When it comes time for you to fill out your bracket in a few weeks, one of the first things you’ll probably try to do is consider who your big upset picks are.
After all, telling someone you’ve got Duke, Kansas, Michigan, and Indiana in your Final Four really doesn’t take much guts. So who’s got the chance to be the George Mason of 2013? Here are four current double-digit seeds (according to our friends at the Bracket Project
) that could pull off a Cinderella run into the second weekend of play, if not further:
At 19-12, the Wildcats currently have the most losses of any team projected in the tournament, including the no-name conference winners that will inevitably stumble into a 16-seed. An RPI of 52 puts them firmly on the bubble, in most scenarios. But this Villanova team managed to play its way into an 11-seed, according to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology
Led by a young core of players, most notably freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono, this team has grown over the last few months. Only 10 other teams have four victories over the RPI top-25. The Wildcats are also 3-0 against the AP top-5 (Georgetown, Syracuse, and Louisville), something only Ohio State and Duke can put on their resume. Ohio State is 3-3 in such matchups, and Duke beat Kentucky when UK was No. 3.
It’s true that most of their major wins have come at home, or at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. But should ’Nova climb up to a 10-seed, it would be possible for them to play their first weekend at Wells Fargo, essentially on their home court. I’ll take those odds any day.
La Salle Explorers
La Salle is 38th in the country in threes per game, and 31st in 3-point percentage, knocking down 38 percent of their shots from deep. They also grab offensive rebounds (nearly a third of their boards are on the offensive glass), creating lots of second chance opportunities. Ranking in the top-50 in steals and turnovers per game, the Explorers are feisty on the defensive end, while controlling the ball well themselves, both keys to upsetting ranked teams.
Ramon Galloway is the catalyst for La Salle, averaging over 20 points a game in his last 10 contests, coupled with nearly five assists and five rebounds each in that span. The senior has helped the Explorers to a third-place standing in the A-10, and the team can still win the regular-season conference title. Fun fact: this team has a better RPI than Wisconsin.
Iowa State Cyclones
Put it this way: Any team that takes Kansas to overtime twice
in one season is immediately feared throughout the nation. Let’s not get into the questionable refereeing
in that second game, however, and concentrate on a Cyclones offense that ranks fourth in points per game at a flat 80.
Five of their players average double-digit scoring, and a ridiculous 44 percent of their shots are from deep. Iowa State runs a rotation of six players, four of whom are seniors. This team beat Connecticut in the first round last year, so they’ve been here before. As long as a few players are clicking, they can pull off an upset or two. Watch out if they all start hitting at the same time, as this Iowa State team has what it takes to be this year’s surprise.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Generally, for a team to pull off an upset in the NCAA Tournament, they need to be rather fast-paced on both offense and defense. Imagine VCU’s pressure defense, creating steals, forcing turnovers, and establishing a gameplan that makes the elite squads change their style of play.
Ranking 74th in steals per game, Middle Tennessee gets after it on defense. They keep the heat on by using a large portion of their bench: Eight players see 15 minutes a game, and 10 see double-digit minutes, all of whom are juniors and seniors. It’s a close-knit group that wins together. As a team, the Raiders are lights-out from beyond the arc, converting on 38.4 percent from deep, good for top-25 in the country.
But perhaps the most important thing is that they win. A lot. At 27-4, they have by far one of the best records in the country. And considering how often the top teams have fallen this year, perhaps this year’s motto is “survive and advance”.