Ranking the Potential NCAA Tournament Giant Killers
As we near the dawn of another NCAA tournament let’s establish one thing; ‘March Madness’ and the NCAA Tournament do not thwart productivity at offices across the country because of people’s undying love for college basketball. Rather, the brackets, office pools, and bragging rights are what make the tournament what it is today.
Sure, the games provide plenty of drama and excitement, but filling out the brackets and the potential for cash is what drives this tournament.
One of the time honored bracket filling traditions is picking upsets. Everyone wants to be the guy or gal who can say, ‘Yep, I knew that third place team from the major conference was overrated all along.’
I’ve scoured the field and divided the potential Cinderellas into four categories: No chance, trendy, 15’s that could give 2’s a run for their money, and real potential.
All 16 seeds (one day a 16 will beat a one, we think, but not this year)
Norfolk State (15), Detroit (15)
Every year the talking heads will gush over a few teams who never live up to the hype.
Belmont (14)– Every year some analyst tries to convince me this small school from Nashville is ‘Gonzaga East.’ They look great on paper, dominate their conference, and play a tough non-conference schedule. However they are 0-4 lifetime in the tournament, and have only come close to winning a game once (a 71-70 loss to Duke in 2008).
Davidson (13)- Everyone knows these guys because of Steph Curry and their ‘Elite Eight’ run in 2008. The 2011-2012 version of the Wildcats did beat Kansas in December and played tough against Duke and Vanderbilt. They are battle tested, but still a little too trendy for my tastes.
St. Bonaventure (14)- Analysts and fans have a tendency to fall in love with a team that makes an impressive run in their conference tournament. The Bonnies certainly fit that bill. The rolled through the A-10 tourney to steal a bid from a bubble team. They do have a potential first round draft pick in Andrew Nicholson, but I don’t see them being consistent enough to get by a really good Florida State team in the round of 64.
South Dakota State (14)- The Jackrabbits are making their first tournament appearance, and did beat Washington by 20 in December. They have a talented scorer in Nate Wolters, but I would be shocked if they got by Baylor. The analysts will tell you Baylor is inconsistent and susceptible to the upset, but I feel the Bears are due for a deep run.
Ohio (13)- I’ve heard a lot about Michigan’s recent struggles, and Ohio did knock off Georgetown in 2010, so they have a little street cred. Ohio did have a close loss at Louisville, but I don’t think they shoot the ball well enough (42.9%) to beat a balanced Michigan team.
15’s THAT COULD GIVE 2’s A RUN FOR THEIR MONEY:
As impossible as the 16 over 1 upset seems, four 15’s have knocked off 2’s since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. I think two 15’s could make things interesting against their lofty opponents.
Loyola (MD)- The 24-8 Greyhounds were the second place team in the MAAC. The MAAC has had recent success in the NCAA’s with Siena winning first round games in 2008 and 2009. Ohio State is awfully good but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greyhounds make them work harder than they want to.
Lehigh- The Patriot League is a solid basketball conference and the Mountain Hawks hung tough with St. John’s, Iowa State, and Michigan State in their non conference schedule. Duke seldom loses to inferior opponents, but this game could be close at halftime.
NMSU (13)- Borderland hoops fans are familiar with the Aggies, but the rest of the country is likely not. This team is athletic, experienced, and attacks the offensive glass with the best of them. At times they are their own worst enemy, but with Indiana, Wichita State, and VCU in their ‘pod’ they have a real chance to win two games.
Long Beach State (12)- These guys are for real. They knocked off Pitt in Pittsburgh, and took SDSU, Louisville, UNC, and Kansas to wire on the road. Their first round opponent, New Mexico, is solid but nobody the 49ers will be intimidated by.
Iona (14)- The last team in the field, the Gaels, are athletic, can score, and feature former Arizona guard Momo Jones. Who knows if they can make a VCU like run, but they are better than most people realize.
VCU (12)- One year removed from almost beating Duke in the title game, no one expected Butler to make another Final Four run. VCU lost some key players from last year’s Final Four team, but Shaka Smart is a great tournament coach and VCU is a great tournament team.
Murray State (6)- I understand they were 30-1 and a 6 seed, but any team that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference is still a little guy to me. This team is for real. They are athletic and could easily win two or three games in this tournament.
Choose wisely my friends, and who knows, maybe you will be the genius that picks the massive upset!