The 10 Teams Who Have Overachieved Most in the NCAA Tournament Thus Far
The teams that make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament usually end up getting hot at the right time. They're generally playing the best of the best in the big dance, and if a team's won a couple of games to advance to the Sweet 16, they've probably raised their level of play.
Last year, Xavier and South Carolina were our two biggest overachievers after the first weekend of games, and the former ended up in the Elite Eight while the latter made a remarkable run to the Final Four.
Typically, teams that have overachieved after the first weekend of games are still alive and playing in the Sweet 16. And while we still have a few of those teams on this year's list of overachievers, we also have a group of teams who've already been eliminated. We even have one that lost in the Round of 64 (Texas Southern) that dominated its First Four matchup thoroughly enough to earn a spot on this list.
That's not normal. But neither is this year's NCAA Tournament.
Because we've had so many teams spring surprise upsets over great squads before dropping their next game, half of the top-10 tournament overachievers -- teams that have increased their nERD (the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average one) the most since the start of the dance -- didn't even make it to the Sweet 16.
Here's a look at those overachieving teams:
|Team||nERD at Start||nERD Now||Difference|
To nobody's surprise, the UMBC Retrievers surged to the top of this list when they played the role of underdog in their dismantling of the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia, despite being the committee's top overall seed, was actually ranked second, not first in our pre-tournament nERD rankings. Needless to say, they were also the team that had the biggest drop in nERD after the first weekend of games.
The Clemson Tigers rank second on this list, mainly driven by a complete domination of a very good Auburn Tigers basketball team. The Florida State Seminoles and Syracuse Orange are our third and fourth biggest overachievers so far this tournament -- their ranking here is mainly derived from their big upset wins in the Round of 32 over the Xavier Musketeers and Michigan State Spartans, respectively.
The Butler Bulldogs may not have made it to the Sweet 16, but they had a convincing win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Round of 64, and they hung tough with an excellent Purdue squad, losing by just 3 points. Texas A&M booted the defending champions out of the tournament in dominating fashion in the Round of 32, and the West Virginia Mountaineers had a pair of wins by double-digits over two upset-minded teams.
The other three teams on this list were not able to advance to the Sweet 16. The Buffalo Bulls throttled the Arizona Wildcats for the biggest upset of Day 1 of the Tournament, but dropped their next game to Kentucky. Marshall shocked Wichita State with their analytical approach to offense, but they couldn't deliver the upset special the second time around against the aforementioned West Virginia Mountaineers.
Meanwhile, the Texas Southern Tigers round out this list almost entirely due to their stifling performance in the First Four in which they held the North Carolina Central Eagles to fewer than 50 points.
Which teams will keep the momentum going? Only time will tell.