Break out those brackets, as March Madness is finally upon us. Upsets are hard to pick this time of year, but make no mistake, there is always a team looking to fill the role of Cinderella. We’re going to roll out our March Madness coverage by giving you our upset picks by seeding. The way this works is simple, we’ve selected one team from each double digit seeding (15-11) that has the best chance to earn at least one victory in the NCAA Tournament and included each team’s overall tournament potential. Sorry to the 16 seeds, but history is against you.
So without further ado:
If you are going to pick a #15 seed to advance, take:
#15 Milwaukee Panthers (EAST REGION)
1st Rd Opponent: vs. #2 Villanova Wildcats
Great bounce back year for head coach Rob Jeter and the Panthers. A year removed from an 8-24 season, the team captured the Horizon League automatic bid with a win over Wright State in the conference title game. Historically, the Horizon league has had some success in the NCAA tournament, which includes the Panthers march to the Sweet 16 game back in 2005.
Why? The Wildcats are a perimeter oriented team that relies heavily on the three point shot. Their 801 attempts beyond the arc was the 4th highest in the nation. The Panthers also have a strong oriented perimeter defense, evident by their opponents shooting just 31.9% from beyond the arc. Yes, it’s going to take an off-shooting night by Nova, but the Panthers represent the biggest threat to take down Goliath this week.
Tournament Potential: 1 win
If you are going to pick a #14 seed to advance, take:
#14 Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (WEST REGION)
1st Rd Opponent: vs. # 3 Creighton Bluejays
After finishing 8th in the Sun Belt regular season last season, the Cajuns jumped to 2nd this season and knocked off Georgia State in the Sun Belt Tournament Final to reach the dance again for the first time since 2005.
The Ragin Cajuns have an impressive scoring potential, evident by their season average of over 81 points per game. Even when they’re not scoring initially, they are creating second chance points with their excellent offensive rebounding numbers. Their 448 offensive rebounds, and 13.6 per game, both rank within the Top 20 nationally. Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long are a dangerous scoring duo, accounting for nearly 50% of the team’s scoring on the season (46.3%). Depth is also key for head coach Bob Marlin, as the team has 9 players who log over 15 minutes per game. There is no doubt the Ragin Cajuns will score consistently against Creighton on Friday, meaning they’ll have a chance for the upset.
Tournament Potential: 1 win
If you are going to pick a #13 seed to advance, take:
#13 New Mexico State Aggies (WEST REGION)
1st Rd Opponent: #4 San Diego State Aztecs
The WAC Champions return to the Big Dance for the fourth time in the last five years. New Mexico State boasts one of the most efficient offenses in the nation, averaging 77.2 PPG (40th), shooting 48.9% (11th), all to go along with an impressive 1.14 points per possession (22nd).
The Aggies look to feed the ball inside, dominate the boards, and physically wear out their opponents. Their domination in the paint is fueled by Sim Bhullar (7-5), Renlado Dixon (6-10), and Tshilidzi Nephawe (6-10), who have combined to shoot nearly 60% from the field. Junior guard Daniel Mullings is one of the best on ball defenders in the country and has the ability to take over a game at both ends of the floor. They matchup very nicely with the Aztecs of San Diego State in a game that has the potential to be one of the more physical ones of the opening round.
Tournament Potential: 1 win
If you are going to take a #12 seed to advance, take:
#12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (SOUTH REGION)
1st Rd Opponent: vs. #5 VCU Rams
How’s this for success: over the last seven seasons the Lumberjacks have won over 75% of their games played (168-51). That equates into the best winning percentage of any Division I team in the state of Texas. Winners of 27 games in a row, SFA enters the Big Dance as one of the hottest teams in the nation.
First year head coach Brad Underwood implemented a more up tempo offense, which enabled the team to increase their scoring by a full 12 points over last season (76.8-2014 vs. 64.8-2013). The defensive principles are still there as well, as the team limited their opponents to just 63.1 points (31st nationally). Keep any eye on senior guard Desmond Haymon and junior forward Jacob Parker. The duo accounted for nearly 40% (37.9 to be exact) of the team scoring on the season.
Expect the Lumberjacks motion offense to give VCU fits and potentially propel SFA beyond the second round of play.
Tournament Potential: Sweet 16
If you are going to take a #11 seed to advance, take:*
#11 Providence Friars (EAST REGION)
1st Rd Opponent: vs. #6 North Carolina Tar Heels
In year three at the program, head coach Ed Cooley has the Friars back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2004. Their 23 wins were the program’s most since the 1985-86 season and Providence enters the tourney with some momentum on their side by capturing the Big East tournament title (won 6 out of last 7).
The Friars excel in late game situations thanks in large part to the team’s free throwing shooting. Their 78.1% team rate is the 2nd highest in the nation. Senior scoring guard Bryce Cotton might be one of the most under-appreciated players in the nation. He is an absolute scoring machine who notched 24 games of 20 or more points on the season. It’s a fact that strong guard play can carry you to a couple wins in the tournament, and few guards in this tournament have as much big game potential as Cotton. For this reason alone we like the Friars’ potential to upset UNC. Also the point guard matchup of North Carolina’s Marcus Paige vs. Cotton should be one of the best in the tournament.
*Please note, we also like Iowa to advance as a #11 seed if they defeat Tennessee in the Wednesday play in game.
Tournament Potential: Providence: 1 win, Iowa: Elite 8
If you are going to take a #10 seed to advance, take:
#10 St. Joseph’s Hawks (EAST REGION)
1st Rd Opponent: vs. #7 Connecticut Huskies
Head coach Phil Martelli has his team riding a wave of momentum entering the Big Dance. Following the Hawks victory in the A-10 title game versus VCU, the team has now won 9 of their last 11 games. In the very competitive A-10, SJU finished in the Top 3 in field goal percentage (47.2-1st), opponents field goal percentage (40.9-2nd), points per possession (1.06-2nd), and assist to turnover ratio (1.1-2nd).
The Hawks have a playmaker in the backcourt in senior guard Langston Galloway. The 6-2 guard is an efficient scorer from all areas on the court, evident by his 43.9% shooting from both the field and beyond the arc. The senior front court duo of Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts might be one of the most formidable in the field of 68. The two combine for 25.1 points and 16.2 rebounds per game. If Galloway can contain the Huskies Shabazz Napier in the first round, we like their chances to advance.
Tournament Potential: Elite 8
Check back tomorrow as we’ll continue our coverage with which of the top seeds will fall first.
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