We all struggle at filling out NCAA tournament brackets this time of year, even the brackets of the ones that follow college basketball closely from November to March look clueless come the second weekend of the tournament.
That’s just March Madness
Because of the madness, it’s easy to second-guess your picks from Selection Sunday all the way to noon on the Thursday the NCAA tourney starts in hopes of guessing all 67 games correct, or even trying to get 50 percent of the picks right to win an office bracket pool.
But one thing is nearly certain, one of your Final Four, or even national champion picks will fall at the hands of an upset. Some might come from schools you’ve never heard of to ruin everything. It’s hard to guess which ones might break the dreams of the contenders, but I gave it a shot to name four teams that look like they could add the madness to the tournament.
With some familiar faces for N.C. State fans, the Wolf Pack, yes spelled with two words, features twins Caleb and Cody Martin, who transferred from the other Wolfpack and are key contributors. Both are among the top three scorers on the team, and Caleb was named the Mountain West Conference’s Player and Newcomer of the Year while Cody was named the conference’s defensive player of the year.
Nevada, a No. 7-seed, has a favorable draw in the first round against 10th-seeded Texas that struggles to find its mark shooting the ball. A second-round matchup with No. 2 Cincinnati makes them a bracket buster, as the Wolf Pack have a chance to derail a Final Four-caliber team behind its offensive weapons that include the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline that combine for over 60 points and 20 rebounds a game.
Not only does No. 11 Loyola-Chicago have a viable chance to top No. 6 Miami with its defense, the school has one of, if not, the best mascots names in the tournament — the Ramblers. This team has already beat Florida, another 6-seed in the tournament, by six points earlier this year.
The Ramblers have held their opponents to 62 points per game this season, and boast the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in Clayton Custer, defensive player of the year in Ben Richardson and freshman of the year Cameron Krutwig. Loyola-Chicago’s defense that holds teams to around 40 percent shooting from the floor, goes against a Miami team that struggles at times to shoot and is without one of its top scorers in Bruce Brown Jr.
New Mexico State
Another ACC team could face a first-round exit at the hands of a mid-major in one of the infamous 5-12 matchups. The Aggies are going up against a No. 5 Clemson team still trying to figure out its bearing after the injury to Donte Grantham late this year. No. 12 New Mexico State has the inside-out presence it needs in guard Zach Lofton who puts up almost 20 points a night and under-sized forward Jemerrio Jones, who is good for a double-double each game.
The Aggies’ résumé includes a win over Miami back in December and wins in 17 of their last 19 games.
Another 5-12 matchup pits the Wildcats together in Davidson and Kentucky. Davidson is clicking at the right time and sealed its bid to the dance by topping Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament title. On top of that, it has one of the best mid-major big men in the country in Peyton Aldridge, who averages 21 points a game.
Davidson is very efficient on offense, ranking eighth in the country, going up against a Kentucky defense that allowed teams to score more than 70 points a game on average. Kentucky also has yet to beat a top 25 team this season, while Davidson has three wins over ranked opponents.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.