March Madness is upon us. The bracket has been released, and with that comes the office bracket pool. As you look to beat out your family/co-workers, you’ll be scanning the field for which upsets are going to happen.
Lucky for you, we’ve taken the time to look at the match-ups, consider the variables, and are highlighting the following teams as potential “bracket busters”. Beware these teams when making your picks. If you take them too lightly, they could prevent you from winning your pool.
Wichita State Shockers- 10 seed South region
Yep, Wichita State is back once again looking to destroy brackets across the country. The Shockers, surprisingly were handed a 10 seed by the committee despite a 30-4 record with a Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament title on their resume. They are Ken Pomeroy’s eighth best team in the country with Top 20 ratings in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Yet, the Shockers find themselves on the 10-line. Their first match-up against Dayton is a tough one, but don’t be shocked (pun intended) if they get past the first weekend and get on a roll.
Middle Tennessee State- 12 seed South region
You may remember the Blue Raiders from last year when they sent brackets across the nation directly to the trash on Day 1 when they upended 2-seed Michigan State, who many (myself included) had as a Final Four team. Well, guess what? They’re baaaaccckkkk.
Coach Kermit Davis returns two of last year’s stars in guard Giddy Potts and forward Reggie Upshaw and added Arkansas transfer Jacorey Williams, who immediately became the team’s leading scorer averaging 17.3 points per game. The Blue Raiders rampaged through their schedule to the tune of a 30-4 record and, like the Shockers, wrapped up their conference’s (C-USA) regular season and tournament titles. Their resume includes wins over fellow tournament teams UNC-Wilmington and Vanderbilt and a close loss (80-77) to VCU.
They draw Richard Pitino’s Minnesota team in the first round and then would face the winner of the Butler/Winthrop match-up if they are able to advance.
East Tennessee State- 13 seed East region
The Buccaneers are a team you likely haven’t seen play, which is understandable because they ply their trade in the relative anonymity of the Southern Conference. That said, the Bucs aren’t your typical mid-major squad. They’ve got some size to them that could pose a problem, in particular to their first round match-up with the Gators who lost their big man John Egbunu for the year just a few weeks ago.
The Bucs boast a Top-50 defensive efficiency rating, despite playing at a higher tempo (70th DI). They’re led by the guard duo of TJ Cromer (19.1 PPG) and DeSonta Bradford (10.6 PPG 4.0 APG 4.5 RPG) with a pair of big men in forwards Tevin Glass and Indiana transfer Hanner Mosquera-Perea. If they get by Florida in round one, they would face the winner of Virginia and UNC-Wilmington.
Xavier Musketeers- 11 seed West region
The Musketeers have been forgotten about since they lost guard Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL at the end of January. Understandably so, as in the wake of that injury, losing six straight games from February 4th through March 1st. They beat DePaul to end the regular season and begin the Big East tournament to get back into the groove before dropping Butler in the quarterfinals and falling to Creighton by just three (75-72) in the semifinals.
The Musketeers have a pair of junior guards who can score in bunches when they get it going with Trevon Blueitt (18.1 PPG) and J.P. Macura (14.5 PPG) and both guys have tournament experience having played in the Big Dance the past two years. That experience will help and as always, Chris Mack’s team is going to play a hard nosed, physical style.
They draw a Maryland team that’s been inconsistent this season in the first round and then would get the winner of Florida State/Florida Gulf Coast in the Round of 32.
Southern Methodist- 6 seed East region
Okay, okay, this is probably cheating. You came here looking for those double-digit seeds that are going to pull upsets, I know. The Mustangs don’t exactly fall into that category as they will be favored in their opening round game. But, a bracket buster is one that can make a run further than expected, and the Mustangs certainly fit that profile.
They profile as the 11th best team in the country according to Ken Pom, but if advanced stats aren’t your thing, then consider this. The Mustangs feature a starting five in which no player is under 6’5″ or above 6’8″. They are an amorphous, amoeba-like team that can shoot it from deep (40.3% 11th DI) or bang down low (38.5 RPG, 12 offensive RPG). The Mustangs feature a Duke transfer in Semi Ojeleye who, at 6’8″ is a perfect example of the team’s versatility averaging 18.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and shooting 42.3% from three.
The Mustangs first round game will give them the winner of the Providence/USC play-in game and, should they move past that, they would draw the winner of Baylor (who has struggled since January) and New Mexico State. Potentially waiting for them in the Sweet 16? A match-up with 2-seeded Duke. If nothing else, I’m rooting for that to see Ojeleye take on his old team and coach.
None of these teams are guarantees to win by any stretch. But, it would behoove you to consider them when filling out your bracket.