Early games the most intriguing in March Madness

I know they say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but in my opinion, March Madness is a close second. Every year we get to see the best teams and players go head-to-head, and the games are always close and always exciting. As exciting as the Final Four games are, the first few rounds are usually the most intriguing. And the main reason why I love these early-round games is simple: upsets. So what I'm going to do is give you my opinion on teams that are ripe for being upset when the first round begins tomorrow. Every single year at least one 12 seed beats a 5 seed, so when filling out your bracket, be sure to plan for this. Scouting the 12 versus 5 matchups, in the Midwest region I think Butler is a lock to fend off #12, but the other three match-ups are up in the air.

I see two very good opportunities for upsets. The first game is Arkansas over USC -- the Razorbacks struggled at times during the season, but finished the season winning four of the last five games, including a big win over Vanderbilt. USC, however, lost three of their last five games. There's no way USC deserved a #5 to begin with, playing in the relatively weak PAC-10 and losing to so many mediocre teams. The other potential 12 over 5 would be Illinois over Virginia Tech. Illinois finished the season pretty strong by making it to the Big Ten semifinals. Virginia Tech is a loser of three of their last four games, with all of those losses coming to unranked teams. Momentum is certainly not in their favor.

Other upsets to look for include #11 Virginia Commonwealth over #6 Duke. It's not that I'm high on VCU (because their schedule was pretty weak), but Duke has such a young and unpolished roster and as everyone knows, has not been the same Duke team this season that we're so used to seeing. If the Blue Devils do escape VCU, definitely expect them to be knocked out in the second round.

Other upset predictions: Winthrop, who everyone has been talking about allll season long, should put up a great fight against Notre Dame, not a traditional basketball powerhouse. Winthrop finished the season with 18 straight wins, so there is something to be said about that kind of momentum.

Finally, I like all of the number 10's over the number 7's, but particularly Georgia Tech, who beat #1 seed North Carolina on March 1st and beat #2 seed Memphis earlier in the year.

And one last stretch picks -- if you must pick a #3 to go down in round one, pick the Oregon Ducks to fall at the hands of the Miami of Ohio Redhawks -- not for any particularly good reason -- just because I have a feeling -- and when it comes to March Madness, a gut feeling can be as accurate as analyzing stats and scores.