When the Connecticut Huskies won the national championship last year, they became the first No. 7 seed to do so and were underdogs in their last five games en route to the title. The Huskies nearly lost their first game too, needing overtime to oust the 10th-seeded St. Joseph’s Hawks 89-81 and cover the spread as 5.5-point favorites.
The lowest seed to ever win the NCAA tournament remains the eighth-seeded Villanova Wildcats in 1985, but picking an upset candidate in the Big Dance does not mean that team needs to win it all. While picking a “sleeper” team or underdog that wins a game or two during March Madness could end up being the difference in helping you win your bracket contest or pool, it can also be profitable from a betting perspective.
One team that fits the sleeper role perfectly this year and may be capable of pulling off a straight-up upset in this year’s NCAA tournament is the 14th-seeded UAB Blazers, who will be facing third-seeded Iowa State in the South Region Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky. The Blazers have covered eight straight games as underdogs, winning five of six SU.
Also in the South, the 11th-seeded UCLA Bruins have covered five in a row as underdogs and meet sixth-seeded SMU Thursday in Louisville as well.
Looking for a No. 12 seed this year that could knock off a No. 5 in the round of 64? The 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks have won 28 of their last 29 games and will be playing fifth-seeded Utah, who have gone 2-5 ATS in their past seven games as favorites and lost four times in that scenario.
Last year, the Lumberjacks upset the fifth-seeded VCU Rams 77-75 in overtime as a No. 12 seed and six-point underdogs before falling to the fourth-seeded UCLA Bruins in the following round.
Coincidentally, another team capable of pulling off an upset in its first game this year is VCU, a No. 7 seed but an underdog against 10th-seeded Ohio State. The Rams are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 NCAA tournament games and made it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed in 2011 under head coach Shaka Smart.