March Madness: 3 Mid-Majors That Could Bust Brackets
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.
The Murray State Racers had a fantastic season, going 30-2 and finishing strong by winning 20 consecutive games.
We rank the Racers 39th in our nERD rankings, and they opened as a one and half point underdog in the NCAAB odds against another mid-major force in the San Francisco Dons.
The Racers are led by two emerging star players in KJ Williams and Tevin Brown. Williams, the starting center, is averaging an eye-opening 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Brown, a guard, averaged 25.5 points per game in the OVC Tournament.
Meanwhile, San Francisco enters the NCAA tournament as losers of three out of their last five games. Their starting center, Yauhen Masselski, should return for the NCAA tournament after missing the Dons' loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the WCC semi-final.
Even in the Round of 32, Murray State could give the Kentucky Wildcats trouble. The Wildcats are led by the National Player of the Year frontrunner, Oscar Tshiebwe. A Williams-Tshiebwe showdown would be "must-see" television.
If Williams can get Tsiebwe into foul trouble, the Wildcats could be on upset alert. Williams is drawing 4.2 fouls per 40 minutes.
Sister Jean's Loyola (IL) Ramblers could be poised for another deep March run. The winners of the Missouri Valley Conference check in at 26th in our rankings.
They face off with the reeling Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes have lost two straight games and have fallen to 28th in our rankings.
Loyola-Chicago opened as one-point favorites in the FanDuel Sportsbook against Ohio State. If Loyola-Chicago can manage to squeak by Ohio State, that would set up a likely matchup with the Villanova Wildcats.
Despite drawing a 2 seed, Villanova could be vulnerable due to the Wildcats' inconsistency on the defensive end of the court. The Wildcats are ranked 110th in defense per our rankings.
On the flip side, Loyola-Chicago has one of the nation's top offenses. They check in at 25th in our offensive rankings.
San Diego State
The San Diego State Aztecs have an elite defense and play at a methodical pace.
Per KenPom, San Diego State ranks 2nd in defensive efficiency and 268th in adjusted tempo. When San Diego State builds a lead, they are extremely tough to beat. Consequently, the Aztecs are a team that no one wants to play come March.
We have San Diego State all the way up at 24th in our rankings. They draw our 54th-ranked team, the Creighton Bluejays, in a first-round matchup. The Bluejays could struggle to score, as they are 124th in KenPom's offensive efficiency rankings.
If the Aztecs are able to dispatch Creighton, they will likely face off with the 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks.
While San Diego State will certainly be an underdog in that potential matchup, all hope is not lost. The Jayhawks have failed to advance past the first weekend in each of the last two NCAA tournaments.