There are about a million different things that make the NCAA tournament so ridiculously great. Right near the top of that list is the crazy upsets that can happen. Sometimes they come from absolutely nowhere — like Lehigh over Duke last year. More often, though, the upsets at least make a little bit of sense for people who have done their homework.
Here are seven dangerous lower seeds that could really do some damage in the Big Dance.
NCAA Tournament Predictions: Dangerous Lower Seeds
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One thing we learned with absolute certainty on Selection Sunday — the selection committee absolutely hates the Pac-12 this year. This No. 12 seeding is absolutely ridiculous. The team legitimately won the Pac-12 Tournament — they weren’t an upstart fluke. They had some nice wins this year — at UNLV and UCLA and against UCLA. They lost their last two regular season games but bounced back strong in the tournament. Dominic Artis is back from injury. He has yet to find top form, but he’s getting more comfortable and will be a factor. Saint Louis is a scary second-round matchup, but I love the pairing with Oklahoma State in the opener. This is by far the most dangerous No. 12, and we all know how dangerous No. 12 seeds can be in this tournament.
Middle Tennessee / St. Mary’s
These two teams meet in Dayton and will play perhaps the only Dayton game I have ever cared about. This could be a very good one to determine who will be the No. 11 team in the Midwest. St. Mary’s has Matthew Dellavedova — one of the most exciting and important players in the field. The Gaels would be getting much more attention if they didn’t have to keep pace with Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. MTSU has played an incredibly tough nonconference schedule to get ready for this and has a nice win over new SEC champ Ole Miss, among others. Either team could be a nightmare for Memphis — and beyond.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers don’t exactly come in playing well — they have dropped three in a row and seven of 10. When they are in form, though, they are very dangerous. They have proved that in the last month or so with nice wins over Wisconsin and Indiana — two teams that are very dangerous in this tournament. The talent is there, and the first-round pairing against UCLA is fortunate because of their injury woes. The Gophers have been tested by a very tough Big Ten season, and that will help them here. They aren’t going to win this tournament by any means, but they will make some noise.
When my beloved Michigan Wolverines were unveiled as a four seed my only hope was that Montana wouldn’t show up as their opponent. This is a good team. Will Cherry is a highly undervalued player — a defensive stud who can score as well. He is part of a deep and talented team. I don’t like how Syracuse is playing coming into this tournament at all, and I really think the Grizzlies have a chance to make things ugly for the Orange.
The Bruins seem to crop up surprisingly often as a team that could do some damage. I like this team more than any other version, though. There are two big reasons. First, I love their matchup. Arizona has dropped three of their last five and just isn’t playing with the focus or intensity they were earlier in the season. More significantly, they are absolutely incompetent defending against shots in general and three-pointers in particular. Belmont is a Top-20 shooting team from beyond the arc and fourth overall at shooting. That gives the Bruins a blueprint for success here. More significantly, the Bruins have a spectacular backcourt — among the best in the whole tournament. Ian Clark leads the way for the team, and he and Kerron Johnson have the chance to become much more familiar to bettors and fans than they are now.
If you don’t know the name Mike Muscala, you’ll want to note it now. This guy is impressive — a ridiculously efficient, all-round player. He’s a big guy, but he can roam inside like a beast or patrol the outside like a Euro. He’s the Patriot League Player of the Year, and he’s a very challenging matchup for any opponent. It’s a strange position for Butler to be a vulnerable higher seed instead of an upstart Cinderella, but that’s just what they are now. The Bulldogs don’t respond well to being punched in the face, and Muscala can do just that.
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