The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the best weekend of the calendar year (this is fact, not an opinion). Dozens of college basketball games with teams and players trying to make themselves a household name, even if for just the weekend. Small schools from smaller conferences get their shot at knocking off schools with more established basketball pedigrees. We are continuing a series where we take a look at 22 conferences and the schools most likely to represent them in the NCAA Tournament. Consider this early bracket research to find that Cinderella team that busts everyone’s bracket...except yours.
Last Year’s NCAA Participant: Wichita State
Prior Years Upset Team: The MVC has had plenty of first round upsets, and second round upsets for that matter. This league often has teams that get seeded right around a 12-seed as a strong mid-major conference. Since 1994 the MVC has had 5 upsets in the first round as a 12 or 13 seed.
One of my favorite mid-major conferences and one that is often puts a dangerous first round team into the field. The MVC has had several first round upsets and even a handful of second round upsets to make a name for themselves. Norther Iowa and Wichita State are two of only five teams to knock out a 1-seed as a 9-seed in the second round.
Is there an upset team in the league this year?
KenPom Rank: 45
Off Efficiency: 113.1 (58)
Def Efficiency: 98.2 (40)
eFG%: 58.5% (6)
Why are the dangerous: This team is showing good metrics on both ends of the floor. Notice their effective FG% ranks 6th nationally and the difference between their offensive and defensive efficiencies are at about 1.5 point per possession. That’s a good number.
This team is just solid. They shoot well, they defend they have big guys, they have shooters, 5 guys average double figures...they won at Florida earlier in the season. This team is going to be a tough out regardless of where they are seeded. Currently they have won 14 of their last 15 games and are heading into the MVC Tournament as the #1 seed. Quite possibly could earn themselves an at-large bid should they lose in the MVC Championship.
KenPom Rank: 138
Off Efficiency: 107.0 (150)
Def Efficiency: 104.4 (128)
eFG%: 52.3% (119)
Why are the dangerous: As you can see by comparing the Saluki profile the Ramblers that these two teams are pretty different in their overall strength. Should Southern Illinois make if out of the MVC with the automatic bid, they will very likely drop to a 15-seed. Can they get a win against a Final Four contending team? Well, they lost to Louisville by 42 earlier in the year and a talented Nevada team by 22. It does not seem likely.
Look for Loyola-Chicago to be a very popular first round upset team. As I mentioned, I enjoy this conference and plan to watch a little bit of their conference tournament. The Ramblers will be watched closely.