NCAA Tournament: Best upset candidates at each seed

Who doesn’t love a Cinderella squad in the Big Dance? It’s easy to get behind underdogs who spoil the NCAA Tournament party for the power schools — unless the ol’ alma mater is on the wrong side of such an upset.

Lower seeds win all the time in the tournament. Some win more frequently than others; No. 11 seeds have won half the time over the past five tournaments. Teams seeded 13th or lower win too, but far less frequent — such teams have won just 12.5% of the time over the same period.

While stopping short of saying these teams will actually win, here are amNewYork’s picks at each lower seed to win on Thursday or Friday in the first round.

No. 9: Providence

The Friars ascended as high as No. 8 in the AP poll in early January before a rocky run in Big East play derailed them. But Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil alone are capable of powering a win over eighth-seeded USC in the East Regional. It helps that the reeling Trojans have lost seven of their last 10 games.

No. 10: VCU

The Rams are tournament staples at this point, making their sixth consecutive appearance. A run to the Atlantic 10 final after tying to the best conference record indicates good momentum entering the matchup against West Regional No. 7 seed Oregon State, which went 10-10 since the start of the calendar year.

No. 11: Wichita State

Seniors Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker have been key to the Shockers’ success the past several years. Although they didn’t stand out in nonconference play and lost in the MVC tournament title game, a convincing 70-50 win over Vanderbilt in the First Four on Tuesday reveals a team that could give South Regional No. 6 seed Arizona some trouble.

No. 12: Yale

Making their first tournament appearance in more than 50 years, the Bulldogs are matched up against West Regional No. 5 Baylor. Although without Jack Montague, the point guard who was expelled amid a sexual assault allegation, Yale is just as capable of getting hot from 3-point range as the Bears.

No. 13: Iona

Senior guard A.J. English, who averages 22.4 points, 6.2 assists and five rebounds, is good enough to carry the Gaels against Midwest Regional No. 4 seed Iowa State. The same can be said of the Cyclones’ Georges Niang (19.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), but recent struggles could be tough for Iowa State to overcome against an Iona team that has won 12 of its last 13 games.

No. 14: Stephen F. Austin

The Lumberjacks will have their hands full with East Regional No. 3 West Virginia, but there is hope. SFA ran the table in the Southland Conference, making them just about the hottest team in the country, albeit against lesser competition. This would be quite a shock, but don’t rule out the high-scoring Lumberjacks.

No. 15: UNC Asheville

This has more to do with No. 2 Villanova’s recent tournament troubles than Asheville’s own qualifications. The Wildcats haven’t advanced to the Sweet Sixteen since a Final Four berth in 2009. The South Regional No. 2 seed should roll, but a Bulldogs defeat isn’t impossible.

No. 16: Florida Gulf Coast

There will not be a 16-over-1 upset this year. It will happen someday, but there’s no telling when. With that out of the way, the Eagles sure looked excellent in their 96-65 win over Fairleigh Dickinson in Tuesday’s matchup. Will that be a springboard for a win over East Regional No. 1 North Carolina? Of course not.

How they fared

Take a look at the winning percentages of lower seeds in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64 over the previous five years.