In every NCAA tournament, there are teams that jump up and surprise, making deep runs into March Madness.
This year figures to be no different. Looking around the field of 68, there are several teams that could outperform their seeds and throw the NCAA tournament into disarray.
These underrated teams either did not receive a fair shake with their seeds, or they do not get the national press they deserve.
Here are the 10 most underrated teams in the NCAA tournament.
Seed: Last four in, No. 13 seed in the West Region
Opening round matchup: vs. No. 13 Boise State in the opening round in Dayton, Ohio
Every year around this time, pundits talk about the traits that are needed to succeed in the NCAA tournament. One of those traits is always great guard play, which is a specialty for La Salle.
Guards Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland lead the Explorers into their first NCAA tournament since 1992. All three can handle the ball and make plays off the dribble. Galloway is the leader of the group with 17 points and 3.8 assists per game.
The Explorers have some nice wins on the season, namely beating VCU on the road. If La Salle gets past Boise State in the opening round, it will give No. 4 seed Kansas State all it can handle in the second round.
Seed: No. 8 seed in the South Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 9 Villanova in Kansas City
North Carolina has turned its season around since Roy Williams inserted P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup, playing four perimeter players alongside big man James Michael McAdoo. Hairston has been fantastic, which he showed Sunday with 28 points in the ACC tournament title game loss to Miami.
The Tar Heels have won eight of their last 10 games, with the losses coming to Duke and Miami. Seven of those eight wins have come by at least nine points.
It took a little longer than expected, but North Carolina is playing like most expected at the beginning of the season. The Tar Heels might not be a Final Four threat, but they are talented enough to pull off an upset over Kansas in the round of 32.
Seed: No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 10 Cincinnati in Philadelphia
Many have cooled on Creighton since the Bluejays lost four of six in February, but Creighton has won five in a row while playing very well in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament last weekend. The Bluejays beat Drake and Indiana State by double digits before getting by fellow tournament team Wichita State in the title game.
Doug McDermott is one of the best players in all of college basketball. He is averaging 23.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He could very well carry Creighton in the first couple rounds to advance to the second weekend.
Seed: No. 9 seed in the Midwest Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 8 Colorado State in Lexington, Ky.
Missouri’s results have not matched its ability this year. The Tigers have an elite point guard in Phil Pressey and frontcourt talent in the form of Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi. They seemingly have everything one would want in a team to make a deep NCAA tournament run.
The biggest issue is that Missouri cannot close out tight games. The Tigers have lost six of their last 14 games. Of those six losses, four have come by two points, one has come by three points and one has come in overtime.
It almost feels like it is mental at this point for Pressey, who has not made the best decisions down the stretch. If Missouri can change its fortune in those close games, it could make a big splash in the next couple weeks.
Seed: No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 12 Oregon in San Jose, Calif.
Here is what Oklahoma State has going for it: The Cowboys rank ninth in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, and their point guard, Marcus Smart, could be the top pick in June’s NBA draft.
Elite defense and elite guard play typically mean good things come NCAA tournament time, making Oklahoma State a dark-horse Final Four contender even though it is just a No. 5 seed.
Seed: No. 9 seed in the West Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh in Salt Lake City
Wichita State got off to a great start, winning 19 of its first 21 games. The Shockers cooled off a bit down the stretch, losing five of their last 10 regular-season games, but they got back on track in the conference tournament with a run to the Missouri Valley title game.
Wichita State has a lot going for it. The Shockers are experienced with three seniors and a junior in the starting lineup. They have some really nice wins away from home, namely a triumph at VCU.
They also rebound at an incredibly high level. Wichita State ranks No. 6 in defensive rebounding percentage and No. 18 in offensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom.com.
Seed: No. 5 seed in the South Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 12 Akron in Auburn Hills, Mich.
VCU is a tough team to read. Over the span of one half, the Rams can look like they are a Final Four team and also look like a team that could get bounced in its first game of the NCAA tournament.
Shaka Smart has a balanced team with four players who average double figures, and if VCU is hitting from the outside, it is incredibly tough to beat.
The Rams are at their best when they are forcing turnovers with their “Havoc” defense. They are 26-1 when forcing more than 15 turnovers. If VCU gets matched up with some teams that have shaky guard play, the Rams could make another deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Their draw sets up well, and another Final Four run could be in the cards.
Seed: No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 9 Missouri in Lexington, Ky.
Colorado State has five senior starters who have won a lot of games in their college careers. The Rams made the NCAA tournament last year and played in the NIT two seasons ago. This year, they finished second in the Mountain West Conference, one of the best in the country.
Colton Iverson leads the Rams with 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while shooting 59.9 percent from the field.
He is a big reason the Rams are the best rebounding team in the country. They rank first in defensive rebounding percentage and second in offensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom.com.
The Rams have a tough game in the round of 64 against Missouri, the No. 7 team on this list, but either one will be a tough test for No. 1 seed Louisville in the round of 32.
Seed: Last four in, No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region
Opening Round matchup: vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee State in the opening round in Dayton, Ohio
Saint Mary’s has not lost a game to a team not named Gonzaga since Dec. 23. In that span, the Gaels got a home win over Creighton and two wins over BYU. There was some debate as to whether Saint Mary’s would make the field, but now that they are in, the Gaels could make a run to the Sweet 16.
They have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, ranking No. 11 in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova is one of the best floor generals in the country. He is averaging 15.8 points and dishing out 6.4 assists per game. If the game is close down the stretch, Saint Mary’s will feel confident with the ball in his hands.
Seed: No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region
Round of 64 matchup: vs. No. 13 New Mexico State in San Jose, Calif.
Saint Louis has clearly been the class of the Atlantic 10, which says something considering how strong the league has been this year. The Billikens pulled off an impressive sweep of the Atlantic 10 regular-season and conference tournament titles.
Saint Louis has won 15 of its last 16 games, with the loss coming in overtime at Xavier. In that stretch, the Billikens have three wins over Butler and two over VCU.
By the time March is over, Dwayne Evans, a 6’5”, 230-pound forward, could be a household name. In the Atlantic 10 tournament, he averaged 21.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
While the Billikens may not have gotten a lot of fanfare this season, Saint Louis is a serious threat to make a run to Atlanta.