Considering upset odds for UMass, Harvard

There is perhaps no better indicator of the madness that March can inspire than the early reads on the chances for No. 6 seed UMass and No. 12 seed Harvard in their opening matchups.

In his Midwest Region preview, Myron Medcalf tabbed the Minutemen as his “Upset alert” ... in the third round against No. 3 seed Duke.

Medcalf writes:

Upset Alert (UMass over Duke in the third round): Derek Kellogg’s squad has been all over the place this season. Although UMass averages 76.1 PPG, its offense is barely ranked in the top-100 of Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings. But Kellogg has a bunch of 6-9ish big men such as Raphiael Putney and Cady Lalanne, who could give an undersized Duke team trouble. Chaz Williams (15.8 PPG) is only 5-9 but few players have more heart. He’s a senior who hopes to end his career with an NCAA tourney run. If the best UMass team shows up, and that’s definitely not a guarantee, the Minutemen could reach the Sweet 16.

But the numbers from ESPN Stats & Info disagree. Among teams seeded No. 11 or lower, BPI believes that No. 11 Iowa has the best chance of an upset ... in the second round against UMass (at 57.5 percent).

And the team with the next best chance of pulling off an upset? That would be No. 11 Tennessee ... also in the second round against the Minutemen (who will play the winner of a first-round matchup between Iowa and Tennessee).

So are the Minutemen upset makers or upset targets? It depends on who you ask.

How far Harvard is likely to go also depends on who you ask. After beating No. 3 seed New Mexico as a No. 14 seed last season, the Crimson come into this version of the Big Dance with confidence and might be a popular upset pick against No. 5 seed Cincinnati.

In fact, in his East Region preview C.L. Brown did just that, picking the Crimson as his “Upset alert” team.

Brown wrote:

Upset alert: No. 12 seed Harvard has a team suited to knock off No. 5 Cincinnati. The Crimson don’t have a lot of flash but boast five players who average double-figure scoring per game, led by Wesley Saunders' 14.0 points. More importantly, coach Tommy Amaker’s bunch has experience. The Crimson return all but one rotation player from the team that knocked off No. 3 seed New Mexico in last year’s tournament.

So what do the numbers say about the Crimson’s upset chances?

Well, BPI is quite a bit higher on Harvard than it is on UMass. The Crimson are one of the most underseeded teams in the tournament, according to BPI, which predicted them as a No. 9 seed (three spots lower than their actual seed).

And BPI gives Harvard the best chance of pulling off an upset as a No. 12 seed or lower, giving the Crimson a 41.0 percent shot at upsetting the Bearcats.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.