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10 Teams That Will Surprise Us in March Madness

Josh SachnoffContributor IIIApril 25, 2016

10 Teams That Will Surprise Us in March Madness

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    It's that time of year again when you fill out your bracket and try to guess which teams will surprise and which will disappoint.

    March Madness is a time when teams with no chance somehow find ways to make their hopes and dreams a reality. It can also be a time when teams who are expected to make deep runs into the tournament find themselves wondering what just happened. 

    Here are 10 teams that will surprise during the NCAA tournament: 

10. Kansas State Wildcats

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    No. 4 Seed in West Regional 

    The Kansas State Wildcats did everything this season but defeat in-state rival Kansas.

    They are a talented team under first-year head coach Bruce Weber and are looking to be a dangerous opponent in the tournament. 

    The Wildcats have a solid backcourt, with senior guard Rodney McGruder averaging 15.7 points per game and sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez averaging 11.7. With strong offensive play on the perimeter and physical defensive play, they can be a team that could potentially make some noise. 

    There is one problem, though. 

    Kansas State will be fine in the first game it plays, whether it faces Boise State or La Salle. The Wildcats will be playing in Kansas City at the same venue for the second straight week. The problem lies in the third round.  

    In both 2008 and 2011, the Wildcats had to face Wisconsin in the their second game of the NCAA tournament and lost both times. It appears the Wildcats will have another date with the Badgers in the third round of the tournament, and that could be what does this Kansas State team in.

    It's unfortunate that Kansas State has to play a team as good as Wisconsin in the third round. Against most other teams, the Wildcats would have been a lock for the Sweet 16. Crazier things have happened, though. 

    Prediction: Third Round 

9. Michigan Wolverines

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    No. 4 Seed in the South Regional 

    The Michigan Wolverines had trouble closing out the regular season. They lost to Indiana in the remaining seconds on March 10, missing out on a chance to earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title, and weren't able to handle Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament on Friday. 

    The Wolverines will go into the tournament as a fourth seed again, hoping that last year's nightmare does not repeat itself. Last year, Michigan was upset by 13th-seeded Ohio in its first game.

    The talent of sophomore guard Trey Burke and junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. will lead the Wolverines past a pesky South Dakota State squad in their first game, but their second game will not be easy by any means. 

    Many people may view Michigan as a title contender or at least a Sweet 16/Elite Eight team.

    You must realize that there is a good chance the Wolverines will be facing Virginia Commonwealth in the third round of the tournament. The Rams went to a Final Four two seasons ago and about knocked Indiana out of the tournament last season. Watch for Shaka Smart's VCU team to present this Michigan squad with problems and pull off the upset.

    Prediction: Third Round 

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    No. 1 Seed in West Regional

    The Gonzaga Bulldogs are dancing for the 15th straight year and are a No. 1 seed for the first time in school history.

    There has been more pressure than usual this season on the Bulldogs because of their high ranking and talent level. A target is on Gonzaga's back, and it's going to be a difficult task for this team to make the Final Four.

    The furthest Gonzaga has ever made it has been to the Elite Eight, and that was back in 1999.

    The Bulldogs are a solid team with junior forward Kelly Olynyk, who may be one of the best players in the country this season. It also helps that the Bulldogs have senior forward Elias Harris and sophomore guard Kevin Pangos to help Olynyk out offensively. 

    As great as this Gonzaga team has been this season, don't expect them to make it past the Sweet 16. They are going to have a tough time winning if they have to face Wisconsin

    The Zags will disappoint and not live up to the hype. The reasoning is not simply because they had a softer schedule this season. They defeated good Kansas State and Oklahoma State teams, but having to potentially face Pittsburgh in the third round and then take on Wisconsin in the next round will be difficult. 

    Prediction: Sweet 16

7. Duke Blue Devils

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    No. 2 Seed in Midwest Regional 

    The Duke Blue Devils come into the tournament after losing to a Maryland team that desperately needed to win in the ACC tournament this past week. 

    The question is how the Blue Devils will respond. They were completely outplayed and struggled to keep up with a quick Maryland squad. Duke has to be able to hit three-pointers and play better defensively if it wants to make a dash to the Final Four.

