, forcing turnovers). Overall, they have outscored opponents by 14.5 points per 100 possessions while playing in the Atlantic 10 this season. Thing is, that's not all that different from 10-seeds Colorado (scoring margin: 15 points per 100 possessions) and Oklahoma (15.2), or 13-seed Boise State (16.0), all of which rank near Butler in BPI. Our model sees the Bulldogs as prone to an upset because they're seeded about four spots higher than teams of comparable strength.


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Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

Jordan Brenner | email

ESPN The Magazine contributing writer
Brenner writes for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. He covers the NBA and college basketball.