March Madness: The Top 5 Underdog Teams
Part of the allure of March Madness is the underdog, the Cinderella team that makes a deep run.
These small programs each year capture the hearts of America and gain millions of temporary fans.
Although with how much we love these stories, it’s a love/hate relationship when they ultimately bust our brackets.
The hardest part of March Madness is trying to find the right underdog to put all your chips on.
Now, if you’ve been a follower of this page or myself (Nate,) you know I love to use statistics in my decision making in all aspects of sports.
This year, I decided to take my bracketology up a notch and develop a formula to help me predict the outcome of the craziest postseason in all of sports.
Now, I’m not going to give up my formula obviously, but it is one that takes in all aspects of the game and assigns specific weights and calculations to these statistics.
I’m a big believer in guard play being the most important thing in the tournament. We’ve seen it time and time again. An unknown point guard named Steph Curry leading his Davidson Wildcats to the final four or the time Kemba Walker carried his team to a National Title. Guard play is important.
Therefore, my formula is based heavily around the effectiveness, depth, scoring and the overall importance of the guard position to a respective team. Of course, other team-wide statistics are included.
From there, I get an output rating of each team. As some of the higher seeds can skew the figure due to their conference and opponents, strength of schedule was taken into account to award those teams that play tougher competition.
Enough talking, let's get into things.
13) South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs. 4) Providence Friars
This formula absolutely adores South Dakota State. They’re the best in the tournament in scoring the three ball, doing so at a rate of 44.9-percent. They are led by their three backcourt guys who average over 14 points-per-game each. They’re additionally second in the entire tournament in points-per-game and field goal percentage. They’re also top ten in my overall guard importance statistics and free throw shooting, which too is super important in the tournament. On the other side, Providence is a bland team that doesn’t do anything excellently. They’re led offensively by their center Nate Watson and the team as a whole doesn’t score a ton of points-per -game. Their best finish amongst the field is in rebounds-per-game where they rank 26th.
12) UAB Blazers vs. 5) Houston Cougars
Historically, these #12 vs. #5 seed matchups are prone for upsets. I think that can be the same this year here in the South. The Blazers have the formula you need as a high seed looking to make a deep run. They’re led by an over 20 point-per-game guard in Jordan Walker. The team’s second and third top scorers too are guards. They score the three-ball efficiently at 37.9-percent. This team is also really deep and gets a lot of help off the bench. Playing two of your most important games of the season in three days takes a lot out of players. Therefore bench scoring too is crucial. The formula too loves Houston, having them not too far behind UAB, mainly due to their lock down defense. If Houston didn’t lose their best player a few months back, they’d be a much lower seed, but as it sits, UAB may have the edge in this one.
13) Vermont Catamounts vs. 4) Arkansas Razorbacks
Vermont’s backcourt is good, very good. Led by Ryan Davis who scores over 17 points-per-game, this team also scores the ball efficiently along the way. They are the fifth best team in this tournament in field goal percentage while being in the top half in points-per-game. This team too plays some of the best defense in the tournament. Even with the strength of schedule penalty against them, they still rank in the top five in the field in both points allowed-per-game and points differential. Arkansas is a team not built for the tournament. They don’t score efficiently as they’re one of the worst in both field goal and three point differentials. They are led offensively by their guards, but efficiency is key and Arkansas does not bring much of that to the table.
10) Davidson vs. 7) Michigan State
Davidson is one of the most efficient scoring teams in the country and most certainly in this tournament. They’re fifth in three point percentage, seventh in field goal percentage and 11th in free throw percentage. We Know (Fantasy) the history of this team led by Curry, but they have a duo of guards looking to cement their names in program history. Foster Loyer and Hyunjung Lee both play over 30 minutes-per-game and both score over 16 points-per-game. A very efficient scoring group of guards with decent depth, I like their chances. Michigan State is a bland team that doesn’t have any bit of “wow factor” about them. Their leading scorer puts in just over 11 points-per-game and is the only one averaging over double-digits. They’re also a mess defensively. Not being able to keep up with the sharpshooting Wildcats should be a major concern.
14) Colgate vs. 3) Wisconsin
What I love about Colgate is that they are the deepest team statistically speaking in this field. They have the most bench-points-per-game of any team taking on the hardwood over the next month. Additionally, they rely offensively on their guards, as just South Dakota State’s guards average more points-per-game than Colgate. Colgate is led by Nelly Cummings, Max Christie and Malik Hall who each average over 12.6 points-per-game. They are also 14th in the tournament in field goal percentage. All of this is a recipe for success. Now, I’m so down on Wisconsin that they’ll probably win it all. Now, Johnny Davis and Brad Davison are ballers and put a lot of points up, but beyond them, there is not much. The team offers some of the worst field goal and three point percentages in the entire field and actually rank last in bench scoring. They’re not strong defensively either. Forcing shots is not the way to win in the tournament and the Badgers love to do that.