Knowing which sleeper teams have a chance at pulling off major upsets is crucial to putting together a strong bracket. That rings especially true in 2014, as the NCAA tournament will feature a few teams that are capable of winning against high-seeded teams.
Bracketology is a crude science, but there's definitely something to be said for low-seeded teams with talent and the relative frequency that they take down top opponents.
There are always upsets in the NCAA tourney. It's what makes the tournament so exciting to watch. In 2014's installment of March Madness, look for the following three sleepers to make a run at top teams in the early rounds.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers trumped preseason expectations to finish the season 19-11, but it'll be the fact that they finished the season on an 11-3 run that stands out to the selection committee on Selection Sunday.
Nebraska notched impressive victories over Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State (on the road) this season. Their most impressive, however, was their March 9th win against the No. 9 Badgers.
Eric Olson of the Associated Press broke down some of the key results of the win (via ABC News):
Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway scored 26 points apiece, and the Cornhuskers beat No. 9 Wisconsin 77-68 on Sunday night to strengthen the school's chance for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.
The Huskers (19-11, 11-7) won for the 10th time in 12 games to clinch fourth place in the Big Ten for their highest conference finish since 1997-98. The Badgers (25-6, 12-6) had their longest conference win streak since 1940-41 end at eight games.
Petteway is the team's leading scorer this season. He is dropping 18.0 points per game on 43.0 percent shooting. The sophomore guard/forward has scored in double digits in every game since Feb. 5 against Michigan.
It's that type of consistency that makes Nebraska a threat to higher-ranked teams. Nebraska's consistency and unflappable mentality make them a tough draw for high seeds. They face each competitor head on with no qualms.
Look for Nebraska to pick up a win or two in the NCAA tourney.
The Baylor Bears take on the TCU Horned Frogs in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, and winning that contest shouldn't be too difficult. Moving on and winning in the future rounds will be a challenge, and it's a challenge that will directly impact where they are seeded in the NCAA tournament.
Winning seven of their last eight games, the Bears are basically a lock for the NCAA tourney. Their success in the conference championship will determine their seeding, however.
Baylor coach Scott Drew recognizes that, as he told John Werner of WacoTrib.com:
We all know that how we finish here will affect who we play and the seeding for the (NCAA) tournament. The better we do now will put us in better position for the NCAA tournament, so this tournament is important for us. We’re playing our best basketball of the year and we need to keep that going.
Even if Baylor loses pretty early in Big 12 Tournament, the Bears will be hot heading into the early rounds of the NCAA tourney. That should equal bad news for the opponent.
Senior forward Cory Jefferson will be a key for Baylor. He's the team's leading scorer at 13.4 points per game, and he has been very efficient throughout the year. In fact, he has exceeded his per-game total in six of the past seven games.
Look for him to possibly take over in the first couple of rounds.
Exceeding postseason expectations every year, the Xavier Musketeers should do just that again this season.
Wins against Marquette, Georgetown and St. John's all represent quality victories on Xavier's resume, but the two wins that stick out are what make them a threat to high-seeded teams.
On Dec. 14, Xavier took down Cincinnati, 64-47. Justin Martin paced the team with 17 points, and Matt Stainbrook recorded a game-high 11 rebounds.
Xavier then took down Creighton on March 1 after losing to them a few months earlier on Jan. 12. Martin recorded 16 rebounds, and Semaj Christon had 21 points in the 75-69 win.
Martin was pretty excited about the win. This is what he told the Associated Press (via ESPN.com): "Aw, I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it."
It goes without saying that he'll also love it if his team can make a run in the NCAA tourney. Xavier has several different guys that can contribute on a nightly basis, and that makes them a team that cannot be looked down upon.
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