Giant Killers: South Region

Best chances for potential NCAA tournament upsets

Updated: March 18, 2014, 12:23 PM ET
By Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner | ESPN Insider

West | South | East | Midwest

Last night, we brought you the news that the NCAA selection committee, working from an applicant pool already weakened by conference tournament upsets, has handed down a weak field of Giant Killers for 2014. Nevertheless, it's time to move beyond our list of the 10 most likely round of 64 upsets and go prospecting in this year's brackets.

For each of the four regions, we'll break down the six Giant vs. Killer matchups. (Remember, a Giant Killer is any team that beats an opponent seeded at least five spots higher. See our full methodology here for more details.)

Per tradition, we have divided the games among four categories: Best Bets, Worth a Long Look, Not Completely Crazy and Stay Away. We can't tell you exactly how to play your brackets; that depends on how much upsets are worth in your pool. But we can give you the odds of upsets, based on statistical analysis that begins with teams' basic power ratings and layers in their "special sauce" (their statistical similarity to past Davids and Goliaths) and adjusts further for the matchup of their playing styles.

Stick with us. We will cover the Midwest and South on Monday, the East and West on Tuesday, and look ahead to future rounds on Wednesday.

In the South, we find no Best Bets, just a series of intriguingly weak matchups ...

Worth A Long Look

No. 5 VCU Rams (Giant rating: 87.2, on a scale from zero to 100) vs.
No. 12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
(Giant Killer rating: 29.4) 
Upset Chance: 24.9 percent

We spotted the Lumberjacks in our spreadsheets a month ago, and have spent a good chunk of our time since then patting ourselves on the back. They force turnovers at a staggering rate (24.4 percent of opponent possessions, ranking third in the NCAA); at the same time, they protect the ball, and the combination drags out the length of their possessions to an average of 20.5 seconds and slows the pace of their games (ranking 304th). They shoot 3s frequently and effectively, and despite having no starters taller than 6-foot-6, they pull down 38.5 percent of missed shots (ranking 11th). It's all an amazing Giant Killing combination, one that should amp Stephen F. Austin by nearly 10 points in the NCAA tournament.

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.