Giant Killers: West Region

Breaking down the best chances for potential NCAA tournament upsets

Updated: March 18, 2014, 1:21 PM ET
By Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner | ESPN Insider

West | South | East | Midwest

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.

We covered the Midwest and South on Monday, have the East and West on Tuesday and look ahead to future rounds on Wednesday.

Here are matchups to watch in the West Region ...


Best Bet

No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners (Giant rating: 66.2) vs. No. 12 North Dakota State Bison (Giant Killer rating: 14.5)
Upset chance: 34.1 percent

North Dakota State is a classic example of what we call a "schoolyard bully" -- a team built to dominate inferior conference competition and earn NCAA berths, but unlikely to stand up to the big boys. These squads protect the ball, shoot smart and mostly from the inside, and work the defensive boards, all at a slow pace, while avoiding the risks involved in pressing for turnovers or crashing the offensive glass -- a model Bucknell took to an extreme last season. Problem is, safe play is usually no way for an underdog to beat a Giant; Killers usually need some 3-pointers or steals or boards in their special sauce to spice up their game against superior opposition.

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.