March Madness is finally upon us as the NCAA Tournament is set to get underway Thursday. If you are reading this, you are probably in an office, family, or betting pool for this year’s festivities and are looking for a few teams to set you apart.
Below, I walk through two sleeper teams to heavily consider making a run in the tournament to help you gain an edge in your pool.
Davidson (10 seed)
In the first round, Davidson draws seven-seed Michigan State, a favorable matchup for Davidson to pull off an upset. Not only do I think Davidson will beat Michigan State, but I think that they will make a cinderella run to the Elite Eight.
The Davidson Wildcats possess one of the best offenses in the country as they rank 11th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. For those unfamiliar with Ken Pomeroy, he is widely regarded in the industry as the leader of college basketball analytics. All of my statistics in this article are from his work.
This first-round matchup showcases two teams who are trending in different directions. Over their last 10 games, Davidson is 7-3 straight up and 6-4 against the spread. On the other hand, Michigan State is just 4-6 straight up and 5-5 against the spread over their last 10 games.
Davidson has defied expectations against quality teams all season as they are 7-3 against the spread when facing teams above .500 away from home. This is an important distinction as every team in this tournament is above .500 and will play every game away from home court.
Meanwhile, Michigan State is just 5-5 against the spread this season when playing teams above .500 away from home. Another weakness for Michigan State is that they bring back zero starters from last season, and experience is critical in this tournament.
I believe Davidson, which returns four starters from last year, is poised to make some noise in the West region. Head Coach Bob McKillop has made an Elite Eight run before, and I think he will do It again.
USC (7 seed)
USC draws 10-seed Miami in the first round in the Midwest region. Not only do I believe that USC is one of the most under-seeded teams in this tournament, but I have them winning the entire Midwest region and advancing to the Final Four.
USC ranks in the top 50 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency. More importantly, the Trojans enter this tournament in great form.
If you exclude games against UCLA and Arizona, two of the tournament’s best teams, USC is 8-0 over their last eight contests. I expect the Pac-12 to make a lot of noise this tournament as they were the nation’s most underrated conference last year, and they are in the same position this season.
The disrespect for west coast basketball has been baked into USC’s lines all season as they are 6-2 against the spread when on the road facing teams above .500. USC returns three starters from last season, including talented big-man Isaiah Mobley.
Last season’s team made an Elite Eight run before running into Gonzaga. With Gonzaga on the other side of the bracket, I like USC to make the leap and reach the Final Four.
Best of luck!
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