Everyone is putting together their brackets, hoping this will be the year they take the office bounty as the winner. Well, I’ve never won, so don’t know how much my input would help you. But I can cite a few notable tidbits.
Don’t cross anyone out as a possibility. You need to only go back to 2013 when 15 seeded Florida Gulf Coast made everyone sit up and take notice advancing all the way to the Sweet 16, after bouncing No. 2 seed Georgetown in opening round.
Butler, a No. 8 seed, toppled No. 1 Pittsburgh, Wisconsin then Florida in 2011.
Dale Brown’s “Freak Defense” enabled the 11th seeded Tigers in 1986 to reach all the way to the Final Four. LSU was 9-9 in SEC competition that season before taking down Purdue, Memphis, Georgia Tech and Kentucky in the tournament.
George Mason, another No. 11 seed, had never won a NCAA tournament contest before 2006, when they overcame Michigan State, North Carolina (who was defending champ), Wichita State and UConn to reach the Final Four.
As for this year, Louisiana has just one representation – the New Orleans Privateers.
UNO’s opening game opponent, Mount St. Mary Mountaineers, averages 68 points per outing and boadt boast the tournament’s shortest player, 5-foot-8 guard Junior Robinson. He averages 14 points pre game.
Privateers senior Christavious Gill at 5-8 will face off with Robinson in what should be an interesting matchup.
Elijah Long (6-0, 180) is a player UNO will need to challenge. the Mountaineers standout leads the team with 15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Freshman swingman Miles Wilson adds 11.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.
As a team, Mount St. Mary’s converted 44.4 percent from field and 35.7 percent from behind arc. An average team on paper, the Mountaineers hope to play uptempo.
The biggest upsets will happen this week in the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup or the No. 6 vs. No. 11 games.
In this year’s games, No. 5 Virginia faces No. 12 UNC Wilmington, No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Xavier, No. 5 Minnesota tangles with No. 12 Middle Tennessee and No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 12 Nevada. Out of that group, the Middle Tennessee-Minnesota contest looks to be an upset waiting to happen. The Blue Raiders had an overall 30-4 mark, going 20-1 to finish the season. MTSU averages 75 points per game.
Senior forward Jacorey Williams (6’8-220) averages 17.3 points and 7.3 boards for the Conference-USA champs. Junior guard Giddy Potts chips in 15.8 points and 5.5 rebounds. Reggie Upshaw (6’8, 230), another senior, averages 14.5 points and 6.8 boards. They are a scrappy bunch that moves the ball very well.
A No. 6 seed who can certainly make a run into Sweet 16 or beyond is the SMU Mustangs. They scored 75 points per outing with a 27-4 mark in The American. The Ponies convert 40.3 percent from behind arc. SMU is a good rebounding outfit. Virginia may stand in their path since they are on the same side of the bracket.
SMU finished 26-1 the past 27 games this past season, led by 6-7 junior Semi Ojeleye who is producing 19 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Shake Milton is a 6-6 sophomore chipping in 13.2 points and 4.1 rebs per game. Sterling Brown (6-6, 230) managed 13.2 points and 6.6 boards while 6-8 senior Ben Moore adds 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds.
As you can see, SMU boasts good size and physicality.
No. 4 Butler would have to overcome North Carolina in top portion of the bracket. One problem is, the Bulldogs finished 5-5 to end season and have been a bit inconsistent.
Butler does play outstanding defense and force opponents to take bad shots. They play a patient tempo.
Kelan Martin (6-7, 220) Jr. paces the squad with 16 points and 5.7 rebounds. Andrew Chrabacz (6-7, 230) is a senior who adds 11 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Kamar Baldwin (6-0, 170), a freshman point guard, has been spectacular at times, adding 10 points per game and just under two assists.
A pair of teams in the same side of the bracket who could end up eliminating one or the other are Iowa State and Purdue.
Purdue (25-6), a No. 4 seed as Big Ten regular season champion, and Iowa State (20-10), a No. 5 with a Big XII postseason title, are excellent teams.
The Cyclones are a senior-laden club averaging 81 points per game. Monte Morris leads Iowa State with 16.3 points and 4.8 rebounds 6’4-204 Nazareth Mitrou-Long is a senior who will get you 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
ISU big body Deonte Burton is a 6-5, 250 pound senior at 6-5 managing 14.8 points and 6.2 boards. Senior Matt Thomas (6-5, 193) shoots 44 percent from behind arc averaging 12 points. The Cyclones finished 10-2 in their final dozen matchups.
Purdue averages 80 points per game and hits 40.6 percent from long range.
Caleb Swanigan (6’9-250) is an intriguing prospect, averaging 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from behind the arc. He can change the complexion of games in a matter of moments.
Massive post Isaac Haas (7-2, 290) chips in 12.8 points and 5 boards per outing, converting 59 percent from the field. Vince Edwards (6’8-225), a junior, pitches in with 12.2 points, 4.8 boards and long range shooting.
The Boilermakers can get physical.