Looking for low-seeded teams to get behind during 2014's installment of March Madness? Well, look no more.
The brackets have been released, and Selection Sunday was full of some surprises. Michigan State and Louisville have the potential to be two of the best No. 4 seeds of all time, while Florida, Arizona, Wichita State and Virginia will look to run the gauntlet as the tournament's No. 1 seeds.
There are multiple lower seeds that will do their best to take down the higher-ranked seeds, and some of them might surprise you. Just take a look at the three teams that will defy the odds and go far in the NCAA tournament.
Stephen F. Austin State University (No. 12, South)
The Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks have won 28 straight games, the second-longest winning streak in the country behind Wichita State.
Offensively, the Lumberjacks are one of the best in the nation—even if they don't get the recognition they deserve. They were 45th overall with 76.5 points per game, but what makes this group special is their ability to distribute the ball. Their 16.6 assists per game ranked eighth overall.
They didn't play a ranked opponent once in 2014, but don't let that worry you when they take on No. 5 VCU on March 21. Desmond Haymon and Jacob Parker will be able keep the Lumberjacks in the game.
Haymon and Parker combined for 28.5 points per game this season. As upperclassmen, they'll be relied upon heavily. Parker's field-goal percentage of 54.3 makes him the team's player to watch.
The Lumberjacks, if they get past VCU, will take on either UCLA or Tulsa in the next round. I think the Sweet 16 is the farthest this team can go, but that would be an achievement in itself.
Harvard (No. 12, East)
Harvard's five starters average double-digits in points, and they even have a sixth player that drops 9.0 points per game. The balance this team displays on offense will make them difficult to defend in the NCAA tournament.
What makes Harvard special is that they're also a quality defensive squad. Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications, IvyLeagueSports.com breaks down their defense:
Harvard's defense has also been a strength, as the Crimson ranks 13th in the NCAA in points allowed (60.5) and is ninth in the country in scoring margin (+13.1). Opponents have shot just 40.7 percent from the field and 32.0 percent from three-point range, both the lowest totals under seventh-year head coach Tommy Amaker.
Harvard's near-stifling defense will help them against No. 5 Cincinnati. If they can beat Cincy, then it's not out of the question for them to beat No. 4 Michigan State—assuming they defeat No. 13 Delaware.
No. 12 seeds don't frequently make it past the second round of the tournament, but Harvard is a No. 12 seed that can. Their combination of balanced offense and great defense has them in position to do so.
Nebraska (No. 11, West)
Had they not endured a tough stretch in the middle of the season, the Nebraska Cornhuskers would likely be a much higher seed. They're in the tournament for the first time since 1998, and they'll be motivated to outperform their No. 11 seed.
Head coach Tim Miles knew all along that his team would make it to the tournament. This is what he said during a postgame press conference, via omaha.com:
I think we’re a tournament team. I think we’re a team good enough to win in the tournament. I mean, you just look at our body of work — and even, we lost to Illinois who was playing lights‑out and just lost to a great Michigan team. And other than that, we haven’t lost many games recently in the past two months.
Nebraska beat Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin this season (all of which came after Jan. 20), so it's clearly not impossible for the team to compete against top squads. They'll have to do just that if they're able to get past No. 6 Baylor in the round of 64.
No. 3 Creighton awaits Nebraska if they can beat their round-of-64 opponent, Louisiana-Lafayette. This potential matchup of two Nebraskan teams would be compelling, and it could turn into a shootout between Creighton's Doug McDermott and Terran Petteway.
The sophomore averaged 18.1 points per game this year, and he'll be crucial in the Cornhuskers' goals of defying the odds.
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