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. This is going to be 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: East Tennessee State
Prior Years Upset Team: There are a couple upsets worth noting here. The first is Davidson’s run in the 2008 tournament as a 10-seed. The Wildcats, led by some no-name guard named Steph Curry, upset Gonzaga (7), Georgetown (2) and Wisconsin (3) before falling to Kansas (1) by 2 in the Regional final.
Prior to that it was Chattanooga who made it to the second weekend as a 14-seed back in the 1997 tournament.
KenPom Rank: 82
Off Efficiency: 105.9 (164)
Def Efficiency: 97.0 (31)
eFG%: 52.0% (133)
Why are the dangerous: I’ll give you three reasons why this team is dangerous. First, they shoot a lot of threes and 40% of their overall scoring comes from three. That percentage ranks 16th nationally. Have we seen a team get hot from three and have them ride that to a first round win? Yeah, that’s not uncommon. Secondly, they play very good defense. As shown above, they give up just 0.97 point per possession but they also rank in the top 25 nationally in defensive rebound % and turnover %. They get after you, they force turnovers and they secure the rebound. Lastly, this team hits the offensive glass. Just when you think you earned a stop as they miss a three, they get that rebound and hit the next one.
They do have a win over NC State, a likely 8/9-seed and 21-game winning team.
Why they aren’t as dangerous? They turn the ball over a lot. That could be problematic. They also aren’t a great shooting team from behind the arc. They take a lot of shots, but they will have games where it isn’t falling.
Could the Spartans be a dangerous team next weekend? Absolutely. Sometimes it comes down to getting the right matchup (see MTSU last year) and given the right opponent they can advance.