NCAA Bracket 2014: 10 Overrated Seeds Most Likely to Bust Your Bracket
The only thing worse than picking the eventual national champion to lose on the first day of the tournament is having your projected national champion lose its first game. To help you avoid that disaster scenario, we've identified the most overrated teams to watch out for in your bracket-picking adventures.
By "overrated," we're talking about teams who are unlikely to perform as well as their seed would be expected to do. For example, a No. 1 seed that won't make the Final Four is overrated. A No. 3 seed that won't make the Sweet 16 is overrated. A No. 6 seed that won't win a single game is overrated.
You get the gist.
In many cases, it's because of the team's draw. In a few slides, you'll come across Wichita State. That isn't meant to be an argument that the Shockers didn't deserve a No. 1 seed; rather, it's an acknowledgment of the fact that their path to the Final Four is practically impossible.
In other situations, we are arguing that the team was regarded too highly by the committee and never should have gotten the seed that it did.
Either way, here are the 10 teams that will exit the tournament earlier than the committee thinks they should.
We'll start out with a softball, as it seems like everyone and their mother is picking this upset.
Heck, I'm so not-confident in Colorado that I endorsed Pittsburgh over Florida as a prime location to gain ground on your bracket pool cohorts.
Not only was Pittsburgh under-seeded, but Colorado frankly isn't good right now.
The Buffaloes picked up some resume-boosting wins over Harvard, Kansas and Oregon back when they had Spencer Dinwiddie. After their star player tore his ACL, though, they went 2-6 against Pac-12 teams that made the tournament—and those were close games against the two teams (Arizona State and Stanford) which received No. 10 seeds.
Against the quality teams (Arizona and UCLA), they were 0-5 and lost by an average of 18 points per game.
Good on them for not suffering any horrible losses to USC or Washington State. But if the committee had evaluated Colorado based solely on the final two months of the season, it almost certainly would've been playing its next game in the NIT.
It amazes me that so many people are picking Pittsburgh to beat Colorado but so few are picking North Dakota State to upset Oklahoma.
Even people who don't know the first thing about NCAA tournament history know that a No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 seed nearly every year.
On Monday afternoon, the most popular No. 12 seed was the one we didn't even know yet. More than one out of three brackets on ESPN is picking TBD—now officially North Carolina State—to defeat Saint Louis. Nearly 30 percent are taking Harvard over Cincinnati. But only 20.1 percent have picked the Bison.
Clearly, there aren't enough nationally televised Summit League games.
North Dakota State is an awful draw for Oklahoma.
The Bison have one of the most efficient offenses in the country: They make two-point field goals at a very high percentage and rarely turn the ball over. They play at a slow pace, but on a per-possession basis, North Dakota State is basically Iowa State with better rebounding.
On the subject of pace, Oklahoma can be slowed down. The Sooners have averaged more than 74 possessions per game, according to KenPom.com (subscription required). But deliberately slow teams Baylor and Texas Tech have been able to make them play at a 65-possession pace—which led to two losses and two wins by single digits for Oklahoma.
North Dakota State, on the other hand, is almost immune to being sped up. With the exception of the Bison's two games against Nebraska-Omaha—which nearly leads the nation in shortest length of possession on offense—only one of their past 15 D-I games had more than 66 possessions.
It won't be a pretty game to watch, but the Bison will frustrate and stifle Oklahoma on their way to the round of 32.
If you don't have at least one No. 6 seed losing in the second round, you've done something wrong.
In each of the last nine tournaments, there has been at least one instance of a No. 11 seed beating a No. 6 seed. Over the past four years, it has been a total coin flip, with the No. 11 seed winning eight of the past 16 meetings.
However, we don't even care whether it's Iowa or Tennessee that Massachusetts is playing. We're blindly picking "Play-in winner" to knock off the Minutemen.
This is not the same team that opened the season 16-1 and climbed to the top of the RPI charts.
No, this is a team that is 7-6 since Jan. 29 with precisely one win (79-67 over La Salle) by more than six points—despite playing seven of those 13 games against teams who finished the season with at least 15 losses.
Cady Lalanne averaged 13.4 points per game over the first three months of the season but has tallied just 7.2 points per game over the last 10. Even more recently than that, he has averaged 5.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks over the last four games. Quite a drop for someone who was once averaging 8.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
Regardless of whom the Minutemen play, it'll be a major conference team with great advanced metrics and a chip on its shoulder. There's obviously no line on this game yet, but give me "Play-in winner" minus-3.5.
