NCAA Basketball Tournament 2013: Undervalued Squads Most Likely To Make Deep Run

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2013

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 15: (L-R) Head coach Dave Rice of the UNLV Rebels supports his players Anthony Bennett #15, Bryce DeJean-Jones #13 and Katin Reinhardt #5 during the second half of a semifinal game of the Reese's Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament against the Colorado State Rams at the Thomas & Mack Center on March 15, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 75-65.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Each and every year, there are very good teams who are undervalued going into the NCAA tournament.

Most people will expect the top seeds to present the greatest threat for a Final Four bid. It's tough to win your bracket pool by simply choosing all the top seeds in each game. Everybody picks those teams, so you don't separate yourself from the competition.

In order to do the most damage and win the most money, it's important to gauge which teams have the best possibility of making a deep run from the mid-to-lower seeds, knocking off some top-seeded teams along the way.

Here are three teams you should consider undervalued going into the 2013 NCAA tournament.


UNLV Rebels

Despite losing to the New Mexico Lobos in the Mountain West Championship, the UNLV Rebels are coming into the tournament pretty strong. The team has won seven of its last nine games.

The Mountain West was one of the better mid-major conferences in the country. Five of its nine teams ended with 20-plus wins. UNLV was one of them, finishing 25-9 on the season.

Making it through the Mountain West with an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament is a strong indicator that the Rebels have what it takes to succeed in the Big Dance. More importantly, the team finished 4-1 against teams in the USA Today Top 25.

With Anthony Bennett, the Rebels have the kind of player who can change a game. He's averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds a game.

The Rebels crashed the boards extremely well, recording 40.1 rebounds a night. With the way it can create second-chance opportunities for itself and limit its opponent's opportunities, UNLV can make each possession count.


Memphis Tigers

The Memphis Tigers are not able to benefit from a strong conference with which to bolster its tournament resume. Memphis may be the only Conference USA team to get a bid to the NCAA tournament. Nobody in the conference managed to win a game against a Top 25 team.

Memphis is solid when it comes to scoring, averaging 75.9 points a night. The Tigers' field-goal percentage (47.9 percent) was good for 16th in the country. Having such an efficient offense will be a huge boost in the tournament.

That efficiency is exemplified by Joe Jackson. He's scoring 13.6 points a night on 52.7 percent shooting. That would be a solid percentage for a post player, but Jackson is a 6'1" guard. Jackson's also a very dependable 45.6 percent from three-point range. He doesn't take a ton of shots, but when he does, he makes them count.


UCLA Bruins

Losing the Pac-12 Championship to the Oregon Ducks didn't help the UCLA Bruins going into the NCAA tournament. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has UCLA penciled in as a No. 5 seed, which would leave the Bruins prone to the dreaded upset at the hands of the 12th-seeded team.

UCLA deserves better going into the Big Dance. The Bruins managed to win the Pac-12 regular season title and beat the Arizona Wildcats three times. UCLA finished 4-1 against teams in the USA Today Top 25, so the team has experience knocking off big teams.

Ben Howland has hit a bit of a rough patch, but let's not forget that he helped get the Bruins to three straight Final Fours from 2005-08, including a runner-up finish in 2005. Coincidentally, the 2007-08 season was the last time UCLA finished with a regular-season conference championship.

Relying on freshmen like Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams is a bit risky when it comes to the NCAA tournament. As demonstrated with the Kentucky Wildcats last season, though, there's no reason to believe freshmen will be overawed by the spectacle.


Don't forget to download a printable NCAA Tournament bracket and watch Selection Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.