    With the leadership of senior guard Seth Curry, senior forward Ryan Kelly and senior center Marshall Plumlee, you can bet the Blue Devils will be more prepared as a No. 2 seed this year than they were last year when Lehigh pulled off the huge upset.

    Expect the Blue Devils to easily handle Albany in the second round, then have a tough following game against a Doug McDermott-led Creighton team. Duke will make it past the first week, but things will become more difficult when they reach the Sweet 16. 

    There is high chance of Duke facing Michigan State, and that is going to be difficult. The Spartans play tough and physical basketball and have proved to be a strong team come tournament time. 

    Don't plan on the Blue Devils making it past the Sweet 16 in your bracket. If you want to take the risk and put them in the Elite Eight, just make sure you don't have them defeating Louisville to make the Final Four.

    Duke is going to have a game in which it can't get going offensively. It will be against Michigan State. The Blue Devils will fall behind early in the game and be forced to make a run at the end of the game when it's already too late. It's not that Duke isn't as talented as Michigan State; it just seems to have these types of games in which it can't get its shots to drop.     

    Prediction: Sweet 16

6. Oregon Ducks

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    No. 12 Seed in Midwest Regional 

    The Oregon Ducks come into the dance as a No. 12 seed after winning their first Pac-12 tournament title since 2007.

    Many feel the Ducks were not given a high enough seed for what they accomplished this season, but they have a chance to make some noise in the tournament. 

    The Ducks could potentially pull off a win or two if they play as well as they did this past week in the Pac-12 tournament.

    They can't afford to be flat like they were on the final weekend of the regular season against Colorado and Utah. If they come out flat against Oklahoma State, they will be out of the dance just like that. 

    Oregon is led by senior forwards Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler. The Ducks also receive strong play off the bench from junior guard Johnathan Loyd and senior forward Carlos Emory. Loyd and Emory combined for 39 points in the Ducks' 78-69 win over UCLA on Saturday night. 

    Oregon plays Oklahoma State in its second-round game, which will be tough, but it should be able to pull off the upset over the No. 5 seed. The Ducks may be big underdogs against Saint Louis in the third round, but you never know what Dana Altman's squad is capable of. 

    Prediction: Third Round

5. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

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    No. 5 Seed in South Regional

    The VCU Rams are making their third straight NCAA tournament appearance. The Rams are always a tough mid-major school to take down and will cause havoc again this year.

    VCU, as mentioned earlier, went to the Final Four two seasons ago and almost defeated Indiana last season in the third round.

    Shaka Smart has given this program a new identity across the nation, and with sophomore guard Treveon Graham and junior forward Juvonte Reddic leading the way, Smart may make the nation a VCU believer again. 

    The Rams will get by No. 12 Akron in the second round and have a big matchup with fourth-seeded Michigan in the third round. Michigan is a tough team to stop, with players like Trey Burke scoring points at will. It also will be a difficult game to win because of the Michigan fanbase in Auburn Hills. 

    VCU won't worry about any of those distractions, though. It has pulled off the inevitable before and will do it again by upsetting the Wolverines. Mark the Rams down as a Sweet 16 team. It looks like VCU will have a rematch with Kansas, whom they faced in the 2011 Elite Eight, in the Sweet 16.

    VCU could very well knock off the Jayhawks as well, but we will leave them as a lock to make the Sweet 16 for now.  

    Prediction: Sweet 16

4. Saint Louis Billikens

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    No. 4 Seed in Midwest Regional

    What a season it has been for this Saint Louis Billikens team.

    They lost head coach Rick Majerus to heart failure on Dec. 1, and dedicated their season to him by winning the Atlantic-10 regular season and tournament title under interim head coach Jim Crews.   

    The Billikens are a No. 4 seed and have been placed in the toughest regional, the Midwest Regional, by the selection committee. This does not mean they can't take down any of the schools from the Power Six Conferences. To say they don't have a chance would be completely foolish. 

    Saint Louis is led by junior forward Dwayne Evans, who averaged 21.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in the Billikens' three Atlantic-10 tournament games. Senior forward Cody Ellis and senior guard Kwamain Mitchell also helped lead the Billikens to their first conference tournament title since 2000. 

    Saint Louis will get past New Mexico State in the second round and battle for a birth in the Sweet 16 against either Oklahoma State or Oregon. Expect the Billikens to take down whichever opponent they go up against, whether it's Oklahoma State or Oregon, and make their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1957.

