Top 5 NCAA Tournament Underdog Hopefuls for 2011

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I am not an expert at picking brackets. Most years I finish somewhere around the Top 10, but never really get over the hump to win my Bracket Challenges. That being said, I watch a lot of college basketball, and would consider myself generally knowledgeable about most teams, including the "underdogs". This is where I can help most people reading this article.

Everybody wants to pick the Cinderella team's, because picking the right mid-major to make the Sweet Sixteen can be the difference between finishing 1st and finishing 10th. This is especially useful if a 1-4 seed is a "trendy" pick to make it to the Elite Eight or Final Four. That can really damage a bracket if they lose in the first round. There is more to picking a Cinderella than just randomly picking 12-14 seeds. As you will see with my list, there are a few "big name" teams, that did not perform as well as expected this year and have a higher seed. These teams are just as important as the smaller schools because they can wreak havoc as well.

At the risk of showing my hand too much for my own bracket in the Blogger So Dear Bracket Challenge, here are my upset picks ranked in order. I hope this helps you succeed in other Challenge's aside from this one!

Click through for a list of potential Cinderella teams this year.

Top 5 teams suited to make a "Cinderella" run in this year's tournament

 

  1. Utah State- The Aggies are woefully underseeded in this tournament. They are the #12 seed in the Southeast, and are a better team than Kansas State. This really isn't an upset in my mind, and at 30-3, I think Utah State could easily make the Sweet 16, especially if my #2 pick holds up their end of the bargain in the first round.
  2. Belmont- I'm not going to lie, I was livid when I saw Belmont's draw last night. Along with Utah State, Belmont is a top 25 caliber team. They went 30-4 (albeit in the Atlantic Sun), and romped their way to the conference regular, and tournament championship. The Bruins will have a difficult task defeating Wisconsin, but this will be one of the best games of the tournament in terms of how the game is played. If the Bruins win, I expect them to face Utah State in the 2nd round, and it is a damn shame that they have to play each other in the Round of 32 if they both advance.
  3. Gonzaga- Going back to a typical Cinderella team, we turn now to the Gonzaga Bulldogs. They have been here before, and Mark Few has got them playing their best basketball at the end of the season. They won the WCC tournament over St. Mary's, and looked pretty good doing it. A lot of people are on the St. John's bandwagon, but without DJ Kennedy, I think the Red Storm will have trouble against the Bulldogs. This should be a very entertaining first round game, and has a lot of risk factors involved if you do pick Gonzaga, but it could payoff big time. If they advance to the Round of 32, I think they have a favorable matchup against the #3 BYU. The Cougars have no inside threat as we saw against SDSU this weekend. Robert Sacre will be a beast down low, and that could cause huge problems.
  4. Michigan State- I said before the year that no matter what seed Michigan State was, I would pick them to the Final Four after last year's run. Well I am not going to pick them to the Final Four, but I am going to pick them to advance at least as far as the Sweet Sixteen. As a #10 seed in the Southeast (in case you haven't noticed, All the teams listed so far are in the Southeast Regional), the Spartans have a good first round matchup against UCLA. If they can sneak by the Bruins, I think they will face one of the weakest #2's in Florida. Tom Izzo vs. Billy Donovan would be an outstanding 2nd round coaching matchup, and I can't wait to watch it. 
  5. Washington- I am pretty surprised that Washington got slotted at the #7 spot. After beating Arizona on an Isaiah Thomas buzzer beater to win the Pac-10 tournament, I expected a #5-6 seed for the Huskies. They get a fairly easy opponent in terms of 7-10 matchup standards against Georgia in the first round. The other matchup is North Carolina vs. Long Island, which will obviously send the Tar Heels into the Round of 32. If UNC continues to play the way that they did this weekend, the Huskies will have a great chance at advancing to the Sweet 16. This pick can pay huge dividends if it works out because a lot of people have North Carolina as a "sexy" pick for the Elite Eight or Final Four. There is a bit of danger involved here, but it may be worth it, especially if you are in a bigger bracket pool where you need to differentiate yourself from other brackets.

Ever wish that more things worked like college brackets? That you could seed everything that way? Top 64 pre-game foods. Top 64 college players. Well, now you can do just that with your friends, with the Allstate BFF Brackets, which takes your 64 top Facebook friends (an algorithm seeds them based on interaction) and seeds them in four regions, exactly like the real tourney. Once the tourney starts, your friends advance with the corresponding seeds – till one is left standing. Check it out here.

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