Don’t be fooled by the 2014 NCAA brackets, not all teams are as good as their seed.
In fact, some teams are actually better.
For some teams, a midseason slump has damaged their reputation heading into the tournament. For others, an egregious misjudgment from the selection committee might actually work in their favor.
All in all, prepare to be surprised by some lower-seeded teams.
But before we highlight three such teams, let’s take a look at the bracket.
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West: No. 9 Oklahoma State (21-12)
The Cowboys should not be ranked this low.
Sure, it wasn’t too long ago that the team went on a disastrous seven-game losing streak. However, poor play, injuries and the suspension of leading scorer Marcus Smart all contributed to that.
Since Smart returned, Oklahoma State has gotten back on track, winning five of its last seven.
French basketball player and Missouri alum Kim English put it best:
Oklahoma State is lurking in dark corners in the top half of the West region. Very dangerous team if Markel Brown has healed his wounds.— Kim English (@Englishscope24) March 16, 2014
Playing in a loaded Big 12 Conference, the team is as battle tested as anyone in the NCAA tournament with 10 contests against Top-25 opponents this season. The Cowboys also happen to boast one of the nation’s top scoring attacks, averaging 80.3 points per game—ranked No. 16 in the nation.
Aside from Smart (17.8 PPG), the team has three other players who average over 13 points per game in Markel Brown (17.1), Le’Bryan Nash (14.2) and Phil Forte (13.3).
With a first-round matchup against Gonzaga and No. 1 Arizona looming in the second round, Oklahoma State will have its work cut out for it. But it also has the talent to overcome those obstacles.
Midwest: No. 4 Louisville (29-5)
This was an easy pick.
The Cardinals have been as hot as any team over the last two months. Since Feb. 1, the team is 11-1 and recently captured the AAC tournament crown. Not to mention, Louisville is ranked in the Top Five in both the AP and Coaches’ Poll.
So when the team was announced as just a No. 4 seed, you could imagine the dismay.
“In my 11 years being on the selection show, this is the most surprised I’ve been,” CBS’ Seth Davis said on the air (h/t USA Today’s Chris Chase). “We thought (Louisville) might be a one, they end up a four.”
Led by senior guard Russ Smith (18.3 PPG), the Cardinals can score with the best of them, averaging 82.1 points per game—No. 8 in the nation. But the team can also play defense, ranking No. 15 in points allowed (61.0 PPG) and No. 2 in steals (10.1 SPG).
Don’t be surprised if Louisville makes a serious bid to repeat as national champions.
East: No. 4 Michigan State (26-8)
The Spartans are primed for yet another deep March run.
Although the last two months have been rocky, the team has certainly rebounded nicely. Following a 5-7 finish to the regular season, Michigan State rallied to capture the Big Ten tournament title, topping Wisconsin and rival Michigan along the way.
Solid on both ends of the floor, the team has talent to back it up.
Offensively, Gary Harris (17.1 PPG) and Adreian Payne (15.8 PPG) should pace the Spartans. Defensively, look for Branden Dawson (1.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG) and Harris (1.9 SPG) to lead the charge.
Further helping Michigan State’s case is the fact that the team happens to be in one of the weakest regions in the tournament.
The dominoes are all falling in place for the Spartans.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and other information are courtesy of ESPN.com.