March Madness: 3 Mid-Majors That Could Bust Brackets

After a long-awaited two-year hiatus, we finally have the return of the NCAA Tournament.

One of the most compelling aspects of the tournament and bracket predictions is taking a look at the mid-major teams and potential Cinderella stories that always tend to pop up every year. Let's take a look at some of the best mid-major teams who are set up to succeed in this year's NCAA Tournament.


California-Santa Barbara had a phenomenal season, going 22-4 and finishing strong by winning 18 out of their last 19 games. We rank the Gauchos 58th in our nERD rankings and give them a 7.63% chance to advance all the way to the Sweet 16, so they are certainly not just satisfied being in the tournament.

UCSB matches up with a Creighton team that just got blown out by 25 points at the hands of Georgetown in the Big East title game. The Blue Jays have had strong stretches this season, but they have some bad losses, including ones to 126th-ranked Butler, 74th-ranked Marquette, and twice to 59th-ranked Georgetown, making it four total losses to teams ranked lower than UCSB.

Even in the Round of 32, UCSB could be poised to win yet again, as they would potentially match up with either a Virginia team recovering from a brief COVID pause or with 124th-ranked Ohio. Either way, it could be a potentially favorable matchup again for the Gauchos in the second round.

North Texas

North Texas had a strong season this year and did well enough to earn a 13 seed by finishing 17-9 in Conference USA. We rank North Texas 78th in our rankings, so while they are deservedly underdogs in this matchup with Purdue, they are certainly far from a pushover.

We give the Mean Green a 16.79% chance to upset Purdue, which is the highest win probability amongst the 13 seeds this year. Purdue is fantastic, and we rank them 12th, but North Texas is a good team that will provide a legitimate upset threat. You should be wary of the Mean Green when filling out your bracket, as this game will be far from a cakewalk.


Colgate had a near perfect season this year, finishing 14-1, although the Patriot League schedule was greatly altered by COVID. Still, the Raiders' only loss came by two points in their second game of the year.

We have Colgate ranked all the way up at 24th in our rankings, although again it is somewhat difficult to judge them based on their nonstandard and abbreviated schedule from this season. However, given the data we have, we only have Colgate seven spots below their first round opponent, Arkansas, in our rankings.

Our model gives Colgate projects a 46.05% chance of Colgate advancing to the second round and a 26.04% chance of them advancing to the Sweet 16, so they certainly are a legitimate threat to make some noise in this tournament.