One of the greatest things about March Madness is the number of upsets it generates. Every year, a smaller school with longer odds to win manages to surprise everyone by going on a remarkable run -- sometimes reaching the tournament’s later rounds.

It’s time to predict which first-round underdogs might emerge in 2024. These select teams are poised and ready to take down their initial opponents and shock the college basketball world. Here are four potential March Madness upsets to keep an eye on.

Best March Madness First-Round Upset Predictions and Bets Today

Northwestern vs. FAU Prediction and Pick

Florida Atlantic, the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s East Region, appears poised for another deep tournament run in 2024. The Owls authored one of the most spectacular Cinderella stories in March Madness history just last year. Competing in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history, FAU not only got its first March Madness win – it went all the way to the Final Four

Despite their evident talent, the Owls just haven’t quite managed to display the same magic in 2023-24 that they seemed to possess last year. FAU has already lost to multiple teams that were far less talented, with its most recent disappointment coming against Temple in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.

Meanwhile, the Northwestern Wildcats have already proven this season that they can play up to the level of their higher-ranked opponents. They became the first team to knock off former No.1 Purdue earlier in the season, and more recently, they also won a huge rivalry game against Illinois.

The Wildcats feel like a huge wild card in this tournament, and they certainly have the ability to take down FAU, which played a much easier schedule against AAC opponents. Northwestern, on the other hand, has been through the Big Ten gauntlet already and might be better prepared for a high-profile game like this one.

Look for senior guard Boo Buie and the Wildcats to slow down ball movement and open up clean perimeter shots, while preventing Johnell Davis and the Owls from getting into a rhythm with their explosive offense. If Northwestern can successfully do that, we might just be looking at a first-round upset.

The Pick: Northwestern to win (+125)

Wisconsin vs. James Madison Prediction and Pick

Wisconsin has been an incredibly inconsistent team in 2023-24. After a strong start to their regular season, the Badgers seemed to fall apart over the final stretch -- losing eight of their last 11 games heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

That conference tournament went quite well for Wisconsin, which pulled off a nice upset win over Purdue before losing to Illinois in the championship game. Because of that strong finish, no one is really sure what to expect from these Badgers in their first-round NCAA matchup against James Madison.

There’s no question, however, that JMU has some serious upset potential. Playing in the much weaker Sun Belt Conference, the Dukes dominated the regular season by winning 31 of 34 games. They enter this year’s NCAA Tournament riding a 13-game win streak that included a 20-point Sun Belt championship-game beatdown of Arkansas State.

JMU is absolutely red-hot going into this first-round NCAA game against Wisconsin. Junior point guard Terrence Edwards Jr. leads the way for a balanced Dukes attack that has seen four different players average double-digit point totals this season.

At the end of the day, this is the Badgers’ game to lose. However, after playing four games in four days during last week’s Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin might be a bit worn down. James Madison therefore has a chance to capitalize against a team that previously played sloppy and tired before its Big Ten Tournament renaissance.

The Pick: James Madison to win (+185)

Samford vs. Kansas Prediction and Pick

One of the most talked-about storylines heading into this year’s NCAA Tournament is how much recent injuries have riddled what was already a top-heavy Kansas roster.

The Jayhawks’ top scorer, Kevin McCullar Jr., is set to miss the entire tournament with a knee injury, which means Kansas has a massive hole to fill at both ends of the court. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, it appears that 7-foot-2 center Hunter Dickinson will be back after missing the tail end of the season, but there's still major concern about whether he will be able to perform at 100 percent.

It will be a tall order for Samford, a March Madness underdog, to make any kind of deep tournament run as the Midwest Region’s No 13 seed, but the Bulldogs have an opportunity to play spoiler against the Jayhawks in the first round on Thursday night.

Like several of the other smaller-conference teams in the tournament, Samford really hasn’t played against any elite-level competition yet, so there's not a whole lot to say about how it might stack up against Kansas. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs have been hot. They just won the Southern Conference championship and are now going after the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.

While McCullar’s offensive production is widely known, what he added to Kansas’ defense is equally important. Since the Bulldogs are a great perimeter-shooting team, it will be interesting to see if the Jayhawks can adjust to his absence.

The Pick: Samford to win (+240)

New Mexico vs. Clemson Prediction and Pick

 New Mexico vs. Clemson is one of the most intriguing matchups of the 2024 NCAA Tournament’s first round, and with good reason. The Lobos are a slight favorite, but in my mind, this matchup could be heavily titled in their favor and potentially result in New Mexico winning by a double-digit margin.

The Lobos slipped a little in the regular season’s stretch run -- going 4-6 over their last 10 games. However, this 11th-seeded team is fresh off a huge win over San Diego State, a March Madness No. 5 seed, that capped off its run to the Mountain West Conference championship

Clemson, meanwhile, seems to play up or down to the level of its opponents. In late November and early December, the Tigers were red-hot with wins over Alabama, South Carolina, and TCU, but they stumbled into a bit of a funk toward midseason.

Perhaps their biggest win of the year came on Feb. 6 at North Carolina, because that victory got the Tigers’ season back on track. However, coming off a 76-55 loss to Boston College in the first round of the ACC Tournament, Clemson will need a big bounce-back to beat a New Mexico team that must be taken seriously.

Of course, anything can happen at this time of year, but it seems as though Clemson has neither the talent nor consistency to make a deep NCAA run in 2024. If the Tigers can effectively slow down their game against New Mexico, they might be able to pull out a win, but Lobos guards Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. both appear to be firing on all cylinders right now.

I’ll finish off my March Madness upset picks with New Mexico to win and cover the spread, but the real “upset” here is my prediction that the Lobos will hand Clemson a lopsided loss.

The Pick: New Mexico -2.5 (-105)

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