They don't call the NCAA Tournament March Madness because the favored teams always win. Indeed, March Madness is all about buzzer-beaters, scoring runs, and improbable victories by lower-seeded teams that no one believed could achieve the seemingly impossible. We're just getting under way with the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, so let's take a moment to focus on some games that shape up as potential first-round upsets.

Best Women's March Madness First-Round Upset Predictions and Bets Today

Arizona vs. Syracuse Women's Prediction and Pick

Syracuse has limped its way into this year’s NCAA Tournament with losses in three of its past four games. However, the coaching staff will be sure to remind the Orange players that March Madness represents a new season and a clean slate.

Arizona, on the other hand, is riding high after beating Auburn 69-59 in a First Four play-in game on Thursday night. Like Syracuse, the Wildcats had their share of struggles during the Pac-12 season, but they showed some fight at the end by beating Stanford 68-61 and losing to USC by only two points twice in the last four regular season/conference tournament games.

Both of these teams struggle to defend, and they’re giving up virtually the same amount of points per game, with Syracuse allowing 65.4 and Arizona allowing 65.5. The Orange held their own in the ACC in 2023-24 but the Pac-12 is a significantly better conference, and Arizona’s relatively strong finish to the season in beating Stanford and going down to the wire twice with USC says a lot about this Wildcats team.

Arizona will have to defend Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair who’s one of the best guards in the nation and could single-handedly win this game for her team. However, I think the experience of competing in the Pac-12 this season will pay off for Arizona, and the Wildcats will steal this one from Syracuse.

The Pick: Arizona ML (-105)

Florida Gulf Coast vs. Oklahoma Women Prediction and Pick

This is an interesting No. 12 vs. No. 5 matchup, because it seems as though Florida Gulf Coast got a lower seed than it deserved. As was the case with UNLV’s seeding (more on that later), the selection committee didn’t give any respect to non-“Power 5” conferences this year. It’s important to note here that Florida Gulf Coast is not a typical smaller conference team either, at least when it comes to the women’s game.

Led by head coach Karl Smesko, Florida Gulf Coast has redefined the 3-point game in women’s college basketball while leading the nation in 3-point attempts for the past three seasons. The Eagles don’t just attempt these shots -- they make them at a rate of 31.4 percent as a team, and seven FGCU players are shooting 30 percent or better from behind the arc this season.

It doesn’t stop there, because the Eagles can defend well, too, and are holding their opponents to just 54.5 points per game this season, Florida Gulf Coast, which prides itself on defense, has forced turnovers on 23.9 percent of opponents’ possessions, which ranks 16th in the nation.

FGCU is the better team both defensively and offensively. They also have the better head coach in Smesko. Indeed, here’s a quick fun fact: Did you know that Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, LSU’s Kim Mulkey, and Tennessee’s Pat Summitt are the only head coaches in women’s college basketball with a better career winning percentage than Smesko?

Give me Florida Gulf Coast to win this one. The Eagles have been in the underdog position before, and they thrive in it.

The Pick: Florida Gulf Coast ML (+260)

UNLV vs. Creighton Women Prediction and Pick

I don’t want to overreact to one game, but Creighton looked awful during its 55-46 loss to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament semifinals. If the Bluejays play even remotely close to the way they did in their last outing, then UNLV is going to live up to the Runnin’ Rebels name and run away with this game. UNLV is led by Desi-Rae Young, a force inside who averages 17.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

The selection committee did not give this UNLV team enough credit in assigning it a No. 10 seed. The committee likely wasn’t impressed by the team’s strength of schedule and membership in the Mountain West Conference, but this is a very good basketball team that went 13-1 in non-conference play. It’s not like UNLV played unworthy opponents during that stretch, either. The Lady Rebels had a 92-76 win over Oklahoma (currently No. 18 in the AP poll) and a 72-53 win over Arizona.

If Creighton plays just one quarter with the ineffectiveness it displayed against Georgetown, this game will be over in a hurry. UNLV is better defensively and offensively, and the Lady Rebels will prove it on Saturday night when they will be looking to show the selection committee just how much it underestimated them.

The Pick: UNLV ML (+115)

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