There are upsets in the NCAA tournament every season, and the 2014 version will be no different. After all, it wouldn’t be called the Big Dance if Cinderella wasn’t invited.
The trick for filling out a successful bracket is accurately predicting which underdogs will advance and which ones will bow out early.
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With that in mind, let’s dig into a discussion about some of the most dangerous double-digit seeds who are most likely to either wreck your bracket or give you bragging rights in the office pool.
No. 12 Harvard
Harvard ruined some brackets last season by knocking off No. 3 seed New Mexico, so don’t be caught off guard this time around.
The Crimson bring a balanced offense to the table that features five double-digits scorers, led by Ivy League player of the year Wesley Saunders at 14 points per night. While having a number of different scorers who can find the basket clearly helps in March, Harvard is dangerous because of its impressive defense.
Ken Pomeroy ranks the Crimson 35th in pace-adjusted defensive efficiency, which is better than a number of NCAA tournament teams.
Harvard beat a very underrated Green Bay squad, hung with Connecticut the entire game without Saunders and is a trendy upset pick against No. 5 seed Cincinnati.
The Bearcats struggle to score but feature an excellent defense. If Harvard can hit some three-pointers early, which it thrives at, it would put a lot of pressure on the Cincinnati offense to dig out of an initial hole.
The efficient Crimson are built to protect a lead and would likely advance to the round of 32 in this scenario.
No. 11 Iowa
It has been a tale of two seasons for Iowa.
There was a time when the Hawkeyes were nationally ranked and a popular pick to at least contend for a Big Ten crown. However, they lost six of the last seven games and were relegated to the First Four games in Dayton against Tennessee.
The talent that got the Hawkeyes near the top of the national polls didn’t just disappear.
Perhaps Iowa just needs a break from the physically grueling Big Ten. That is exactly what it will get in the Big Dance.
Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble form a daunting tandem, and this team as a whole is something of an offensive juggernaut. The Hawkeyes finished fourth in Pomeroy’s pace-adjusted offensive efficiency rankings, and they did so against the stifling defenses in the Big Ten.
Iowa also pounds the glass well, finishing seventh in the country in total rebounds per game.
It beat Ohio State and Michigan and lost heartbreakers to Michigan State, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Villanova.
If anything is going to motivate the Hawkeyes to snap out of the late-season funk, it’s the NCAA tournament, as Marble told Ben Frederickson of the Knoxville News Sentinel:
Roy Devyn Marble on Iowa's late season slump: "If this doesn't excite you and energize you as a player, then I don't know what will."— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) March 18, 2014
No. 12 North Dakota State
Speaking of teams that are more than capable of putting on an offensive clinic, the North Dakota State Bison will pose a legitimate threat to No. 5 Oklahoma.
They finished 20th in Pomeroy’s pace-adjusted offensive efficiency rankings and beat Western Michigan and Notre Dame during the regular season. What’s more, North Dakota State features one of the more underrated players in the entire tournament field in Taylor Braun, who finished the year with nightly averages of 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals.
As a 6’7” guard who can handle the ball and shoot from distance (an incredible 44.1 percent from behind the three-point line this year), he is a walking mismatch.
Oklahoma will be hard-pressed to find a way to stop him for an entire 40 minutes.
As for the Bison, they are coming into the tournament loose and ready to enjoy themselves, if coach Saul Phillips' comments are any indication, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "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."
It will be an even bigger thrill for North Dakota State if it can advance to the round of 32.
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