A No. 12 seed knocking off a No. 5 is often the most popular upset pick in the NCAA Tournament, but a No. 11 seed has knocked off a No. 6 five more times overall for a total of 58 upset victories since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Last year, the lone No. 11 to advance to Round 2 was Pittsburgh as it pounded No. 6 Iowa State by 18 points as a 5-point underdog. 

That was nearly the biggest margin of victory by a No. 11 over a No. 6 in history, a mark held by Pepperdine's thrashing of Indiana by 20 points in 2000 in what would be Bobby Knight's final games as Hoosiers coach. In 1989, all four No. 11 seeds won, and the last Big Dance without a No. 11 seed winning was in 2004. Dating to 2014, No. 11s are 19-17 vs. No. 6s.

Also keep in mind that a No. 11 seed is the lowest seed to ever reach the Final Four, but it has now happened five times: LSU, George Mason, Loyola Chicago, VCU and UCLA. This year's quartet might be the strongest group of No. 11s in a while as all four won their conference tournaments -- NC State (ACC), New Mexico (Mountain West), Oregon (Pac-12) and Duquesne (Atlantic 10). None of those four likely would have been Dancing otherwise. The Dukes are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 47 years. 

Let's dive into each No. 11 vs. No. 6 matchup and isolate the best chance for an upset.

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11 vs. 6 upset rankings

Ordered from least likely to most likely.

4. Duquesne over BYU (-9)

The Dukes are one of the hottest teams in the country, currently riding an eight-game winning streak -- even more impressive considering that Duquesne opened Atlantic 10 play this season at 0-5. As if the school needed any additional motivation, coach Keith Dambrot has already announced that he will retire after the tournament. The 65-year-old Dambrot, who coached LeBron James for two years in high school in Akron, led the Dukes to 24 wins. That's the most for the program since since 1953-54, when Dambrot's father, Sid, played for the team and it won 26 games. My concern is that Duquesne is too overly reliant on just two players in Dae Dae Grant (16.7 PPG), the A-10 Tournament MVP, and Jimmy Clark III (15.1 PPG). 

BYU is vastly deeper than Duquesne, with seven players averaging at least 9.0 points per game. The Cougars are 15-33 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 3-2 record as a No. 6 seed. The 2024 tournament marks the third time the Cougars have been a six, and the second under coach Mark Pope. They were a No. 6 in 2021when they lost to No. 11 UCLA. BYU and Duquesne meet for the first time since 1953. 

3. NC State over Texas Tech (-5)

I'm still pretty shocked that a mediocre NC State team was able to win five games in five days to capture the ACC Tournament when coach Kevin Keatts may have been close to getting fired. Instead, he got an automatic two-year extension through 2030 with the Wolfpack winning it as well as an automatic $400,000 pay increase that begins next season and stays in place for the remainder of the contract. It marked the first time that a double-digit seed won the ACC Tournament, and the Wolfpack became just the second team in the nation to win five games in five days since UConn did so in 2011. I have to think NC State is a bit out of gas, even having four days off after upsetting North Carolina in Saturday's final. 

Texas Tech had impressive wins over ranked Baylor and BYU before running into Houston in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals and getting crushed. It's a very well coached team, helmed by former North Texas coach Grant McCasland. Tech has an 11-5 record since 2016 in the NCAA Tournament, although McCasland wasn't running the show for those runs. Do monitor two injuries for Tech in big man Warren Washington (9.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and guard Darrion Williams (11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG). Washington has been out since Feb. 24 and Williams missed Tech's Big 12 tourney loss to Houston. These schools haven't met since the 1950s. 

2. Oregon over South Carolina (-1.5)

Are you aware that Oregon has never lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game under Dana Altman? The Ducks last went one-and-done way back in 2008. Oregon won three games in three days to take the Pac-12 Tournament, and Atlman has two veterans (and likely future NBA players) who could lead a mini-run in Jermaine Couisnard and N'Faly Dante. The latter has had trouble staying healthy this season, but Dante dominated in the conference tournament. The selection committee did Oregon no favors in that it has to travel across country to Pittsburgh for this matchup. 

South Carolina is one of the biggest surprises in the country after being picked to finish last in the SEC. Many Gamecocks fans were disappointed when Lamont Paris was hired as head coach in 2022 and now they may not even be able to keep the National Coach of the Year candidate (although one job he had some ties to, Ohio State, is no longer open). When South Carolina loses, it can do by huge margins as it was crushed by 27 at Alabama, by 40 at Auburn and by 31 to Auburn again in the SEC Tournament. That said, South Carolina did win seven SEC games on the road this season, tying the 1996-97 team for the most SEC victories away from home in a single season. Carolina is 12-4 in true road and neutral site games.

1. New Mexico over Clemson (+1.5)

The oddsmakers made picking the most likely 11 vs. 6 "upset" pretty easy considering this technically wouldn't be one as of now. Even KenPom ranks New Mexico 11 spots higher than Clemson.  

As recently as last Friday, who would have guessed that a Pitino-led team would be in the NCAA Tournament and it's Richard Pitino's Lobos and not his father Rick's St. John's Red Storm? That New Mexico won the Mountain West tournament may have literally stolen a bid from the Johnnies. UNM has one of the nation's top backcourt trios of Jaelen House, Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Donovan Dent. However, New Mexico was just 4-6 in its final 10 games and 5-6 overall against top-50 squads on KenPom during the regular season. New Mexico is making its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance, and its first since 2014. It last won a tournament game in 2012. 

Picking this game first is really more about Clemson than UNM, as the Tigers closed with three losses in their last four, including by seven to a bad Notre Dame team and by a whopping 21 to a bland Boston College side in their ACC Tournament opener. At least the Tigers got some extra rest, I suppose. Clemson's last NCAA Tournament was in 2021 when it lost as a No. 7 to a No. 10. It's the first-ever meeting between these teams.