March Madness underdogs most likely to make a run

Brendan Winters

Every year the NCAA tournament never ceases to amaze, with the most unlikely candidates pulling off upsets and busting brackets left and right.

Upsets are inevitable in college basketball, and with 68 teams in the tournament, filling out a bracket is far from simple. Here are six teams going into the tournament with underrated  seeds that have the best chances to make a deep run in March.

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The VCU Rams, from the Atlantic 10 conference, have shown that they have what it takes to write an improbable Cinderella story. The Rams, who made a Final Four run in 2011, have a tenacity on defense that is unmatched in the NCAA, and wreaks havoc on opposing offenses. Don’t overlook the Rams this year, even though they are the 10th speed in the Western Region. VCU’s aggressive defense has proven effective, as it ranks top five in the country in turnover margin. Senior Melvin Johnson leads the Rams in scoring, averaging 17.4 points per game. With a deep bench of 10 players that all play double digit minutes, the Rams propose a nightmare formula for opponents.


The Badgers started off slow, losing three of their first seven games including an opening home game against Western Illinois. They looked nothing like the Final Four team they were just a year ago. After head coach Bo Ryan, who brought the Badgers to the tournament every year since 2001, retired in December, things didn’t look too promising. A late season push, in which the team won seven straight games helped Wisconsin rise to number 31 in the country for ESPN’s Rankings Power Index. Interim head coach Greg Gard has given Badger fans renewed hope for this season by reestablishing the swing offense and playing hard-nose half-court defense without fouling, making them a tough team to beat.


Undefeated at home (18-0), the Bears have lived up to their preseason hype and will look to continue their stellar play  into the tournament. Winning just eight games in the Pac-12 last season, the Bears look like a young, rejuvenated group this year with the addition of local five-star freshman Ivan Rabb from Bishop O’Dowd and top-five recruit Jaylen Brown out of Wheeler, Georgia. Juniors Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews have stepped up offensively in their third year at Cal and are deadly from behind the arc. With five players averaging double digits and a lockdown defensive presence in the paint that forces their opponents to shoot just over 39 percent from the field, the Bears like their chances this year to make a deep tournament run this March.


The Friars will look to rally behind the Big East’s leading scorer Ben Bentil, who is averaging 21.2 points per game, as well as standout guard Kris Dunn, who is averaging 16 points per game. The two propose a matchup nightmare for opponents, scoring just over half of the Friars’ season average of 74 points per game. Providence won 14 of their first 15 games and were a top 10 team in the country until dropping out the rankings because of a late season hiccup in which they lost five of their last ten regular season games. The Friars will come into the tournament as the underdog. Last year the Friars (six seed) exited the tournament early after an  upset by Dayton (11 seed) in the second round. This year, Providence will finish the regular season 23-10 (4th place in the Big East) and will look to bounce back from last year’s weak finish.


The Uconn Huskies are the hottest team in basketball right now. After finishing sixth in the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies weren’t even in the discussion for an at-large bid and their only chance of making the tournament was to win their conference tournament. Behind a balanced attack of four players averaging over 12 points per game at the reins of head coach Kevin Ollie, Uconn ran the table by winning three games in three days including a thriller against Cincinnati that lasted four overtimes. Their AAC tournament championship earned them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Two years removed from an incredible championship run as a seven seed, Ollie’s Huskies will hope to replicate 2014’s magic despite being the nine seed in a loaded South bracket that contains the number one overall seed in Kansas.


The Zags had high hopes going into this season after coming up just short two years ago with a loss to Duke in the Elite Eight. Gonzaga was a preseason top-10 team with a front court that looked like one of the best in college basketball. However,7-1 senior center Przemek Karnowski going down with a season-ending injury significantly hurt the Zags chances. Thankfully, Gonzaga’s frontcourt stepped up in Karnowski’s absence, as Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis are averaging a combined 38.1 points per game. Vanderbilt Transfer Eric McClellan was another pleasant surprise for the Zags, after graduating WCC Player of the Year Kevin Pangos. A strong perimeter defender, McClellan won defensive Player of the Year in the WCC this year. As the 11th seed, Gonzaga will have to start off the tournament against the winners of the Big East tournament in six seed Seton Hall.