College Basketball

March Madness: Bracket Busters To Keep Your Eye On

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We are in the midst of March Madness, and the NCAA Tournament brackets will be released later today. And that is when the fun really begins. Everyone starts with a perfect bracket, and anything can happen. When it comes to NCAA men’s basketball tournament pools, surviving the opening weekend is crucial. Winning the first two rounds may not guarantee success, but it sets the tone for the rest of the tournament.

Last Year Was Instant Mayhem

Ask those who picked Kentucky or Baylor to make it to the Final Four last year. They were the top two seeds in the East Region, but both failed to make it to the Sweet 16, shocking many bracket makers.

Kentucky was upset by a Saint Peter’s team that turned out to be the definition of a bracket-buster. This low-major Cinderella team shattered many brackets on its way to the Elite Eight. Meanwhile, the defending champs, Baylor suffered a stunning defeat to an eighth-seeded North Carolina squad that caught fire at the right time.

Bracket Buster Qualifications

These upsets prove that anything can happen in the tournament’s opening rounds, and that’s what we’ve seen in the latest editions of the NCAA Tournament. To qualify as a bracket-buster, a team must have a chance to beat an opponent rated four seeds higher. It could be an underdog from a small school or traditional blue blood like North Carolina on a hot streak. Regardless, the tournament’s opening weekend always brings surprises and unexpected twists, making it the best time of year for hoops fans.

Utah State Aggies

  • 2023 Record: 26-8
  • Projected Seed: 12

March Madness: Bracket Busters To Keep Your Eye OnUtah State’s offensive chemistry is nothing short of impressive, and they’re on the verge of showcasing it to a national audience. The Aggies have the 10th-highest assist rate in the country, according to Bart Torvik, and they excel at shooting from anywhere on the floor. Their sixth-ranked effective field-goal percentage and top-40 two-point percentage, three-point percentage, and free-throw percentage are all testaments to their precision.

While they may not be the best rebounding team on the offensive end, Utah State compensates for it by preventing their opponents from gaining extra possessions, ranking 37th in opponent offensive rebounding percentage.

Although they have a 1-4 record against Quad 1 teams, the Aggies have an impressive 9-1 record against Quad 2 teams. Additionally, they possess a secret weapon in Taylor Funk, the St. Joseph’s transfer, who scored the team’s first 16 points against New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament. Funk’s veteran leadership and scoring ability, honed since his college basketball debut in 2017, can prove instrumental when the stakes are high during March Madness. The Aggies are 100% capable of recording a couple of wins in the NCAA Tournament.

Toledo Rockets

  • 2023 Record: 27-7
  • Projected Seed: 13

The Toledo Rockets possess a lethal combination of experience, three-point shooting, and good ball-handling that could spellMarch Madness: Bracket Busters To Keep Your Eye On trouble for any team they face in the tournament. Led by a core group of players in RayJ Dennis, Setric Millner Jr., Ra’Heim Moss, Dante Maddox Jr., and JT Shumate, who have logged significant minutes for multiple seasons, the Rockets are a force to be reckoned with.

Their impressive shooting anchors the team’s offensive prowess. A stellar 40.7 percent success rate from beyond the arc propels them to sixth place in KenPom’s national offensive efficiency rankings. What’s more, the Rockets make the most of every possession, boasting the fifth-best turnover percentage in the country.

Despite a lack of experience against top-tier competition, the Rockets’ point differential (+9.5) suggests a team that dominated its relatively easy schedule, indicative of their ability to compete at a high level.

While there are valid concerns regarding their rebounding ability and lackluster defense, as they rank 158th and 280th in those categories, the Rockets’ scoring potential is undeniable. They have the firepower to keep pace with any team they face, making them a formidable threat come tournament time, and a team some big guns would like to avoid early.

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

  • 2023 Record: 30-4
  • Projected Seed: 12

March Madness: Bracket Busters To Keep Your Eye OnIt’s wild to think that a 30-4 team that made a sweet sixteen run last year is going to be a 12 or 13 seed, and somehow that’s the case with the Golden Eagles. But Oral Roberts is back and ready to make some noise in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Led by head coach Paul Mills, this team is coming off a Sweet 16 run just one year ago, where they took down Ohio State and Florida before falling to Arkansas in a hard-fought battle.

This year’s squad may be even more impressive. With 30 wins and a dominant run through the Summit League tournament, the Golden Eagles are poised for another deep run. And the key to their success? Look no further than Max Abmas, the dynamic guard who led the team in scoring during their incredible 2021 tournament run. Abmas is currently ranked sixth in the nation in scoring, and he’s got the Golden Eagles’ offense humming with a KenPom ranking of 25th in offensive efficiency.

Of course, this team could be better. Their defense could be stronger, currently ranked 105th in the country. But they have a secret weapon in the form of Connor Vanover, a towering 7’5″ rim protector who transferred from Arkansas. With Vanover swatting away shots left and right (averaging 3.3 blocks per game), Oral Roberts has a unique advantage in the paint that could help them slow down opponents and pull off a few early upsets.

Don’t sleep on this team, again. With Abmas leading the way and Vanover patrolling the paint, Oral Roberts is a dangerous team that no one should overlook.

Colgate Red Raiders

  • 2023 Record: 26-8
  • Projected Seed: 15

I understand that it’s a bit aggressive to put a potential 15-seed on a list of bracket busters as only ten 15-seeds have ever beaten a 2-seed in the history of the tournament. But this Colgate team is excellent offensively. The Red Raiders currently rank 1st overall in college basketball in KenPom’s effective FG%. They rank 1st overall in 3-point % and 7th overall in 2-point %. This team can absolutely shoot it.

And while they don’t have any big time wins and struggle on the defensive side of the ball a bit, all it takes is for them to get hot, and they could keep it close with a 2-seed and pull off a stunner.

After four seasons of professional baseball in the San Diego Padres system, Colin was featured as a freelance sports writer in numerous publications. He enjoys handicapping and writing about sports wagering while covering the MLB, NBA, NFL, PGA, and multiple college sports. Colin attended and played baseball at St. John's University in Queens, NY. He enjoys traveling with his wife, Ana, and two sons, Enzo and Wes.

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