March Madness: The 10 Most Underrated Teams in the 2022 NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament's selection committee doesn't always get it right, and sometimes, teams just don't get the love they truly deserve based on their seed.

Here at numberFire, we can find out exactly which teams are underrated by simply comparing each NCAA Tournament team's nERD score compared to the historical average of that given seed.

What's nERD? Good question. It's simply a metric we use at numberFire to represent by how many points a given team would win or lose by against an average team on a neutral court.

As you may expect, teams with higher nERD scores generally draw better seeds. When those don't match up, we can easily see teams that just got some disrespect in the bracket.

These are the 10 teams with the largest gaps between their nERD and the historical seed average.

10. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (13 Seed, Midwest)

nERD: 7.82
nERD vs. Seed Average: +1.82

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits were projected by our data to earn a 12 seed, so it's not that far off, but their 7.82 nERD is closer to the historical 12 seed (8.32) than the historical 13 seed (6.00).

The Jackrabbits are 0-2 in Quadrant 1 matchups but are 30-4 overall and a flawless 18-0 in Summit League conference play. They've got a top-12 adjusted offense, by KenPom, with the 220th-ranked adjusted defense.

9. Virginia Tech Hokies (11 Seed, East)

nERD: 11.33
nERD vs. Seed Average: +1.83

The Virginia Tech Hokies scored an automatic bid with an ACC Championship win over the Duke Blue Devils to net them their third Quadrant 1 win of the season.

In total, they're 3-5 in Quadrant 1 games -- but they won their final three (at Miami (FL) and on neutral floors against North Carolina and Duke).

They're a good team that plays slowly, and that can inject variance into all of their games.

8. San Francisco Dons (10 Seed, East)

nERD: 12.42
nERD vs. Seed Average: +1.94

The 10 seed in the East Region, the San Francisco Dons, are a really good squad. They actually rate better by nERD than their first-round opponent, the Murray State Racers (10.17 nERD).

The Dons hold a top-50 adjusted offense and a top-20 adjusted defense, via KenPom. They also are a respectable 4-6 in Quadrant 1 games, including three losses to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

7. Tennessee Volunteers (3 Seed, South)

nERD: 16.55
nERD vs. Seed Average: +1.98

Our data had the Tennessee Volunteers as a 3 seed, but that's not to say they're a typical 3 seed.

They rank 9th in our power ratings (16.55 nERD) and are nearly 2.00 full points better than the historical 3 seed in NCAA history since 2000.

They hold an 11-7 Quadrant 1 record and are a top-3 adjusted defense by BartTorvik, KenPom, and Sports-Reference.

6. Indiana Hoosiers (12 Seed, East)

nERD: 10.40
nERD vs. Seed Average: +2.08

The Indiana Hoosiers earned a 12 seed -- but have a play-in game to get through. They face the Wyoming Cowboys (8.86 nERD), who are very close to a historical 12 seed (8.32).

Indiana has a 4-8 Quadrant 1 record yet overall faced a top-40 schedule.

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs (1 Seed, West)

nERD: 21.20
nERD vs. Seed Average: +2.29

This is a bit funny at least.

The usual 1 seed since 2000 has an 18.91 nERD, and the Bulldogs are significantly better than that, via our data.

In Quadrant 1 play, Gonzaga was 10-3, comprising their only 3 losses in an otherwise 26-3 record. They're the top seed for a reason.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes (5 Seed, Midwest)

nERD: 15.55
nERD vs. Seed Average: +2.34

The Iowa Hawkeyes went out and got their automatic bid on Sunday with a win over the Purdue Boilermakers. What'd it get them? Not a lot of respect, I guess.

Our data expected Iowa to earn a 4 seed.

They ended the season with a 9-1 record in their past 10 with their only loss being by 2 points on the road against the Illinois Fighting Illini (who earned a 4 seed themselves).

3. UCLA Bruins (4 Seed, East)

nERD: 16.70
nERD vs. Seed Average: +2.34

numberFire's data has the UCLA Bruins ranked 8th in the nation, but they drew a 4 seed in the East to outperform the historical 4 seed average by 2.34 points.

They're 5-4 in Quadrant 1 play and 25-7 overall. UCLA ranks in the top-15 in KenPom's adjusted offense and defense.

They could be an easy leverage play in our brackets this year.

2. Georgia State Panthers (16 Seed, West)

nERD: 0.78
nERD vs. Seed Average: +3.15

Hey, just because the Georgia State Panthers are a 16 seed doesn't mean they can't be a bit underrated, right?

Our nERD metric has them at a 0.78, putting them just above an average squad in terms of expected efficiency.

The historical 16 seed is a -2.37, leading to more than a 3.00-point gap between their strength and the usual 16 seed.

Let's give them some love before they run into Gonzaga in the opening round.

1. Houston Cougars (5 Seed, South)

nERD: 17.22
nERD vs. Seed Average: +4.01

The Houston Cougars seemed to have gotten a pretty rough shake with a 5 seed in the South region. Our algorithm expected them to net a 2 seed, and they went ahead and fended off the Memphis Tigers on Sunday to win the American Conference Tournament and clinch an automatic bid (not that they wouldn't have earned an at-large bid, of course).

Houston's nERD puts them close to a historical 2 seed (16.35).