- Vermont Catamounts
Along with having a fantastic nickname, Vermont has a great product on the court. The Catamounts are first in the America East conference. If you can’t remember where you heard America East from, Vermont shares the conference with the NCAA Tournament darling UMBC Retrievers.
What makes the Catamounts a great bracket buster is that they excel on the defense end of the floor. Vermont is 5th in the entire country in defense points per game, only giving up an average of 59.3 points a contest.
Vermont is also tough because they have multiple guys that can score, not just one superstar. Anthony Lamb is the quote “guy” for the Catamounts, leading the team in scoring, rebounds and blocks. But he’s just one of the many talented players on this squad. Ten players on Vermont average more than twenty minutes a game. Stef Smith shoots 44.5% from three point land, Ryan Davis shoots over 50% from the field while also almost averaging 10 points a game.
Defense travels in the NCAA tournament, the Catamounts almost won at Virginia early in the year by playing the same slugfest that the Cavaliers are known for. If Vermont is in your team’s bracket, watch out.
- Liberty Flames
Another team known for their defense, Liberty gives up 53 points a game, good for second in the entire country. The Flames have wins against Vanderbilt, Akron, and two conference foe Lipscomb that really helped build the Flames’ case for potential bracket buster.
If Liberty is going to get anywhere in the tournament, they’ll need to find a way to score points. Caleb Homesley leads the team in scoring with just over 14 points a game. That’s all fine and good when your squad doesn’t give up 60, but to beat some of these high powered offenses in the NCAA Tournament, the Flames will need to find a way to make shots.
One way the Flames can try and generate more offense is from the three point line. As a team, Liberty shoots just under 36% from deep. Once tournament time rolls around, expect them to shoot more threes and let the defense win games against the big boys.
- Wright State Raiders
If you like points, this Wright State team is for you. The Raiders are top top ten in the country in scoring, averaging almost 82 points a game. Wright State also gets it done old school with center Loudon Love leading the Raiders in scoring with 16.2 points a contest. But he’s not the only one, three more Raiders average more than 10 points a game including: Bill Wampler, Tanner Holden, and Cole Gentry.
The Raiders are also top 40 in the country in rebounding, with Love once again leading Wright State in that category. If Love can be a dominant presence in the NCAA Tournament, his team will have a great chance to upset a team in round 1 and beyond.
The main issue with Wright State is outside of conference play, they really didn’t play a competitive non-conference schedule. That being said, you don’t just walk in to averaging over 80 points a game as a team, but it’ll be curious to see how the Raiders respond against Power Five talent.
- Belmont Bruins
Another mid-major that can put the ball in the basket, Belmont is no stranger to busting brackets. The Bruins once again have a stranglehold on the Ohio Valley Conference, and look forward to playing spoiler in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins are top 20 in America in points per game, averaging just over 80 points. Most of that damage is done by the big three in Belmont: Adam Kunkel, Nick Muszynski, and Tyler Scanlon who all average more than 11 points a contest. Grayson Murphy is also a killer on the offensive end of the floor, almost averaging a double-double in points and assists.
The schedule for Belmont was decent in the non-conference, with wins coming against Boston College and Lipscomb. What’s most impressive about Belmont is that they went 11-5 on the road, which is huge come NCAA Tournament time. The Bruins don’t care what building they are playing in, if it has a hardwood floor and a hoop, Belmont comes ready to ball.
- Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
The rules were no top 25 teams on this list, and Stephen F. Austin is coming real close to breaking that rule. The Lumberjacks are receiving votes in the AP poll, and they’re well deserved. Early in the year, the Lumberjacks went into Cameron Indoor and beat then #1 Duke. If that doesn’t show you how dangerous Stephen F. Austin can be, then nothing will.
Led by Keveon Harris, the Lumberjacks average 81 points a game, good for ninth best in the country. Gavin Kensmil and Cameron Johnson also average double digit points for SFA. A big difference in the Lumberjacks and other mid-majors is that 10 guys for SFA average more than 10 minutes of playing time. That’s huge in the NCAA tournament because if someone gets in foul trouble it’s not as big of a deal as it would be to other teams.
Outside of beating Duke, the Lumberjacks have been close to beating other Power Five schools, including losses at Rutgers and at Alabama. Combine that with a dominant stretch during Conference Play, and Stephen F. Austin are well on their way to upsetting a few teams in the NCAA Tournament.