The 2014 NCAA tournament is an exciting event that fans can make even more thrilling by filling out a bracket and competing against friends, family and co-workers. There is even a chance to win a billion dollars if you beat the astronomical odds and do it perfectly, courtesy of Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans.
If you are angling to win that billion or just want bragging rights in your office pool, keep reading to find out about a few teams you must be wary of in order to not have your bracket busted in the early days of March Madness.
North Dakota State Biston
The Bison burst through the Summit League tournament and are going to the Big Dance for the first time since 2009. They have the potential to make a lot of noise this March and seem poised to pull off a major upset in the round of 64.
The team went 25-6 overall and 12-2 in the conference during the 2013-14 campaign, avenging both Summit League losses (against IPFW and Denver) during the league’s tourney.
NDSU earned quality wins against Delaware, Notre Dame and Western Michigan during its magical run this season, proving it could hang with tournament-caliber opponents.
Taylor Braun is a legit star for this upstart program, and he is a large reason it has finally emerged from the shadow of rival South Dakota State. The senior guard averaged 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game and is one of the most complete talents in the nation.
He shoots 49.1 percent from the field and, more importantly for his team’s chances in the tournament, hits on 44.1 percent of his three-point attempts, of which he takes an average of over three per game.
Perhaps most importantly, Braun lived up to the promise he made last year after his team fell to SDSU in the Summit League finals. The Associated Press (via ESPN) noted that he vowed at the time, "We're going to win it next year.”
If he catches fire from deep, Braun could quickly become one of the national darlings that tend to emerge in March Madness and carry his squad into the second weekend of play.
Rush the Court noted that he is already predicted to be the most popular mid-major player that the country will fall in love with:
Most popular for mid-major player that the country will fall in love with: Taylor Braun. Several Kansas fans submitted Wichita State players— Rush the Court (@rushthecourt) March 16, 2014
NDSU currently looks like a No. 12 seed and could pull off what is almost an annual upset of a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Head coach Saul Phillips is certainly looking forward to it and will have his players loose for their opening matchup, as per the AP (via ESPN): "It's going to be a blast. It's going to be an absolute thrill ride for our guys, and I'm going to make sure it is."
Don’t be shocked if the Bison end up winning a game or two in the tourney and busting brackets everywhere.
The Ivy League isn’t exactly known for putting dangerous teams in the NCAA tournament, but the Crimson are looking to change that notion and make some more noise in the Big Dance.
Harvard is all set to make its third straight tournament appearance after winning at least a share of the Ivy League title for the fourth consecutive year. The team was downright dominant in 2013-14, going 26-4 overall and 13-1 in conference play.
The Crimson notched signature “W’s” against Vermont and Green Bay, with a Feb. 8 loss to Yale representing the only blemish on their schedule from an Ivy League opponent.
Harvard avenged that loss in a big way March 7, destroying the Bulldogs 70-58 and becoming the first team to officially clinch a spot in the 68-team NCAA tournament field.
How will Harvard Fare in the Tournament?
Head coach Tommy Amaker noted that his group was on a mission to get revenge after losing to Yale, according to Pat Eaton-Robb of the Associated Press (as per the Charlotte Observer): "I thought we made a concerted effort to respond (to that loss), and we've been on a mission since then.”
NCAA March Madness tweeted out a shot of the team after it locked up the automatic berth:
Harvard will be looking to capitalize on what it accomplished last year, when it came in as a No. 14 seed and stunned third-seeded New Mexico in the second round. While the team eventually lost to Arizona, it proved that it belongs and should not be taken lightly in postseason play.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis believes that the Crimson are the most underrated tournament team:
Harvard. Be very afraid RT @a_wills15: Who's the most underrated team heading into the tournament?— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 11, 2014
This roster collectively shoots 38.7 percent from behind the three-point line, and the players have what it takes to light it up at will. They could parlay that into advancing into the Sweet 16—at least—and becoming a Cinderella squad.
Harvard is a team you should ignore when filling out your bracket at your own risk. The Crimson are better than advertised and will win at least one game in the NCAA tournament.