Although the 12th seeds are notoriously known as the double-digit programs that are the most capable of pulling off upsets consistently, there are also plenty of 11th seeds that are just as deadly at sending an overzealous team home early. While any reputable program would prefer to be ranked higher in the tournament as the road to a National Title would be comparatively easier, there is nothing more satisfying than a perceived underdog winning emphatically in one of the most highly watched and anticipated postseason events of the year. Of course, such shocking victories are not guaranteed to occur and could prove disastrous to the bracket owner who decides to overthink the matchups and select as many upsets as possible. However, the following six 11th seeds have a strong chance of not only defeating their initial opponents in the NCAA Tournament but could also go on a valiant run towards a Final Four berth. It may seem unlikely, but March Madness is the time for the underappreciated programs to shine and for the overrated teams to watch their backs consistently as the tournament wears on.
1. Louisville Cardinals
With their most recent loss coming at the hands of a Virginia Cavaliers program that needed a last second buzzer beater to win, the Cardinals have been a highly competitive team that simply cannot close out games when they need to the most. However, if the Cardinals can utilize their impressive length to tenaciously garner steals (seven SPG), rather than turning the basketball over carelessly (12 TPG), they could very well make an unexpected run in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Kansas State Wildcats
Defensively, the Wildcats are fantastic at taking advantage of an overly confident opponent as they are unafraid to use their quick hands to snatch the basketball away (8 SPG). Although they are by no means a prolific scoring program (73 PPG), they are exceptional at hitting their free throws (74.5 FT%), an area that will be highly beneficial to them assuming their capable defense can play consistently and aggressively throughout a given contest in the tournament.
1. USC Trojans
Although this season has been a bit of a disappointment for the Trojans, they have quietly won four games in a row, holding three of their last four opponents to under 70 points scored. If their defense can remain this potent while their shooters continue to be highly efficient at scoring from the field (four of their five starters are currently posting an FG% of 45.5% or better), the Trojans could make some serious noise come March Madness.
1. Texas Longhorns
While the Longhorns have struggled mightily to be competitively consistent throughout this season (have not won more than three games in a row since their first four games of the season), they have actually kept the majority of their losses fairly close in terms of the final score. If Freshman Mohamed Bamba can be the driving force for this program as he has been all season, the Longhorns could salvage their season and become the upset kings of the tournament.
2. Providence Friars
Similar to most of the projected 11th seeds, the Friars have struggled with their competitive continuity on the basketball court. However, for all of their inconsistency issues this season, the Friars are actually a better than you think defensive unit as they are averaging seven steals per game. They never win pretty, but when the Friars are playing confidently and exuberantly, they are more than capable of taking down some of the best programs in the country…just ask Villanova.
1. St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Living on the fringe of making the AP Poll for the last couple of weeks, the Bonnies are arguably one of the better potential 11th seeds heading into March Madness. Winners of 11 games in a row, the Bonnies are clearly hitting their competitive stride at the right time thanks to a gritty, tough-minded defense and an efficient offense that is great at making perimeter shots (39.6 3P%) and hitting their free throws from the charity stripe (76.5 FT%). They may not be flashy or light up the scoreboard, but the Bonnies have proven that they can consistently grind out impressive wins regardless of the type of adversity that they have to face.