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Three Bracket-Busting Teams To Watch This March Madness

We hear the same generic terms thrown around every year during the NCAAB tournament. With little to no context, terms like “Cinderella” and “bracket-buster” don’t amount to much. But, where would we be in sports without clichés?

With that in mind, here are three teams that will likely bust a few brackets. To qualify, these teams need to fill the lower seeds in the bracket, anywhere from the ninth to 16th seed. They must be outside a major conference. And they must be relatively little known to the general public.

I don’t necessarily endorse any of these teams making long runs during March Madness but I do believe they are plenty capable of winning at least one game. Just enough to completely screw you in the office pool.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

Loyola-Chicago happily took the mantle of best team in the Missouri Valley Conference with the departure of Wichita State. The Ramblers have proved to be the cream of the crop thanks to their elite defensive ability. The team sits in the top 20 in the nation in points allowed, rebounds allowed and effective field-goal percentage by opponents. Many may question these numbers based on the competition, but Loyola-Chicago beat Florida in its non-conference schedule – holding the Gators to just 59 points and 36.9 percent shooting.

Discipline is also a huge benefit for the Ramblers with the team posting a 57.7 effective field-goal percentage (eighth in the nation) and just 14.0 fouls per game (third). As obvious as it sounds, once the tournament comes around, not shooting yourself in the foot is of vital importance. And no matter the situation this season, Loyola-Chicago keeps its cool and plays smart basketball.

The Ramblers are not going to stretch the floor, which is a concern given how important the deep ball has become in college basketball. However, as long as Peter Moser’s team continues to defend the perimeter well and take smart shots, then they should be able to overcome their inability to hit the three-pointer.

First-Round Matchup: vs Miami Hurricanes

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Mike Daum is probably the best player that your friend who watches college basketball has told you about. The junior is averaging 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game while shooting over 42 percent from beyond the arc. And if you want to question if he is good enough to do that against elite teams, Daum tallied 21 points and 11 rebounds against Kansas and 31 points with six rebounds vs Wichita State.

Now, aside from its one dominant player – something that can carry a team during the NCAA Tournament – South Dakota State has one of the safest teams in the nation with the ball. The Jackrabbits are first in the country in turnovers per possession, fourth in turnovers per offensive play and cough the ball up just 10 times per game.

Could South Dakota be better defensively? Yes. But no team in the country is better at forcing a shootout without the crippling mistakes that typically befall a high-octane offense.

First-Round Matchup: vs Ohio State Buckeyes

UNC Greensboro Spartans

The Southern champions have a lot going for them entering the tournament, including being one of the best 3-and-D teams in the country. UNC Greensboro ranks inside the top 30 in the nation in three-pointers attempted and made per game – this is largely thanks to the duo of Francis Alonso and Marvin Smith. Neither of the upperclassmen is an elite three-point shooter but their confidence to shoot from range means opponents need to play close to their man.

Even more impressive is a defense that allows 63.3 points (sixth nationally), 20.9 field goals made (third) and 51.1 field goals attempted (fifth) per game. Since the beginning of February, UNC Greensboro has held opponents to 59.8 points per game and a 39.1 field-goal percentage thanks to its methodical style of play.

The offense isn’t especially deep past Alonso and Smith with no other player on the team averaging 9.0 ppg, but the Spartans’ meticulous, slowed-down rate of play is a big reason for this. Continuing this style of play against more potent offenses than the Spartans are used to facing in the Southern Conference won’t be easy but UNC Greensboro has all the skills and pieces to be Virginia-lite during the tournament.

First-Round Matchup: vs Gonzaga Bulldogs

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