March Madness 2015: Analyzing Potential Bracket-Busting Teams

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2015

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25: Briante Weber #2 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams guards Joseph Young #3 of the Oregon Ducks in the first half at the Barclays Center on November 25, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

If the NCAA tournament went according to script every year, it certainly wouldn't be known as March Madness.

There are upsets every season, and the trick to filling out a successful bracket is picking those shocking results. That is much easier said than done, which is why these underdogs have come to be known as bracket-busters.

There are different types of bracket-busters as well. On the one hand, you have the Nos. 13 or 14 seeds that shock a team or two during the opening weekend and make school history by reaching the round of 32 or occasionally the Sweet 16. Then you have the Nos. 4, 5 or 6 seeds that not only win those initial games but also stun the top seeds and go all the way to the Final Four.

Both instances are incredibly difficult to predict. 

There are bound to be bracket-busting teams in this season's tournament as well. With that in mind, here are a few potential candidates to fill the Cinderella role come March.


Eastern Washington

Fred Beckham/Associated Press

Eastern Washington needs to win the Big Sky tournament before it plans on busting any brackets, and that won't be easy with Sacramento State and Montana in the way. However, if the Eagles do crack the field, highly ranked teams should be on the lookout.

After all, we are talking about a team that already knocked off Indiana in Bloomington and gave Washington a serious scare. The Eagles are also eighth in the country in points per game (as of Monday) and operate a high-powered offensive attack led by superstar Tyler Harvey and his partner in crime, Venky Jois. 

Harvey is averaging 22.8 points per game and uses his electrifying speed to get to the basket with relative ease. He even earned the admiration of Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports along the way:

Eastern Washington is a terrifying potential opponent for a favorable seed because it is not afraid of the big moment (see the win at Indiana) and has a superstar spearheading an offense that could score on almost anyone. All it may take is one off-night from the favorite and one red-hot shooting performance from this dynamic offense to end the national title hopes of a serious contender. 

It would also bust a lot of brackets.


San Diego State

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 31:  Aqeel Quinn #10 of the San Diego State Aztecs dribbles the ball in the first half of the game against the Utah State Aggies at Viejas Arena on January 31, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Kent Horner/Getty Images

San Diego State is a different type of bracket-buster than Eastern Washington. Rather than hoping to upset one big-name program, the Aztecs would love to compete for a Final Four if the bracket presents them with a clear enough path.

The encouraging thing for San Diego State fans is that the team appears to be playing its best basketball at the right time. It has won seven of eight and has opened up some breathing room atop the Mountain West Conference heading into the stretch run.

This team isn't just the product of a weak schedule, either.

It beat Utah, BYU and Pittsburgh in the nonconference schedule and only lost by a whopping two points to Arizona. That game against the Wildcats was a defensive slugfest that highlighted just how dangerous the Aztecs can be in March because of the stifling defense.

Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

In fact, they are No. 4 in Ken Pomeroy's defensive rankings (as of Monday night) and could theoretically overwhelm most teams in the country with their dominant defense. It is not that hard to envision San Diego State being placed in a semi-favorable bracket out West and using that defense to battle all the way into the Final Four. 

It is difficult to beat a team when you cannot score, and that is exactly what San Diego State hopes to prove to some of the nation's top talent come March.



Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

Oregon is squarely on the bubble and has to get into the tournament field before it busts any brackets, but the bubble probably feels a lot more comfortable after shocking Utah Sunday. It was Oregon's first head-turning win on the season and proved to the nation how dangerous it can be come March.

The Ducks have plenty of ingredients to scare some teams in the Big Dance. They have a dynamic offense that is No. 22 in the nation in points per game (as of Monday) and a legitimate game-changer in Joseph Young, who is averaging 19.8 points a night and leads the Oregon offense in crunch time.

In the one-and-done NCAA tournament, Young could take over in the closing minutes of a back-and-forth affair and send a highly rated team home awfully quick.

He certainly has the confidence to do just that if his recent comments were any indication, via Andrew Greif of The Oregonian: "We're going to the tournament. I just want to get that out right now. We're going to the tournament." 

If that proclamation comes true, there will be plenty of top-notch teams that will want nothing to do with the Ducks.


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