NCAA Tournament: Underdogs That Will Bust Brackets in Round of 64
The greatest part of the NCAA Tournament is correctly picking upsets that bust thousands of other brackets around the country. Another great part is seeing underdogs of various degrees taking down their opponents and keeping their dream alive.
These double-digit underdogs combine both those parts, while having a great chance to take down higher-seeds and advance into the next round of the tournament.
12. California vs. 5. UNLV
UNLV doesn't have to travel far with its opening game played in San Jose, but it's a much shorter trip for the California Golden Bears. There should be no shortage of Bears fans at HP Pavilion when the two teams meet on Thursday, March 21 at 7:27 p.m.
Cal enters the tournament with two straight losses and a poor-showing in the Pac-12 Conference tournament. Previous to those two losses, Cal had won seven straight games with victories over No. 7 Arizona and No. 23. Oregon Ducks. The Running Rebels enter the tournament having lost two of their last four, including a loss to New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament championship.
In that game, New Mexico was able to overcome UNLV and strong play from forward Anthony Bennett because of the team's guard play. New Mexico's top three guards, Tony Snell, Hugh Greenwood and Kendall Williams, exploited UNLV's defense by combining for 42 points and shooting 9-of-14 from three.
Led by Allen Crabbe, Cal is capable of getting enough scoring from its guards to counter-balance the play of Bennett down low. If they do so, the Golden Bears have a great shot to advance to the next round.
11. Minnesota vs. 6. UCLA
Minnesota is slumping with three straight losses in the tough Big Ten, while UCLA has racked up seven wins in its last nine games. Both teams have showcased big potential during the season, but each has shown an inability to maintain their highest level of play.
UCLA was unfortunate to get Minnesota, especially after losing Jordan Adams, who will miss the tournament with a broken foot. That puts an unreal amount of pressure of Shabazz Muhammad, who will need to surpass his current stat line of 17.8 points, 0.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Minnesota's trio of Andre Hollins, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe will be tough for the Bruins to contain. Combining for an average of 34.2 points per game split fairly equally (13.9, 10.3 and 10 points respectively), those three players have figured out a great balance that UCLA just won't be able to stop.
11. Belmont vs. 6. Arizona
A classic matchup of an underdog team that excels at the biggest weakness of the higher seed. Belmont shoots the three incredibly well and lives or dies with the shot, while Arizona has struggled to defend the three-ball all season long.
As a team, Belmont shoots a smooth 38.6 percent from three isn't shy about hoisting three-pointers at any given time in the game. Arizona is 277th in three-point percentage allowed at 36 percent per game. If Belmont gets hot, it could be lights out for Arizona early in the tournament.
To get past Belmont, Arizona needs to rely on its superior athleticism and play solid defense. If they can limit the amount of uncontested looks that Belmont gets, the Wildcats should have no problem getting into the next round. They haven't proven they can do so on a regular basis this year, but have an opportunity to turn it around against Belmont. If not, Belmont could make a run.
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