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NCAA Brackets 2014: Updated Predictions for March Madness Sleeper Squads

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 14:  Walter Pitchford #35 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers walks off of the court after the 71-67 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Quarterfinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 14, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured Columnist IVNovember 30, 2016

Every college basketball fan is searching for the school whose foot perfectly fits inside the glass slipper.

If you successfully pick Florida to win the NCAA tournament, nobody is going to sing your praises. Wow, you picked the favorite. How did you pull that off?

That's why everyone patrols the bracket for the Cinderella squad that will make them a hero if the pick pans out. We're all selfishly seeking glory instead of taking the statistically safer approach to guessing the more probable outcomes.

 

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With that considered, I'm not going to recommend riding any No. 15 or No. 16 seeds. A top seed has never lost in the round of 64, and Florida Gulf Coast's wild 2013 was more an anomaly than a harbinger of things to come.

I'm also considering long-term impact, so promising teams (Kentucky, Harvard, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State) with brutal round of 32 opponents were penalized. Don't pick any of these three schools to win it all, but they could easily outperform their seeding.

 

Ohio State

Ohio State isn't the quintessential underdog, but it has a cushy path to the Elite Eight.

While Dayton fits the underdog role much better, the Flyers are a poor match for their larger state cohort. The Buckeyes' lack of offensive firepower presents its biggest obstacle, but Dayton does not play enough defense with a 102.2 defensive rating.

On the other side, defense is Ohio State's meal ticket to March Madness success, and it's difficult to envision an inexperienced Dayton squad conquering that fierce unit. Its 91.2 defensive rating is good for ninth in the nation.

Coach Thad Matta told The Lantern's Eric Seger that playing another team from Ohio should help his club avoid growing complacent before its second-round bout: "For this team, it’s a great thing. I like that. Because there won’t need to be a wake up call, there won’t need to be a, ‘Who is this? Who are they? What conference are they in? I haven’t heard of that guy,’ or anything like that. So I like that from that perspective."

If the Buckeyes can handle the Flyers, a manageable road awaits to a deep run. Syracuse has stumbled down the gate, losing five of its last seven matches. Kansas may have to play without Joel Embiid, who is dealing with an injured back. 

Picking Ohio State into the Elite Eight presents a shrewd move with less risk than riding a fun, but untested No. 13 seed. According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, Ohio State is the only team seeded lower than No. 4 to hold a 20 percent chance of reaching the Elite Eight. 

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