<
>

Giant Killers: Predicting NCAA upsets

3/15/2009 - Air Force Falcons Akron Zips Alabama Crimson Tide Alabama A&M Bulldogs Alabama State Hornets Albany Great Danes Alcorn State Braves American Eagles Appalachian St. Mountaineers Arizona Wildcats Arizona State Sun Devils Ark Pine Bluff Golden Lions Arkansas Razorbacks Arkansas LR Trojans Arkansas State Indians Army Black Knights Auburn Tigers Austin Peay Governors Ball State Cardinals Baylor Bears Belmont Bruins Bethune Cookman Wildcats Binghamton Bearcats Birmingham Sou Panthers Boise State Broncos Boston College Eagles Boston U. Terriers Bowling Green Falcons Bradley Braves Brigham Young Cougars Brown Bears Bryant University Bulldogs Bucknell Bison Buffalo Bulls Butler Bulldogs Cal Poly Mustangs Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners Cal State Fullerton Titans Cal State Northridge Matadors California Golden Bears California Riverside Highlanders California-Davis Aggies Campbell Fighting Camels Canisius Golden Griffins Centenary Gentlemen Central Arkansas Bears Central Conn. Blue Devils Central Florida Knights Central Michigan Chippewas Char. Southern Buccaneers Charleston Cougars Charlotte 49ers Chattanooga Mocs Chicago St Cougars Cincinnati Bearcats Citadel Bulldogs Clemson Tigers Cleveland St. Vikings Coast Carolina Chanticleers Colgate Raiders Colorado Buffaloes Colorado State Rams Columbia Lions Connecticut Huskies Coppin St Eagles Cornell Big Red Creighton Bluejays Dartmouth Big Green David Lipscomb Bisons Davidson Wildcats Dayton Flyers Delaware Fightin Blue Hens Delaware State Hornets Denver Pioneers DePaul Blue Demons Detroit Titans Drake Bulldogs Drexel Dragons Duke Blue Devils Duquesne Dukes East Carolina Pirates East Tenn. St. Buccaneers Eastern Illinois Panthers Eastern Kentucky Colonels Eastern Michigan Eagles Eastern Wash. Eagles Elon Phoenix Evansville Aces Fair Dickinson Knights Fairfield Stags Fla Atlantic Owls Florida Gators Florida A&M Rattlers Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Florida International Golden Panthers Florida State Seminoles Fordham Rams Fresno State Bulldogs Furman Paladins Gardner Webb Runnin' Bulldogs Geo Washington Colonials George Mason Patriots Georgetown Hoyas Georgia Bulldogs Georgia Southern Eagles Georgia St Panthers Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Gonzaga Bulldogs Grambling State Tigers Green Bay Phoenix Hampton Pirates Hartford Hawks Harvard Crimson Hawaii Warriors High Point Panthers Hofstra Pride + more
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sure, the Final Four is the preferred destination for every college hoops team, but the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament is where you'll find the real action. Why? Upsets. Pulse-pounding, system-shocking, eternally memorable upsets. Princeton over UCLA. Valpo over Ole Miss. Hampton over Iowa State. For the fourth straight year, we've endeavored to make sense of these seemingly random acts of Madness, attempting to systematically and scientifically identify upsets before they happen.

The goal is to uncover the latest crop of Giant Killers. A Giant Killer is a team that beats a tourney opponent seeded at least five spots higher. Squads from the six BCS conferences are ineligible, as are Butler, Gonzaga, Memphis and Xavier -- they're not sneaking up on anybody. And, obviously, a Slain Giant is a team that loses to a GK. Over the past five seasons, 21 Killers have knocked off 25 Giants (with a handful of GKs claiming multiple victims). So, by our rules, No. 10 Davidson's first-round win over No. 7 Gonzaga wasn't a GK victory this past year, but its subsequent wins against No. 2 Georgetown and No. 3 Wisconsin qualified. Ready to learn the secrets of Giant Killing? Click here.

HERE COMES A SHAMELESS TEASER

From now through the end of the NCAA tournament, we'll continually update our list of wobbly Giants and well-armed Killers. Here's a quick peek inside the numbers -- the percentage listed next to a team indicates its likelihood of becoming a Giant Killer or a Slain Giant.

GIANT OF THE DAY: ILLINOIS (37.4 percent). Illinois' defense is among the very best in the country, with an adjusted efficiency of 86.0 (fourth in the NCAA). But the Illini don't grab offensive rebounds (30.3 percent of possessions, 258th in the country), while the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are monsters on the offensive glass (37.9 percent, 28th in the nation). That could spell trouble for Illinois, which was held under 40 points twice in a three-week span, losing to Minnesota 59-36 and, notoriously, to Penn State 38-33. Teams capable of that level of inefficiency are vulnerable in March.

GIANT KILLER OF THE DAY: TEMPLE (32.6 percent). Temple keeps foes off the offensive glass, doesn't turn the ball over and doesn't rely on free throws to outscore opponents. Also, while our model can't distinguish between dominating scorers who can carry a team through the postseason and those who can be stopped as soon as they run into a good opponent, senior guard Dionte Christmas certainly was the former in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Click here to see the entire list.Insider