Giant Killers: South upset picks

Why UCLA could be in trouble against Minnesota, plus more upset odds

Updated: March 19, 2013, 11:56 AM 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 have also 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 every region, and check back with us on Wednesday when we look ahead to future rounds.

South Region

The South Region may lack upset depth, but it does feature our top Giant-Killing bet of the entire opening round.

BEST BET

No. 6 UCLA Bruins (53.1 Giant rating on a scale of 0 to 100 percent chance of beating a generic Giant Killer) versus No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers (57.5 Giant Killer rating on a scale of 0 to 100 percent chance of beating a generic Giant)

Upset chance: 74 percent

Never in the history of Giant Killers has a game materialized in this way. On Wednesday, our model ranked UCLA as the Giant most vulnerable to a potential upset. Then, on Friday, it pegged Minnesota as the second-best likely GK, behind only VCU, which earned a 5-seed and thus can't be a GK. The result is an upset rating the likes of which we've never seen, with the Golden Gophers expected to win three-quarters of the time. And that's based on stats UCLA accumulated with Jordan Adams, who is now lost for the season with a broken foot.

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.