In the last five years, plenty of low-seeded, mid-major teams have gone on runs through March and even reached April. In 2008, Davidson hit the Elite Eight, and Butler reached the championship game in both 2010 and 2011.
Perhaps no state has exported more Cinderella stories than Virginia. It all started when George Mason reached the Final Four in 2006, and then VCU did the same in 2010. Norfolk State took down No. 2 Missouri last year, and JMU has a chance to be the first-ever 16 seed to win a game.
The Big Ten has become the new premier conference. Every school that’s going to the tournament could very well win multiple games, and it’s not just Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan State who could make a run.
Minnesota was under-seeded at 11 and has a really favorable matchup with UCLA. The Golden Gophers are a popular upset pick over the Bruins, who can’t rebound (which Minnesota does exceptionally well) and recently lost star-player Jordan Adams for the tournament.
The Golden Gophers are extremely inconsistent, but they’ve proven they can play with anyone since they’ve beaten Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Most of the teams in the South might not know how to handle an extremely athletic, defensive team like Minnesota.
Wisconsin is about as consistent as Blacksburg weather. They’ve beaten Michigan and Indiana twice but also lost to Iowa and Purdue. The Badgers are great at winning close games and definitely have the defense to batter anyone in a weak West region.
Whoever emerges from the Round of 64 game between Butler and Bucknell could very well be this year’s Cinderella. Every team in the nation, whether they’re a No. 1 seed or No. 16 seed, doesn’t want to play Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs. Stevens has taken his team to the National Championship game twice in his three tournament appearances.
They’ll play the Bucknell Bison, a team largely unknown outside of the Patriot League and central Pennsylvania. Bucknell has Mike Muscala, a big man who leads his team in points, rebounds, and shooting percentage. If Muscala shows up, Bucknell could win and take Butler’s usual role.
The famous 12/5 seed upset has become an annual event. A 12-seed has beaten five-seed in 24 of the last 27 years, and with some teams very under-seeded, it should continue this year.
Oregon got shafted as a No. 12 seed, since it ended the season ranked No. 24 in the nation and brought home the Pac-12 tournament title. The Ducks will play Oklahoma State, and if they can get by Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, they have the ability to turn the loaded Midwest on its head.
Only once have we seen an all-No. 1 seeded Final Four. Massive upsets in the NCAA tournament are pretty much guaranteed. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Butler, Bucknell and Oregon are all teams that many have looked past but could very well wreak havoc in this year’s bracket.