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Your bracket needs a Final Four surprise. Pick one of these 4 teams

March 14, 2018 5:16 pm

As far as NCAA tournament nomenclature is concerned, the teams that comprise the field of 68 can be grouped into two categories: Favorites and Cinderellas.

Favorites demand little explanation. These are the top three or four seeds that everyone is putting in their Final Fours, and are almost always the group from which a bracket-filler chooses its national champion.

Cinderellas are a bit more versatile. They can take on one of two forms. The first Cinderella is the 13-16 seed that pulls or comes close to pulling a first round stunner. They captivate the nation for 24 hours and then lose handily in round two. The other Cinderella is typically an 11-12 seed (sometimes a No. 10 seed if its not from a major conference) that springs a pair of less shocking upsets and suddenly finds itself advancing into the second weekend of the tournament.

But what about this nameless third group of teams? I’m talking about the 5-10 seeds that generate next to no buzz in the days leading up to the tournament, can ruin just about everyone’s bracket by winning three or four more games than anyone expects.

Until a superior suggestion is submitted, I’m choosing to call these teams “Problem Children” (individually, “Problem Child”); They wreak havoc just about every time they do anything, and aren’t loved by anyone who isn’t family. Also, the Problem Child movies were both solid flicks (I don’t acknowledge the third). Rest easy, John Ritter.

We like to ignore Problem Children as much as we can. Everyone loves picking an upset or three in the first round, but the vast majority of people who fill out a bracket wind up with the same type of Final Four. They don’t want to have all No. 1 seeds, so they’ll get “wild” and toss in a three or a four seed or maybe multiple two seeds.

Few people advance a Problem Child all the way to the Final Four. It’s too risky. Pick the wrong No. 7 seed and you’ve automatically got four red Xs on your bracket before the first day of play has kicked into high gear.

This is an understandable mentality, but it ignores a very real and increasingly important trend: Problem Children won’t stop crashing the Final Four.

In each of the last five NCAA tournament, at least one team seeded seventh or worse has won a regional title.


2017 — No. 7 South Carolina
2016 — No. 10 Syracuse
2015 — No. 7 Michigan State
2014 — No. 7 Connecticut and No. 8 Kentucky
2013 — No. 9 Wichita State

Toss in No. 8 seed Butler and No. 11 seed VCU making the 2011 Final Four and it becomes clear that we have ourselves a full-fledged Problem Child epidemic.

So what does that mean for this year’s NCAA tournament? Well, it means we’re more likely than not to see at least one team in the Final Four that seems totally out of place at the present moment.

Problem Children conceal their identities extremely well, but here are four guesses as to which team might get hot out of nowhere over these next two weeks:

Seton Hall (No. 8 Seed)

The Pirates have been a mild disappointment in 2017-18, but there’s still time to save their season. Just about every member of their group of key contributors, which includes four seniors, has NCAA tournament experience. They have one of the better post players in the country in Angel Delgado, and, like South Carolina a year ago, have multiple guards capable of taking games over by themselves. If they’re able to get by NC State and Kansas in the opening weekend, it’s not impossible to see Kevin Willard’s team riding that momentum all the way to San Antonio.

Nevada (No. 7 Seed)

People seem to be quick to write off Nevada in this tournament largely because of the way they were manhandled by San Diego State in the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament. That seems unwise. Eric Musselman’s team is still a top 25 squad on Ken Pom, it has next-level talent in the form of Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins, and it has a dream draw for a seven seed. The bottom half of the South region might be the weakest in the entire tournament, so if the Wolf Pack (or Texas, for that matter) can play its best basketball at the right time, they might be dancing far longer than anyone is currently envisioning.

Arkansas/Butler (No. 7 Seed/No. 10 Seed)

There’s no logical reasoning behind this pick, so you’re getting two for the price of one.

Here’s the deal: Every year I pick out the first round game that interests me the least. It’s nothing personal against those two teams. The game just happens to be, in my eyes, a poor matchup of two teams that I don’t think would beat most others in the field of 68.

Last year that game was South Carolina vs. Marquette. Two years ago it was Syracuse vs. Dayton. This year it’s Arkansas vs. Butler. So pretty much one of those two teams is going to the Final Four. Book it.

St. Bonaventure (No. 11 Seed)

A team from the First Four has won at least one game in the main draw of the tournament in every year the First Four has existed. Included in that group is VCU, a controversial final at-large selection that shut everyone up with a stunning run to the Final Four. Could the Bonnies follow that paved path? It’s possible.

Tuesday night in Dayton, St. Bonaventure beat a favored and more talented UCLA squad in a game where senior star Jaylen Adams was just 2 of 16 from the field. Assuming Adams will be a more recognizable form of himself moving forward, who’s to say this team can’t hang with or upset both a bipolar Florida team and an overachieving Texas Tech team with little NCAA tournament experience?

These all seem like long shots right now, but recent history says at least one long shot is going to hit it big this month. Be bold. Be the person who takes a chance on a Problem Child.


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