We hear the same generic terms thrown around every year during the NCAAB Tournament. With little to no context, terms like “Cinderella” and “bracket-buster” don’t amount to much. But, where would we be in sports without clichés?
With that in mind, here are three teams that will likely bust a few brackets. To qualify, these team’s need to fill the lower seeds in the bracket, anywhere from the 9th to 16th seed. They must be outside a major conference. And they must be relatively little known to the general public.
I don’t necessarily endorse any of these teams making long runs during March Madness but I do believe they are plenty capable of winning at least one game. Just enough to completely screw you in the office pool.
Nevada Wolf Pack
The Mountain West Champions have a lot of things going for them entering the NCAAB Tournament. First, they have plenty of size. Of the seven Nevada players to average 10 or more minutes per game, five stands at least 6’6”. That size means that Nevada should be able to hold their own in the paint no matter whom the opponent, evidenced by their 38.9 total rebounds per game.
Second, the Wolf Pack can shoot the three. Nevada hits 9.2 treys per game while shooting 38.5 percent from deep, which ranks them 31st and 33rd in the nation respectively. These have combined to make the Wolf Pack one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. Everyone knows that the three-pointer is becoming more and more critical to the game of basketball, so any team that shoots as well as Nevada is dangerous.
There will be people whom point of Nevada’s lack of depth, every player in the starting lineup averages at least 30 minutes per game while nobody on the bench tallies 15. However, teams like Duke have proven this season that depth is overrated. That’s not to say Nevada won’t need contributions from their bench but as long as the starting five can hold their own then this team will be fine.
First Round Matchup: vs Iowa State
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Dunk City pretty much dominated the A-Sun conference and though it was impressive, it was their non-conference games that should make Florida Gulf Coast backers excited. FGCU took Baylor to the limit in Waco, should have beaten Michigan State in East Lansig and have a convincing win over another impressive mid-major in UT-Arlington. Florida Gulf Coast is as battle tested as any mid-major in the nation.
The Eagles also have a glut of experience and talent in the frontcourt. The upperclassmen trio of Demetris Morant, Marc-Eddy Norelia and Antravious Simmons are all big and experienced. Morant makes the headlines for his shooting performance this season, the senior shot 75.7 percent from the floor, all three bigs make the shots down low.
Despite their offensive ability and size, FGCU hasn’t been the best at rebounding. Nationally, they rank pretty much the middle of the pack in every rebounding statistic. Maybe this is because they shot 48.7 percent, the 12th best in the nation, but the big three will need to attack the glass to ensure a decent showing for the Eagles.
First Round Matchup: vs Florida State
UNC Wilmington Seahawks
UNC Wilmington is the ultimate boom-or-bust team in this tourey. First let’s look at the positives. The Seahawks almost never turn the ball over, as they rank first in the nation in team turnovers per offensive possession (11.9%) and are third in the country in turnover-to-assist ratio (1.597). Intangibly, this Seahawks team is largely the same that just barely lost to Duke last season, which means they will be incredibly motivated.
Now to the biggest negative, this team is small. Of the seven players that average double-digit minutes only two are above 6’3” and the back court features several players who are generously listed at 6’0”. This has meant that UNC Wilmington has struggled to rebound, aside from 6’7” Devontae Cacok. Simply put, the Seahawks will be in great shape if they play a shooting team but facing a big, dominant paint team they could be in trouble.
One more thing to keep note of is the status of coach Kevin Keatts. There is no doubt the 44-year old is one of the hottest coaching prospects in that nation and this very well be his last year with the Seahawks. If a major program doesn’t poach him I’d be very shocked. Keatts, and his players, will be determined to get UNC Wilmington a March Madness win before his potential exit.
First Round Matchup: vs Virginia