March Madness 2011 Predictions: 5 Teams That Can Play Bracket Buster

Will ToberAnalyst IMarch 15, 2011

March Madness 2011 Predictions: 5 Teams That Can Play Bracket Buster

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    With the 2011 NCAA tournament just about underway, sports fans everywhere are beginning to fill out their March Madness brackets. Whether you're in an office pool, an online pool or are just doing it for fun, everyone wants to make the right picks.

    That being said, if you're like me, teams like Butler in 2010, George Mason in 2006 or Davidson in 2008 tend to ruin your brackets. 

    Every year it seems like the upsets you picked don't happen and the No. 1 seed you had making it to the Final Four doesn't make it out of the second round.

    Now, although it's "Cinderella Stories" like these that make college basketball special and unique, choosing the team that is capable of making that run can be difficult.

    Here's a look at the five teams that you need to pay attention to when filling out your bracket.

Clemson Tigers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Seed: 12

    Tournament Ceiling: Sweet 16

    Clemson nearly beat North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, and realistically, they should have won the game.

    The Tigers will need to improve their fourth-quarter offense if they want to make a run in the tournament, but if Demontez Stitt and Milton Jennings play like they are capable of playing, this team is as dangerous as anyone.

    Clemson will play UAB, which frankly doesn't belong in the tournament, on Tuesday for a No. 12 seed. If victorious, they will face No. 5 seed West Virginia.

    West Virginia is coming off a loss to Marquette in the second round of the Big East Tournament, a team they lost to twice in the regular season.

    Clemson matches up well against West Virginia, and with a victory, the Tigers would possibly face an extremely inconsistent Kentucky team, which could provide Clemson with the matchup it needs to reach the Sweet 16.

    Now, unfortunately for Clemson, they are in the same region as overall No. 1 seed Ohio State, so I think that is as far it goes for the Tigers.

Kansas State

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Seed: 5

    Tournament Ceiling: Final Four

    Any team with a player capable of scoring the ball like Kansas State's Jacob Pullen is a team that can compete with anyone. 

    Not to mention, the Wildcats spent the first five weeks of the regular season ranked in the Top Five in the country.

    This is a team that never quite figured it out over the course of the season and failed to live up to their potential. However, they showed glimpses of their talent against Texas late in the season and have been playing well recently.

    Kansas State got a great draw in the top of the Southeast region.

    Wisconsin has struggled all year with scoring, including a game in which they scored 33 points (a score that would have been low for their football team).

    BYU is playing at less than full strength without Brandon Davies, which has turned out to have a bigger impact than most imagined.

    Pittsburgh is one of the most vulnerable No. 1 seeds and has shown weakness defending the pick-and-roll late in games, which happens to be one of the strengths of Kansas State.

    Look for them to beat Utah State in a tough opening-round game and potentially go all the way to the Final Four.

Washington Huskies

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    Seed: 7

    Tournament Ceiling: Sweet 16

    Isaiah Thomas and company finished off their season with great momentum after beating Arizona in an overtime thriller that ended with a game-winning shot from Thomas.

    They are hoping to take that momentum into the NCAA tournament.

    Along with that momentum, Washington brings one of the most prolific offenses in the NCAA to the tournament.

    They're third in the country in points per game, scoring over 82 points per game and shooting over 47 percent from the field. They have great ball movement too, averaging over 17 assists a game, which is good enough for 12th in the country. 

    Washington can defend as well and rank 12th in the country in rebounds per game.

    The Huskies will face off against Georgia in the first round, which should be a favorable matchup for Washington.

    They will then likely play a tough North Carolina team in the second round.

    In the last few games, North Carolina has made a habit out of letting their opponents jump out to big leads in the first half. They have also struggled with quick, scoring point guards like Nolan Smith, who has a playing style comparable to Isaiah Thomas'.

    I'm not guaranteeing a Sweet 16 appearance for Washington, but the Huskies are certainly one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament and will not be an easy out for anyone.

Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Seed: 11

    Tournament Ceiling: Sweet 16

    Marquette is as strong a No. 11 seed as they come. 

    They played in the toughest conference in the NCAA and had strong victories over Notre Dame (No. 2 seed), Syracuse (No. 3 seed) and Connecticut (No. 3 seed).

    They are playing an opening-round game against a Xavier team that didn't beat a Top 25 team all season. Marquette's experience playing in tough games should give them an advantage over Xavier in this game.

    Should they advance, they would likely play Syracuse, who, as I mentioned above, lost to Marquette 76-70 on January 29th.

    Marquette isn't a stranger to playing a string of tough games and should fare well in the tournament.

    I like them to definitely get out of the first round and potentially make it to the Sweet 16.

Tennessee Volunteers

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    Seed: 9

    Tournament Ceiling: Sweet 16

    Tennessee is one of the biggest sleepers in the tournament. 

    They have impressive wins over Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt on the road, and coach Bruce Pearl is definitely coaching with a sense of urgency.

    They are a great rebounding team (34th in the nation in rebounds per game) and Michigan struggles on the boards, ranked 300th in rebounds per game.

    The rebound advantage will play a big part in the game and could arguably be the deciding factor for the Vols.

    With a win against Michigan, Tennessee would likely face No. 1 seed Duke.

    Now, I know what you're thinking, "There's no way Tennessee will beat Duke," and maybe you're right, but in all four of Duke's losses, they have struggled shooting behind the arc, shooting 24-of-108.

    The Volunteers have shown good three-point defense as of late, allowing their opponents to shoot only 30 percent from the three-point line over their last six games.

    If Tennessee can continue to defend the three, expect them to challenge Duke in an interesting second-round game.