Let's stay in the Midwest region but transition from an overrated team to one that simply got a bad draw.
Michigan isn't going to lose to Wofford. That would just be crazy talk. Getting to the Elite Eight may be too tall of an order, though.
Regardless of whether the Wolverines get Texas or Arizona State in the round of 32, they'll be facing a team with a monstrous presence in the lane (Cameron Ridley for Texas; Jordan Bachynski for Arizona State) and a less-than-6'0" sophomore guard who doesn't always shoot that well but can score in bunches (Javan Felix for Texas; Jahii Carson for Arizona State).
Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have had trouble containing big men in the paint, and Nik Stauskas has been known to struggle against guards who barely stand as tall as his shoulders.
Getting to the Sweet 16 will be an adventure. Even if they make it that far, they would likely run into either a Duke team that beat them by 10 points in December or an Iowa team that beat them by 18 points in February.
To anyone who claims there's no real difference between a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed, I invite you to put the Wolverines in Virginia's spot on the top line in the East to see if you feel better about their chances of making a deep run.
As our C.J. Moore wrote earlier this week, Tulsa is one of the sleepers that could make a mini run in this year's tournament.
The Golden Hurricane struggled pretty mightily over the first two months of the season, but they evolved into one of the stingiest defenses in the country once the calendar flipped to conference season.
Their second-round opponent is UCLA.
A No. 13 seed has beaten a No. 4 seed in six consecutive tournaments. Do you really think either Louisville or Michigan State is losing its first game? And after the way New Mexico State let me down in last year's tournament, you certainly won't find me endorsing the Aggies as a sleeper pick against San Diego State.
Under that logic, it wouldn't be a complete shock if UCLA bowed out without winning a single game.
But let's assume the Bruins do win that first game. Also on C.J.'s list of potential sleepers is Stephen F. Austin. Remind me: Who would Stephen F. Austin be projected to face in the round of 32? It's UCLA, isn't it?
Maybe the Bruins will get lucky and avoid Stephen F. Austin by instead facing VCU!
Wait, that isn't any better.
I'm rooting for UCLA, though, if only because the potential Elite Eight pairing between Steve Alford and the team he burned (New Mexico) would be an exceptionally fun dynamic to follow.
(3) Iowa State
If you missed it earlier in the week, I made the case for picking North Carolina Central to beat Iowa State. And, full disclosure, I'm absolutely taking that upset in my bracket.
In addition to N.C. Central being given the best odds of any No. 14 or No. 15 seed to win a game by Ken Pomeroy (subscription required), the Eagles were also given the best odds by stat guru and Twitter deity Nate Silver. According to his interactive predictions, N.C. Central has a 19 percent chance of beating Iowa State, while no other No. 14 or No. 15 seed tops 12 percent.
Though it's only 19 percent, that potential upset coupled with the next game against either North Carolina or Providence only leaves the Cyclones with a 46 percent chance of reaching the Sweet 16. By the slimmest mathematical margin, they're overrated.
But I think there's better than a 54 percent chance that they lose to a team from the Tar Heel state.
They simply don't play good enough defense to make a deep tournament run. In the Cyclones' last six games—all against teams that made the NCAA tournament—they allowed their opponent to average 1.10 points per possession, according to KenPom.com (subscription required).
In the two games they lost during that stretch, they shot 37.3 percent from the field. In the four games that they won, they shot 50.0 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from three-point range.
Big 12 tournament notwithstanding, Iowa State hasn't shot anywhere near as well away from home as it has in Ames. And with a defense as porous as the Cyclones have, it wouldn't even take a horrible shooting performance to send them packing.
There are only 10 teams on this list, but Oregon is the third one out of the Pac-12.
I don't have any sort of vendetta against the Pac-12. As a matter of fact, I frequently argued for the Pac-12 to be included in debates over whether the B1G or Big 12 is the best conference in the country this year. But I do think there were a lot of Pac-12 teams that the selection committee overseeded.
In Oregon's case, I'm assuming the committee was making up for the fact that Oregon was widely regarded as the team who got jobbed the worst in last year's tournament. Many bracketologists (myself included) were projecting the Ducks for as high as a No. 6 seed after winning the 2013 Pac-12 tournament, but they were given a No. 12 seed before advancing to the Sweet 16.
