February 20, 2017 by Jean Neuberger • Print Story •
Florida Gulf Coast. Little Rock. Lehigh. Mercer.
Double-digit seeds have destroyed many a bracket over the years and this year likely will be no exception. Last year's Vegas favorite, second-seed Michigan State, fell victim to Middle Tennessee in the first round of action. Upsets are the name of the game in March, and it's never too early to be scouting for those who have the potential to wear the glass slippers next month. The scrappy, veteran bunch. The team that seems to have forgotten how to lose. The team with tournament experience, reloaded and ready to go.
Here's three of those teams who could shatter more than one bracket in March.
It seems weird putting WSU here; the Shockers should be a surprise to no one. Gregg Marshall and the Shockers have pulled off more than one upset in recent years, including a Final Four run and a takedown of Kansas a couple of years ago. The Shockers are 25-4, 15-1 in the Missouri Valley, and should be more of a 7-8 seed than a double digit. However, the NCAA will likely throw Wichita State into a 10 or 11 seed due to their lack of quality wins (LSU and Oklahoma don't count for those this year).
Remember last year, when Wichita was sent to a play-in game in Dayton? It was ridiculous then and here's betting the NCAA hasn't learned their lesson. Regardless, March is the month when Marshall and his troops are the most dangerous, even if Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet no longer are in black and gold.
The Shocks should get in as an at-large if they lose the MVC tournament, due to their noted history, and there's no doubt they'll make noise. Remember the name of Landry Shamet, who has solid range from outside the perimeter. Marshall always gets great guard play and Shamet could be the name we're all talking about that first weekend.
It's never fun to play that team that has dominated their conference and is currently on a major winning streak. Teams such as Vermont are so confident and calm come March because they have no reason to believe they won't win. The Catamounts haven't lost so far in 2017, last falling in December to Butler and running through the America East unscathed at the moment. UVM is unique in that they're good, but not outstanding, around the perimeter. They're good, but not great, at the free throw line. However, their overall field goal percentage is almost 50 percent, as they do a great job in the paint and hitting mid-range jump shots.
They're also very balanced, with three players averaging double digits on a bench that normally gives significant time to 11 players. I really like Anthony Lamb, who at 6' 6" is averaging just over one block a game. He's the kind of scrappy leader that becomes a catalyst for a major upset in March. Don't sleep on the Catamounts, who would likely go in the 12-14 seed range and yet have the potential to be a Sweet 16 team.
The Mavericks could be extremely dangerous if they get an invite to the Big Dance. UTA has wins over Texas and St. Mary's on their resume and won't be afraid of anyone in their path. Erick Neal and Jalen Jones give UTA a solid, veteran backcourt that can control the tempo of games and help feed the physical Kevin Hervey inside. The key to the Mavericks though rests in their perimeter shooting. If Neal, Hervey, and Drew Charles (yet another veteran guard) are hitting from three-point land, the Mavs could shock an awful lot of teams. However, in two really bad losses to Texas State and Troy, UTA shot 7-28 and 4-25, respectively, from behind the arc.
UTA has the weapons and the veteran leadership to have a major Cinderella run next month. However, they have to hit from deep range or it'll be a short dance. I see UTA getting in as a 11-13 seed (leaning more towards an 11), who also could easily see itself playing into the second weekend of the tournament.