The Five Teams That Could Bust Your Bracket
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Ah, March Madness. Is there a better time of the sporting year? The first round of the tournament is like nothing else on Earth, chock full of Gus Johnson and Cinderella stories of buzzer beaters. But what happens when those Cinderellas bust up your bracket? How happy are you then?
Don't worry - we've got you covered. We looked at all the teams in the tournament with a fine-toothed comb and on the strength of our mathematical models, we've come up with the five giant killers that you need to watch out for in your bracket. Make no mistake about it: these Davids pack quite the wallop.
(A quick note of housekeeping in advance: no team from a major conference will make my list; this is by choice. VCU is also a somewhat obvious choice, but since their seed is likely six, they're on the wrong side of the upset and thus forgo the narrative of the small school that is a giant killer. Ditto St. Louis and Gonzaga, obviously.)
The veterans: Davidson
How appropriate that we start with a team that has David in it's name! We've seen the Davidson Wildcats before, running wild under the direction of Steph Curry and his barrage of threes. They're back this year after rolling through the Southern Conference in style, putting up a ton of points on the strength of an incredibly efficient offense (No. 19 in the nation) and an above-average defense to boot. Unlike some of the other sleepers, they're a brand-name team that has been there before; sleep on them with great peril.
The high-flyers: Belmont
Another team that has been there and done that, the Belmont Bruins squeaked through their conference tourney in OT, leaving some to think that this team might not have what it takes to topple a major in the first round. Think again! These Bruins do not stop offensively, ranking #16 in offensive efficiency while maintaining a breakneck pace that leaves opponents running for the oxygen masks. They're also red-hot, going 17-2 to close out their season, along with some nice non-conference wins over Stanford and San Diego State.
The shooters: Valparaiso
You've seen the clip a million times: Bryce Drew. Cash. This Valparaiso Crusaders squad is built in that mold, featuring a shooter non-pareil in Ryan Broekhoff who shoots 43 percent from behind the arc, complimented by Dutch big man Kevin Van Wijk, who bangs around to the clip of 65 percent shooting on nearly 13 points a game. They fit the mid-major mold to a T: a bunch of shooters who can heat up quickly and put you behind double-digits before you catch your breath. Offensive efficiency in the top 10 percent of all-teams, defensive efficiency in the top 20 percent - I'll take that balance against a weak major like the No. 8 team out of the Big East any day of the week.
The studs: Creighton
Don't get it twisted - the Creighton Bluejays are a major team playing in a mid-major conference. Say what you will about the hair of Doug McDermott, but you can't deny his 23-8 average on 50 percent three-point shooting and 56 percent from the field. Look beyond McDermott, and you also see a veteran team that knows how to put the ball in the bucket (No. 5 in offensive efficiency) and can match you up any way you like: they play big with Echenique, or small with Gibbs-Chatman. Just ask Wisconsin, Arizona State, California, and Nebraska about these guys - they can play. Apart from a mid-year lull against the whey of their conference, the Bluejays can fly and they're a very difficult out for anyone.
The forgotten: St. Mary's
What a weird year for the St. Mary's Gaels. First, they play in the shadow of No. 1 Gonzaga, despite an incredibly efficient offense that ranks No. 6 in the nation. Second, the "failure to monitor" sanctions has obscured what every true hoop fan should know about them: they're 27-6 in a solid conference, with three of those losses coming to Gonzaga. I can't say their OOC schedule was great - which is why they were sweating the bubble big time - but they've got wins over a lot of tournament teams (Harvard, Creighton) and they can do some damage with the right matchup. KenPom has them No. 24, ESPN's RPI has them No. 33..so yeah, this team can play.
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