At this point, the disparity in talent and competitiveness between the single digit and double digit teams is fairly minuscule. Arguably, you could probably make the case that some of the 10th seeds are actually better served to go far in the NCAA Tournament than their 7th seed counterparts. Still, every program that is worthy of playing in the glorious postseason affair that is March Madness has to be placed somewhere and being a 10th seed is an ideal place to be if you’re a highly competitive program that has struggled with on the court continuity from time to time. Although it’s ill-advised to pick any of the following four programs to go far in the tournament, bear in mind that double-digit seeds have gone to Final Fours in the past and this year could very well bring about another such occurrence. Of course, the obvious and most difficult question to answer is which vastly underrated program has what it takes to go farther than anyone rightfully expects them to?
1. NC State Wolfpack
Winners of four of their last five contests, the Wolfpack have scrapped together several impressive wins thanks to an offense that is now just starting to become fairly prolific. However, even more intriguing than their budding offense is their scrappy and opportunistic defense that has taken advantage of programs that play too fast and loose with the basketball (eight SPG). If the Wolfpack can be a bit more disciplined with controlling the basketball (12 TPG), they have an excellent chance of becoming a compelling Cinderella story come postseason play.
1. Saint Mary’s Gaels
A shutdown defensive program (63.8 PAPG), the Gaels are both fundamentally sound and disciplined when it comes to controlling the pace of play. Although they may not possess a high-octane offense, the Gaels are actually one of the most accurate and efficient shooting teams in the country (51.6 FG%, 40.5 3P%). In order for the Gaels to make a splash during March Madness, they need to display more confidence when it comes to attacking the basket while utilizing their strong ball movement skills to find the open man on the perimeter.
1. Arizona State Sun Devils
While the Sun Devils may not be able to rely on their lackadaisical defense to win competitive affairs (74.3 PAPG), their high-flying offense is more than capable of picking up the slack (83.5 PPG). What the Sun Devils lack in overall accuracy, they make up for with high-volume shooters that can shoot quickly and often. If the Sun Devils can elevate their rebounding game slightly to garner themselves more opportunities on offense (36 RPG), they could very well make it to the second weekend of the tournament.
1. Missouri Tigers
If Michael Porter Jr. returns to the court, the Tigers could go from being first weekend losers to Sweet Sixteen contenders. However, even without the presumed NBA lottery pick, the Tigers possess some strong rebounders in Jordan Barnett (5.8 RPG) and Jontay Porter (6.7 RPG) that could quickly turn the tide of any contest that they are involved in. Although their offense is decidedly weak (73.6 PPG), their gritty defense combined with their physical rebounders may be enough for them to get out of the first weekend of the tournament unscathed.