    Who knows if Saint Louis will be able to knock off Louisville in the Sweet 16, but the fact they will make it that far in the tournament is another big step in the right direction for this program.

    Prediction: Sweet 16 

3. New Mexico Lobos

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    No. 3 Seed in West Regional 

    The New Mexico Lobos were finally able to show off what they were made of on Saturday night, as they defeated UNLV 63-56 in the Mountain West tournament championship game in Las Vegas. 

    This season, New Mexico was one of the best mid-major schools in the nation outside of Gonzaga. Unlike other mid-major schools, they just happened to be a rather quiet, yet lethal team that no one talked about. The Lobos are sound defensively and have junior guards Kendall Williams and Tony Snell leading the team in scoring.

    Williams has averaged 13.5 points per game, while Snell has averaged 12.6. Sophomore center Alex Kirk has also been solid for this Lobos squad and is averaging 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. 

    New Mexico has a talented coach in Steve Alford, who continues to raise this program to new heights. He is making this program better and better each and every year. 

    The Lobos will defeat Harvard handily in the second round and get either Belmont or Arizona in the third round. This New Mexico team is far too talented to lose in the third round and will take down either one of these teams. Arizona would be a more difficult game with the athletes it has, but the Lobos are still going to take care of business. 

    Expect New Mexico to advance to its first Sweet 16 since 1974. 

    What's going to be tough for this New Mexico squad is when they reach the Sweet 16 and have to face Ohio State. 

    Prediction: Sweet 16

2. Wisconsin Badgers

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    No. 5 Seed in West Regional 

    Bo Ryan's club always seems to turn it up a notch this time of year.

    The Wisconsin Badgers went wild in the Big Ten tournament by defeating both Michigan and Indiana. They ended up losing in a close game to Ohio State in the finals Sunday, but this team more than proved to the nation that they are going to be a tough opponent in this year's NCAA tournament. 

    Junior guard Ben Brust, senior forward-center Jared Berggren and senior forward Ryan Evans have been the main reasons why this team has played well this season and down the stretch. The Badgers are not the quickest team, but they give their opponents nightmares with their physicality on both the offensive and defensive end. 

    Wisconsin will get a tough draw for its first game in Kansas City. Ole Miss, led by Marshall Henderson, upset Florida on Sunday to guarantee itself a spot in the NCAA tournament. It will be a challenge for this Badger team, but they will make the plays when it matters most and advance to the third round.

    In the third round, Wisconsin will face a talented Kansas State squad that lost in its conference tournament final as well. The Badgers will give Rodney McGruder problems all game and keep Kansas State off the scoreboard. Wisconsin will take out Kansas State in the NCAA tournament for the third time since 2008.

    The Badgers will advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season and take on the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs. They will pull the upset off and then face off with Big Ten opponent Ohio State for the third time this season for a trip to the Final Four.   

    Prediction: Elite Eight 

1. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

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    No. 2 Seed in East Regional 

    The Miami Hurricanes won the outright ACC regular-season title, as well as the ACC tournament. This is the Hurricanes' best season in school history, and they will be the talk of the tournament. 

    Second-year head coach Jim Larranaga has his team on a mission, and opponents should be worried if they have to face this dangerous Miami squad. 

    Sophomore guard Shane Larkin has been hot and averaged 23.7 points per game in the ACC tournament. Senior forward-center Kenny Kadji and senior guard Durand Scott have been keys to Miami's success all season long as well. 

    The Hurricanes are a quick team, and when they start shooting lights-out from beyond the arc, they are hard to beat. Miami is also a physical team on the boards. 

    Miami will make it past their first two games, as they will face Pacific and either Colorado or Illinois. The Hurricanes will most likely take on Marquette in the Sweet 16 and win, meaning they will be in a showdown with No. 1 seed Indiana for a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta. 

    Miami will take down the Hoosiers and make their first Final Four in school history. Not only will they make the Final Four, but they will play for a national championship on April 8. 

    The Hurricanes may not have the experience of playing in an NCAA tournament, but they will be a team to be reckoned with and prove to everyone why they are one of the best teams in college basketball this season. 

    Prediction: Championship game 

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