The NCAA tournament always has underdogs who simultaneously make a deep run and break brackets.
This year there are a smaller number of mid-major “Davids” who fit the profile of being able to slay a high-ranked “Goliath.” But if you’re looking to get on board with a Cinderella, here is a look at the best sleeper candidates.
Arizona State (20-11) – No. 11 in the Midwest (First Four)
Arizona State was once a top-five team in the nation and was the last undefeated team in the country. Now they’re an 11 seed.
That’s quite the fall from grace mainly because nine of their 11 losses are to teams who didn’t make the tournament. However, the Sun Devils can compete with the best as they’ve beaten two No. 1 seeds this season.
Not many teams can say they beat Xavier and they got a win at Kansas, nor boast a 4-2 record against teams with a BPI in the top 50 the way Arizona Sate can.
The Sun Devils have to play Syracuse in the First Four just to get into the real dance Wednesday first, but on any given day this is a team that can beat anyone in the field.
Butler (20-13) – No. 10 in the East
Butler has 16 NCAA appearances and was been a runner-up for the national title twice in 2010 and 2011, despite this past success the program’s continually been undervalued by the selection committee and this year’s no different.
The Bulldogs are ranked 25th in BPI, a mark too high for just a No. 10 seed. As such they’re actually favoured in their first-round game against Arkansas.
Taking a closer look at the team, you’ll see that Butler has top end talent. Kelan Martin can go for 30 points on anyone and Kamar Baldwin is one of the best guards in the nation on both ends of the floor. Remember, this is a team that beat Villanova this season so there’s no team in the field it can’t beat on its best day.
Loyola Chicago (28-5) – No. 11 in the South
This is one of the most balanced teams in the field, a great shooting squad that can defend — and by defend we mean really D up.
Truly elite at the defensive end of the floor the Ramblers are top 10 in most of the defensive metrics by forcing opponents to go east-west with great ball pressure. They allowed just 62.2 points per game this season, good for fifth in Division I.
On offence they’ve got five guys who score in double figures and, stylistically, they play a lot like No. 1 overall seed Virginia.
They’ve proven they can hang with the big boys this season, beating Florida in Gainesville when the Gators were ranked fifth in the country. They also come from a conference that punches above its weight class during tournament time. Missouri Valley teams have been 8-0 in the round of 64 the last five years with four of those wins coming as the lower seed.
The 11-seed upset is a trendy pick. In …read more