The NCAA Tournament is always one of the best sporting events of the year. The massive upsets combined with the buzzer beaters make March Madness a must watch sporting event. The brackets close on Thursday, March 21 at noon and here are 10 teams that are potential bracket busters.
1. Cincinnati Bearcats
Seed line: No. 7
First Round Matchup: Iowa
A seven seed being a bracket buster is a little questionable, but the Bearcats are one of the most dangerous teams in the NCAA Tournament. They have one of the nation’s best defenses, allowing only 62.4 points per game. Cincinnati has one of the best players in the country in American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland.
A first round matchup against Iowa could be troublesome, but the Bearcats are capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome are great shooter, while Nysier Brooks is a capable big man in the post. Cincinnati dominated Houston in the AAC championship game, so do not be fooled if Mick Cronin’s team makes it out of the first weekend.
2. Utah State Aggies
Seed line: No. 8
First Round Matchup: Washington
Nevada has been seen as a potential sleeper, but Utah State is the Mountain West’s best chance of busting brackets in March. The Aggies have the conference’s player of the year in Sam Merrill and have a stout defense. Freshman big man Neemias Queta is a game-changer defensively and is lethal on the block.
Utah State has struggled to score at times against elite defenses as Houston held the Aggies to 50 points when they played against each other. Their first round opponent Washington has an elite defense, but Utah State has the shooters to pick apart their zone defense. Queta’s size and shot blocking will give the Tar Heels problems, which makes it possible for the Aggies to make it to the Sweet 16.
3. Syracuse Orange
Seed line: No. 8
First Round Matchup: Baylor
The Orange is an interesting team topick as they are capable of beating Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but lost to Georgia Tech at home by 14 the game before. Syracuse’s zone defense is capable of making it tough on opposing offenses and has a game changer in junior Tyus Battle. Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard are good secondary options that makes Syracuse dangerous in the NCAA Tournament.
Jim Boehim’s team made the Sweet 16 last year after playing in the First Four and have the potential to make the Sweet 16 again. Gonzaga is a tough team to beat, but the Bulldogs struggled shooting the ball from behind the arc in the West Coast Conference. The Orange will have to get through Baylor first, but a return trip to the Sweet 16 is not out of the question for Syracuse.
4. Buffalo Bulls
Seed line: No. 6
First Round Matchup: First Four winner between St. John’s and Arizona State
The highest ranked team on the list, Buffalo has been one of the best teams in the country this season, boasting a record of 31-3. The Bulls knocked off Syracuse in the Carrier Dome earlier this season and nearly upset Marquette. Last season, Buffalo steamrolled Arizona as a 13 seed and returns almost everybody from that team.
The Bulls’ overall depth makes them extremely dangerous as they have seven different players that average more than five points per game. Buffalo will have to get through the winner of Arizona State and St. John’s, but both teams are too inconsistent to give Buffalo much trouble. The Bulls have never made it to the Sweet 16, but that could change in this tournament.
5. Seton Hall Pirates
Seed line: No. 10
First Round Matchup: Wofford
Seton Hall might not come off as a giant killer, but the Pirates have all the pieces to bust brackets this season. They have an elite scorer in junior Myles Powell, a solid interior presence in sophomore Sandro Mamukelashvili and an experienced point guard in Quincy McKnight. The Pirates fall in love with the three-pointers at times during the game, which could be their downfall in the NCAA Tournament.
Seton Hall will have trouble with a Wofford team that has won 20 straight games. The Terriers are an elite three-point shooting team, but the Pirates are capable of knocking down three-pointers as well. Seton Hall already beat Kentucky this season, making it possible for the Pirates to make a run to the Sweet 16.
6. Belmont Bruins
Seed line: No. 11
First Four Matchup: Temple
The only First Four team on the list, Belmont has a good chance to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Dylan Windler is a legitimate pro with his ability to stretch the defense from behind the arc and make plays around the basket. Freshman big man Nick Muszynski is a difference maker as he shoots 38.9 percent from behind the arc and blocks 2.2 shots per game.
The Bruins’ ability to shoot the ball from behind the arc makes them a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. Belmont has to get through Temple first, leaving a matchup with Maryland in the Round of 64. The Bruins’ offensive efficiency makes them a dangerous team in March and are capable of pulling off an upset or two.
7. Murray State Racers
Seed line: No. 12
First Round Matchup: Marquette
The second Ohio Valley Conference team on the list, Murray State is a definite Cinderella candidate. The Racers have one of the nation’s top point guards in Ja Morant, who is capable of taking over any game. Forward Darnell Cowart is a solid interior presence, while guards Tevin Brown and Shaq Buchanan are capable of knocking down three-pointers.
The opening round game between Marquette is going to be fun to watch as Morant and Markus Howard will face up. Theo John is an elite shot blocker, but his propensity to get into foul trouble plays right into the hands of Murray State. The Racers could struggle with Florida State’s size and athleticism, but they are definitely capable of pulling off an upset in March.
8. Oregon Ducks
Seed line: No. 12
First Round Matchup: Wisconsin
The last major conference team on the list, Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Ducks have won their last eight games and have held seven opponents to under 60 points. Payton Pritchard is playing the best basketball of his career and he is the only main contributor from the 2017 Final Four team.
Wisconsin has one of the nation’s top frontcourt players in Ethan Happ, but Oregon has the size to neutralize him in the post. Excluding injured center Bol Bol,the Ducks have five players that are over 6’9″ with freshman Louis King playing great basketball. Oregon is playing its regional games in San Jose, California, which is a huge advantage for the Ducks. They are quite capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
9. UC Irvine
Seed line: No. 13
First Round Matchup: Kansas State
The second team to be playing its regional games in San Jose, UC Irvine is a dangerous 13 seed. The Anteaters have won 30 games this season and have one of the nation’s top defenses. Nine different players average more than five points per game, making them one of the deepest teams in the field.
Kansas State also has a solid defense, but could be without star forward Dean Wade. The senior forward missed the Big 12 Tournament due to injury and his status for the NCAA Tournament is still up for debate. If Wade is unable to go for the Wildcats, UC Irvine will advance out of the first round with a potential matchup with 12-seeded Oregon.
10. Yale Bulldogs
Seed line: No. 14
First Round Matchup: LSU
The lowest seeded team on the list, Yale can make the damage in the tournament. The Bulldogs have a legitimate pro player in Miye Oni, while Jordan Bruner and Paul Atkinson are solid big guys. Yale’s efficiency on offense makes them a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament.
LSU’s interior size will be tough for Yale to handle, but the Tigers have other things on their mind. Their head coach Will Wade is in the middle of a crisis, leaving the players in an uncertain place for what the future holds. Yale can take advantage of the uncertainty in the LSU program by pulling off the upset and potentially making the Sweet 16.