The NCAA tournament is almost upon us and with college basketball being characterized by as much parody as we’ve seen in a long time, this year’s edition of March Madness might be especially unpredictable.
Predicting the teams that could be capable of a Cinderella type run is almost impossible, but identifying some commonalities between recent examples is a little easier and may just provide a bit of help when it comes to picking upsets in our bracket.
With that in mind, here are some things to keep an eye out for:
The Overlooked High-Major
Last year’s Elite Eight included a 7 seed and an 11 seed but they were hardly overlooked mid-majors. Instead, they were hardened high-majors South Carolina and Xavier who had battled all year long in the SEC and Big East respectively and gotten better because of it. So often we think of Cinderella candidates as only mid-majors, but more frequently they are the forgotten about high-majors who have the size, strength, and athleticism to compete with anyone along with the benefit of playing against the highest levels of competition for a full year. Who might that be this year? Maybe teams like Seton Hall or TCU.
For the actual mid-majors looking to make a splash, sometimes the best way to do it is to be vastly different than the majority of the competition and control the tempo of the game as an outlier. That can come in the form of either faster teams, like Shaka Smart’s former VCU team that ran to the 2011 Final Four, or exceptionally disciplined ball-control teams like last year’s St. Mary’s team, who knocked off VCU and gave Arizona a scare. Buffalo is one of the best up-tempo mid-majors in the country this year. They have the 5th quickest average offensive possession in the country according to KenPom, but is also 30th in the country in effective field-goal percentage and 71st in turnover percentage, meaning they play extremely fast but not at the expense of their efficiency.
Teams that can make shots in bunches are the ones who are capable of getting hot at the right time and shooting their way into an upset. One team that shoots the three extremely well, and is widely regarded as one of the best mid-majors in the country, is Nevada. The current pride of the Mountain West Conference, the Wolf Pack rank in the top ten in the country in turnover percentage. Elite shooting teams that don’t waste possessions win games, just like Steve Donahue’s Cornell team of 2010 that went to a Sweet 16 before giving Kentucky a scare.
Tune in to “Eye on the Alamo” on YurView for March Madness NCAA analysis, previews and predictions. Begins Monday, March 12 on Cox’s YurView. Click here for more scheduling information.