Now that the NCAA tournament field of 68 teams has been selected, the madness of March is underway. Most importantly, what comes with the best three weeks in sports is what highlights the brackets: buzzer-beating shots and an opportunity for mid- and low-major schools receiving a bid to show their readiness to play on the sport’s biggest stage versus powerhouse programs.
Upsets are typically the most exciting part of it all when Cinderella teams advance to the round of 32 and in rare cases… the Sweet 16. Here are four double-digit seeded teams that you may want to consider when filling out your bracket:
(12)North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks
Considering the 5 versus 12 seed matchup is typically one of my personal favorites, the CAA’s back-to-back conference tournament champs are among the most dangerous as any seeded in double-digits. Only a year ago, UNCW nearly defeated blue-blood Duke in the opening round by scoring 85 points, but fell short by eight. The Seahawks will rely heavily on their experienced guard play which is typically a recipe for success in the postseason and should be beneficial versus offensively challenged Virginia.
Following the Cavs are likely the extremely vulnerable Florida Gators as a 4-seed. CJ Bryce, Chris Flemmings, and Denzel Ingram are underrated defensively on the perimeter and all average more than 14 points per game. Devontae Cacok (a Riverdale, Georgia native) is an undersized load up front and leads the nation in field-goal percentage (80 percent).
(14)Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Another team with four players that average double figures in scoring, FGCU has a reputation for pulling off major upsets in the big dance as it did in 2013 with wins over 2-seed Georgetown and 7-seed San Diego State. However, following the Eagles’ miracle run to the Sweet 16 that season, head coach Andy Enfield left to take the Southern California job. It seems “Dunk City” has picked up where it’s left off. The Eagles could also benefit from playing close to home in the opening round (Orlando). But the same can be said for their matchup with ultra-athletic, 3-seeded Florida State.
FSU will be a tall task considering its size advantage, but Florida Gulf Coast won’t back down and is well prepared after scheduling Florida, Baylor and a near-defeat to Michigan State in non-conference play earlier this season. Xavier or Maryland will conclude the Eagles’ dream run to the Sweet 16 in the event they’re able to pull off a stunning upset but Brandon Goodwin will have to lead the way if Gulf Coast will stand a chance to make yet another run.
(11)Rhode Island Rams
Many thought we would be talking about the Rams making a deep run this time last season. Injuries to much of their key talent including E.C. Matthews, plagued the Rams’ hopes of entering the field as a at-large, but winning the Atlantic-10 conference tournament this year gave them an automatic bid, ultimately setting them up to be one of the most dangerous teams. Rhode Island is 3-4 this season versus teams making an appearance with wins over VCU and Cincinnati.
Close losses to Duke and Providence will certainly help them prepare for a Creighton club that began the season among the best nationally, but have since dwindled after losing star guard Mo Watson. Don’t be surprised if Rhode Island moves on to defeat Oregon behind a host of guards Hassan Martin, Jared Terrell and Kuran Iverson with the ducks’ Chris Boucher absent with a knee injury.
(12)Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Here’s another notable 5 versus 12 matchup and after being on the succeeding end of arguably the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history last year against Michigan State, Middle Tennessee State is a popular upset pick. Everyone is hot on MTSU’s trails and won’t take anyone by surprise this time around. Certainly not Minnesota, a team that hasn’t made the field since 2013. Middle Tennessee not only has the experience edge in regard to what all comes along with playing on the biggest stage, but simply has the talent to match up with the Golden Gophers at every position and category… even coaching.
Kermit Davis is among the hottest names circulating for vacancies and for a good reason. Giddy Potts is an underrated shooter and bully in penetration. The addition of JaCorey Williams (Arkansas transfer) has made a good team even better and Reggie Upshaw has a legitimate shot at playing at the next level. Even the winner of Butler and Winthrop may not have enough to slow down the offensive firepower that is MTSU. Problem is, there may be more pressure on the Blue Raiders to win than Minnesota.