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Five Underrated Teams to Watch in March

There are three things you can count on happening in this life: death, taxes, and upsets in March. Underdogs winning in the March tournament is inevitable, that’s why they call it madness.

Since 2010, a double digit seed has reached the Elite Eight five times. Only two years ago we saw 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago reach the Final Four. Prior to that, Syracuse made the Final Four as a 10 seed and in 2011, VCU danced their way to the Final Four as an 11 seed.

Upsets are likely to be even more prevalent this year due to the parody amongst the field. This article will examine five underrated teams that can make a Cinderella-type run once the tournament begins March 17th.

1.      East Tennessee State (25-4)

·         AP Poll: Unranked

·         NET Ranking: 39

The Buccaneers are currently projected to be an 11 seed by Joe Lunardi. Coach Steve Forbes runs an experienced eight man rotation, with seven of the eight players logging considerable minutes being upperclassmen.

ETSU presents a balanced scoring effort with four players averaging over 10 points per game. However, it is the defense of the Buccaneers that could propel them to the second weekend of the tourney.

East Tennessee State ranks top 30 in the nation in both forced turnovers and points allowed. The Bucs’ perimeter defense combined with their experience could lead them to busting a lot of people’s brackets come March.   

2.      BYU (21-7)

·         AP Poll: 17

·         NET Ranking: 14

The Cougars can shoot; like really shoot. BYU currently leads the nation in 3PT% at 42%, with six players shooting over 35% from behind the arc (Min. 60 attempts). If this team stays hot no one will want to face them in the tournament.

Coach Mark Pope’s team is also extremely unselfish as they rank second nationally in assists.

The experienced Cougar team is led by seniors Yoeli Childs and Jake Toolson, but they have eight players, none of which are freshmen, who contribute.

BYU has won eight straight, including a win this past Saturday over Gonzaga. They are currently projected to be a six seed by Joe Lunardi. Do not be surprised to see the Cougars claw their way to the Elite Eight, or possibly the Final Four.

3.      Stephen F. Austin (24-3)

·         AP Poll: Unranked

·         NET Ranking: 87

The Lumberjacks aren’t on this list just because they won at Duke back in November. In fact, Stephen F. Austin does a lot of things right that make them very capable of pulling off upsets in March.

SF Austin does a few things extremely well that will help them hang with just about any team they will face early on in the tourney.

For starters, the Lumberjacks force more turnovers than any team in division one basketball. In fact, a large reason they were able to beat Duke is they turned them over 20 times.

Kyle Keller’s team excels on the offensive end as well. They currently rank eighth in FG% and FTAs. Stephen F. Austin’s formula of stifling perimeter defense and getting to the free throw line will win them a game or two this March.

Joe Lunardi currently projects the Lumberjacks to be a 13 seed.

4.      Utah State (22-7)

·         AP Poll: Unranked

·         NET Ranking: 38

Utah State has a NET ranking of 38 in large part due to their neutral site wins over LSU and Florida. Coach Craig Smith has gotten a lot of production from senior guard Sam Merrill, who’s averaging 18.9 Pts, 4.3 Reb, 4.0 Ast. Moreover, sophomore forward Justin Bean has recorded 14 double-doubles on the year, and is averaging 12.6 Pts, 10.3 Reb.

The Aggies clean up the glass with the best of them. They are fourth in the nation in total rebounds and have lost just two games in which they out-rebounded their opponent.

Joe Lunardi currently pegs Utah State as an 11 seed. If the Aggies match-up with a team where they can dominate the glass, they will likely advance.

5.      Wichita State (20-7)

·         AP Poll: Unranked

·         NET Ranking: 43

The Shockers are no strangers to the tournament under coach Gregg Marshall. Wichita State has made it to the big dance seven of the last eight years. Though this particular Shocker team has not received the national attention, they do have what it takes to make some noise in March.

Wichita State presents a very balanced scoring attack with seven players averaging at least seven points per game. Yet, it is not on the offensive end where the Shockers excel.

Defensively Gregg Marshall’s squad gives up just over 63 points per game, which is good for 38 in the country. Perimeter defense is always critical down the stretch of big games, and the Shockers are very good at forcing difficult shots.

Opposing teams are shooting just under 39% from the field against the Shocker defense. Joe Lunardi has Wichita State as an 11 seed, but this is a team that could be playing on the second weekend and beyond.

Prominent coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari have acknowledged the possibility of 30 or more teams being capable of cutting down the nets this season. We have seen parody like never before this year and the five teams listed above could make runs and bust up some brackets this March.

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