Connecticut won the National Championship as a No. 7 seed in 2014. An
eighth-seeded Kentucky team was also part of the Final Four that year.
Michigan State reached the national semifinals as a seventh seed in 2015
before falling to eventual champion Duke. Last season saw No. 10 seed
Syracuse, which most pundits felt should have been left out of the NCAA
Tournament altogether, advance to Houston. In other words, it may behoove
your bracket-and your bank account-to pay serious attention to
under-the-radar contestants during March Madness.
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For the sake of this piece, we will refer to No. 5s through No. 12s as middle seeds. After all, you can hardly call any first-round result featuring such teams as an upset. But a No. 13 over a No. 4 seed (or 14-3, 15-2, and 16-1)? Now that's a different story. Here are some bold-and some not-so-bold- predictions for which 5-12 seeds will be the most successful in the upcoming Big Dance .
All odds provided by BetOnline Sportsbook.
No. 5 seed - Notre Dame in the Elite Eight
Notre Dame made a recent run to the ACC Tournament final, and its reward is a No. 5 seed in arguably the weakest region, the West. The Fighting Irish are -7 favorites over Ivy League champion Princeton in the first round and a +900 sixth choice to win the region. Gonzaga (+155) is the top seed and has dropped only one game this season. However, the Zags have never advanced to a Final Four, so this could be a perfect opportunity for ND. For those drinking even more Kool-Aid, the Irish are +3600 to win it all.
No. 6 seed - SMU in the Sweet 16
The Mustangs are 30-4 overall and have won 16 in a row, a stretch that includes the American Athletic Conference Tournament title. Three of their four losses came in true road games, and their only other setback (at a neutral site against Michigan) was way back on Nov. 18. Potential second-round opponent Baylor peaked at No. 1 in the nation early in the season but is a mere 10-7 in its last 17 contests. SMU is a +650 fourth choice to win the East Region.
No. 7 seed - Michigan in the Elite Eight
On its way to the Big Ten Tournament last Wednesday, Michigan's plane aborted a takeoff attempt amidst high winds and skidded off the runway. But the story, of course, has a happy ending. Everyone on board was safely evacuated, the Wolverines eventually made it to Washington, D.C., and they cut down the nets following wins over Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The top two seeds in Michigan's section are Louisville and Oregon. Louisville lost its ACC Tournament opener to Duke, and Oregon recently saw big man Chris Boucher go down with a torn ACL. UM is a -2.5 first-round favorite over Oklahoma State and a +1000 sixth choice to win the Midwest Region.
No. 8 seed - Northwestern in the Sweet 16
Northwestern is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Now the question is if the Wildcats can avoid the satisfaction of simply being there and instead make the most of such a rare opportunity. The good news is that they really locked up a berth a while ago (unofficially when they beat Michigan via a buzzer-beater on March 1), so the state of euphoria should be over. Possible second-round foe Gonzaga is arguably the weakest of the four top seeds. Northwestern is +1 underdog against Vanderbilt in round one and +5000 to win the West Region.
No. 9 seed - Michigan State in the second round
Because it means you're running into a No. 1 in the second round, nobody likes to be a No. 8 or No. 9 seed (except for Northwestern, of course, which has to be thrilled to be a part of the Big Dance for the first time regardless of where it is in the bracket). The first-ever NCAA Tournament berth for Michigan State this is not. This marks the Spartans' 31 st appearance, and they are looking for a 10th Final Four trip and a third National Championship. Those are long shots, to say the least, and MSU is not even expected to advance out of the first round (+2 underdog against Miami (FL) on Friday). A Tom Izzo-coached squad, however, can never be counted out.
No. 10 seed - VCU in the second round
Wichita State is the No. 10 seed most likely to win at least one game; in fact, it is a -6 favorite over seventh-seeded Dayton. But a Shockers' victory would be no shock at all, so let's discuss something a little bolder. VCU is a +4 underdog in its opener against St. Mary's, but the Rams should not be discounted. They were second in the Atlantic 10 during the regular season and finished runner-up in the conference tournament. This is VCU's seventh straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, a stretch that began when it made a Final Four run in 2011. The Rams are +5000 to win the West Region.
No. 11 seed - Rhode Island in the Sweet 16
Speaking of the Atlantic 10 final, it was an all-Ram matchup between VCU and Rhode Island. Playing its best ball of the season, URI extended its winning streak to eight games with tournament defeats of St. Bonaventure, Davidson, and VCU by a combined 42 points. This is Rhody's first Big Dance appearance since Lamar Odom hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament back in 1999. As for the Rams' NCAA tourney chances, Creighton and Oregon could be vulnerable in the early rounds. They are -1 favorites over Creighton and +2800 to win the Midwest Region.
No. 12 seed - Middle Tennessee State in the Sweet 16
No one is going to sleep on Middle Tennessee State, and not just because it stunned Michigan State in a No. 15 over No. 2 upset last spring. This year's MTSU squad is even better, with a 30-4 overall record and a 20-1 mark in its last 21 outings. The Blue Raiders boast two SEC wins-over Ole Miss and over fellow NCAA Tournament team Vanderbilt by 23 points. First-round opponent Minnesota is 1-2 in its last three games and No. 4 seed Butler has dropped two in a row. MTSU is a -1 favorite over the Golden Gophers and +4000 to win the South Region.
Read more articles by Ricky Dimon
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