This year, Oregon was projected for an appearance in a No. 8 vs. No. 9 game but received a No. 7 seed. Not a huge difference, but perhaps a "mea culpa" from the selection committee.
But I digress, because the point here is that the Ducks won't even beat BYU in the second round.
I am well aware that BYU is without its leading rebounder and second-leading scorer after Kyle Collinsworth suffered a torn ACL in the WCC tournament. Between Tyler Haws, Matt Carlino and Eric Mika, the Cougars will still find a way to put a quality product on the floor.
I'm simply not buying what the Ducks are selling. They have been an excellent three-point shooting team at home, but it's a completely different story when they leave Eugene.
In their five home games since breaking out of that midseason losing funk, they have made 44 of 88 three-point field goals. That's 50 percent, for the mathematically challenged. But away from home in this calendar year, they're shooting just 33 percent from behind the arc. And three-point percentage seems to be the first thing to fail teams in the tournament.
Give me the BYU team that shoots well from downtown but is almost the least reliant upon three-pointers in the country. According to KenPom.com (subscription required), only four schools have a lower ratio of three-point field goals to field-goal attempts than the Cougars, and the Ducks do not have a strong two-point defense.
The Jayhawks absolutely earned their No. 2 seed, but I don't think they'll be able to defend it.
As ESPN's Myron Medcalf wrote in his bold predictions, "The Joel Embiid injury is a major problem for Kansas. Yes, the Jayhawks can still make a run without him. But that third-round matchup against a big New Mexico squad should be a concern."
Hold that thought, Myron, because not only are you assuming that New Mexico will beat Stanford, but you're also assuming that Kansas has a bye into the round of 32.
Embiid or not, the opener against Eastern Kentucky will not be an easy one. Kansas commits a lot of turnovers and does not have a strong perimeter defense when it comes to stopping three-point shooters.
Coincidentally, those are Eastern Kentucky's strengths. The Colonels are fourth in the nation in effective field-goal percentage (EFG) and fifth in turnovers forced on defense.
Unfortunately, the balls they don't steal tend to end up in the opposing hoop, and the shots that they do miss almost always result in defensive rebounds. Eastern Kentucky has a dreadful defensive EFG and is one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country.
Even if the Jayhawks win that game and the subsequent showdown with either New Mexico or Stanford, they are in for a rude awakening against Syracuse. Kansas has struggled against zone defenses all season and is on a collision course with the most talked-about zone defense in college basketball.
Unless Syracuse is eliminated before the Sweet 16, Kansas won't fulfill its seed's expectations of making the Elite Eight.
(5) Saint Louis
As mentioned previously on Oklahoma's slide, more than 33 percent of people are picking Saint Louis to lose to North Carolina State, winner of Tuesday's play-in game.
Considering those picks came in prior to the Wolfpack victory, that isn't blind faith so much as it is a lack of faith in an A-10 team that completely fell apart at the end of the season.
The Billikens were playing with fire for quite some time. They were routinely winning games by one possession and twice allowed George Mason (11-20) to push them overtime.
When they finally did get burned in a home loss to Duquesne, it didn't suddenly snap them back to consciousness. It was more like that science experiment in which the frog won't jump out of a pot of boiling water, provided the water was cool when you placed the frog in the pot.
If you have faith in Saint Louis, it's not because of anything you've seen in the past three weeks. Rather, it's probably rooted in the theory that the five seniors who lead the team in minutes played will find that extra gear of motivation in their final collegiate game(s).
Either that, or you just love Jordair Jett's hair/mustache combo. Can't fault you there.
(1) Wichita State
Theories about undefeated teams and momentum (or lack thereof) are comical.
Some will argue that Wichita State can run through the tournament on the motivation of finishing off the first undefeated season in more than 30 years. Others will say the Shockers would've been better off getting a loss out of the way so they can just focus on winning games instead of worrying about making history.
Regardless of whether you thought they could win it all—and whether or not you thought they deserved a No. 1 seed—you had to feel sick to your stomach as the Midwest region was being announced.
An entire season's worth of poor strength of schedule is being rectified in one five-game stretch. If the brackets play perfectly to form, Wichita State would have to win consecutive games against Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Arizona and Florida to remain undefeated.
That would even be a tall order for the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
Whether we pick them in our brackets or not, we'll all be rooting for the Shockers. That doesn't mean any of us think they'll actually pull it off.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.