Middle-of-the-pack threats

Tar Heels, Buckeyes could be dangerous underseeded tourney teams

Updated: February 24, 2014, 9:47 AM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

Roy WilliamsMatt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsRoy Williams and the Tar Heels' revamped offense could pose a serious threat in their bracket.

Last March the average seed of the 16 teams that reached the NCAA tournament's regional semifinals was 5.06. That number marked the 2013 Sweet 16 as the most surprising collection of survivors the brackets had seen in fully 13 years.

So I say let everyone else obsess over who the No. 1 seeds will be. Recent history tells me we may see a fair number of middle-of-the-pack teams make the tournament's second weekend. Who knows, maybe one or even two such teams will draw inspiration from Wichita State last season (a No. 9 seed) and make it all the way to the Final Four.

Which middle-of-the-pack teams have a better than expected chance to play their way into the Sweet 16? We can't say for certain, of course, until we see the actual brackets. (Which team you have to play is kind of important in this discussion. After all, two of the teams named below may have to face each other.) But what I can tell you is which middle-of-the-pack teams are currently on track to be underseeded, and underseeded teams are, by definition, dangerous. In order to meet my rigorous standards for "middle of the pack," you will have to end up being seeded on the 5 line or lower in the NCAA tournament.

Let me spell out this assumption a little further. As you may know I track each possession played during conference play in Division I's top 11 leagues. Right now I'm seeing excellent per-possession teams such as Kentucky, Iowa, UCLA and Louisville showing up on the 5 line or thereabouts in reputable mock brackets.

My expectation, however, is that teams this good won't really be seeded that low (or certainly all of them won't be), so they're not discussed below. If on the other hand the Wildcats, Hawkeyes, Bruins or Cardinals actually do end up somewhere around the 5 line, you really don't want to be the No. 1 seed facing an opponent like that in the Sweet 16.

Now, without further ado, here are four middle-of-the-pack teams that may be seeded at 5 or lower you do not want to see in your bracket.


North Carolina Tar Heels

I'll keep this brief because, coincidentally, I just offered my thoughts on UNC's much improved offense the other day. Since that story appeared, the Tar Heels have scored 1.27 points per possession in wins at home over Duke and Wake Forest.


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