Before you delve into our list of teams that could make an unlikely run this year, make sure to sign up for the UPROXX/Yahoo Tourney Pick’em pool. It’s free to enter and pays a cool $4,000 to the winner. The contest uses Yahoo’s standard NCAA Tournament scoring system, the rules of which are here, so familiarize yourself before entering.
The winning bracket in any tournament pool will, of course, need to pick the National Champion correctly, but odds are everyone can hit a few of the Final Four teams. Where you’ll separate yourself from the pack is in the 10-14 seeds, finding the one or two that make it out of the first weekend, or even deeper. To that end, here are some long-shot bracket busters you might want to take to the dance this March:
No. 11 Wichita State
Ah, the dreaded play-in game. Despite being seeded in a play-in for the No. 11 seed against Vanderbilt, the Shockers are no longer the complete underdog they used to be since their run to the Final Four in 2013. But this is far enough removed from that run to be considered a completely different team with hopefully a touch of the experience left to know what big wins require. The Shockers will be riding their defense in the dance. They’re the top defensive team in the country, holding opponents to 59.3 points per game. They’ve got a victory against No. 3 seed Utah, but their biggest hurdle is that they got knocked out of their conference tournament rather early. With an RPI of 47 though, they’ve played enough tough competition on the year to get in and when they do, look for them to present a huge defensive challenge to any opponent.
No. 11 Northern Iowa
Another team that might have a lot more respect this year than in the past is the Northern Iowa Panthers. Given the 11th seed and a date with Texas, the Panthers are entering this year’s tournament much less hyped than last year’s 30-3 squad. But they’ve beat three teams with top-50 RPI ratings this season, including No. 1 seed UNC and fourth-seeded Iowa State. They’re another defensive stalwart, ranked 12th in the nation at holding opponents to 62.9 points per game, and it’s hard to argue with the momentum that comes from a big buzzer-beating win. But let’s be honest: that defense is all they’ve got. They average only 68 points a game, good for 284th in the country. If they can keep the game low though, they’ve got a chance to make some noise.