Most experts have projected that high seeds will advance to the Final Four. However, there’s a good chance that one or two longshots will win four straight games and make their way past the Elite Eight.
Last year, Wichita State was the biggest story of March Madness, reaching the Final Four as a No.9 seed. In 2011, Bulter and VCU did the same, as No.8 and No.9 seeds, respectively.
What underdog teams have the best chance of reaching the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Tournament? Here are three teams that could surprise experts by advancing to Dallas in April.
The Bluejays have never advanced past the Sweet Sixteen. This year, the club has a legitimate chance to make school history. No.3 seed Creighton had a strong regular season, finishing second in the Big East. The club also showed it can stand toe-to-toe with top competition, defeating No.2 seed Villanova twice.
Most importantly, the team is almost certain to have the best player on the court in every game. Doug McDermott might not be projected to be a star NBA player, but he’s the best scorer in college basketball this season (26.9 points per game). A terrific shooter, the head coach's son has converted 52.5 percent of his field goals attempts and 45.4 percent of his three-point shots. At 6’8, his size and explosiveness make him very difficult to stop. If any one player can carry their team to the Final Four, it might be McDermott.
The Wildcats are a No.8 seed, but they might have as much talent as any team in the tournament. Kentucky entered the season with five of the nation’s top 10 recruits, and while a No.1 ranking in the preseason may have been premature, the class of freshmen are finally learning how to play together.
With 34 games under their belt, the Wildcats are starting to look like a team that can compete with the best the nation has to offer. They nearly won the SEC Tournament, falling to No.1 Florida by just one point in the championship game. As the No.8 seed, Kentucky will almost certainly play the No.1 seed in the third round. However, John Calipari's squad will face Wichita State, who hasn’t played a ranked team all season. Kentucky should be well-prepared when going up against top competition, having faced seven ranked opponents.
Connecticut’s chances of reaching the Final Four might not have been nearly as good in another region. However, the selection committee put UConn in the East, which appears to be the weakest region in the field. Virginia has the most losses of any No.1 seed, with six defeats. No.2 seed Villanova lost to lowly Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament, and went just 2-2 against ranked opponents.
If the Huskies can make it to the Sweet Sixteen, they could have quite the home-court advantage at Madison Square Garden. Senior point guard Shabazz Napier has the ability to carry the team with a few big scoring games, and he could lead the Huskies to their first Final Four since Jim Calhoun’s retirement.