The best part of the NCAA Tournament might be the Cinderella teams that make a run and pull off shocking upsets. Most lose once they make it to the second weekend, but a few sleepers do have an outside chance to reach the Final Four in March Madness 2017.
It might not be smart to take low seeded teams when making Final Four predictions for your bracket, but there always seems to be at least one that wins their respective region. Last year it was No.10 seeded Syracuse, and Michigan State won their region in 2015 as a No.7 seed. Since 2011, seven teams seeded No.7 or lower have gone on to reach the Final Four.
Without any overly dominant teams in the field of 68 in 2017, history is likely to repeat itself. Let’s take a look at the sleeper in each region that has the best chance to reach the Final Four.
For the sake of this article, a Final Four sleeper can’t be higher than a No.7 seed.
No.8 Wisconsin (East)
The Badgers are a team that knows how to get it done in March Madness. They reached the Sweet 16 last season after making two straight Final Four appearances, and while the team has changed over the years, four of their top five scorers are seniors. That experience will benefit them when they try to win multiple games as underdogs.
Wisconsin has the talent level to be seeded much higher than No.8, though their place in the tournament was affected when they lost five out of six games just prior to the Big Ten Tournament. They rebounded nicely by making it to the Big Ten Championship Game, and they’ll be a problem for the rest of the region if Bronson Koenig gets hot from the three-point line.
No.11 Xavier (West)
There seems to be little debate that the West is the weakest region in the bracket, providing the opportunity for a sleeper to make a deep run. The Musketeers weren’t particularly impressive in the regular season, but their potential draw gives them a real shot to at least make the Sweet 16. They are favored over No.6 Maryland in the first round, and they might have a second-round matchup with No.14 FGCU, who some experts are picking to upset No.3 Florida State. Xavier had an impressive win over Butler in the Big East Tournament, and they seem to have recovered from their six-game losing streak in February.
Gonzaga might be the most vulnerable No.1 seed in the field, and No.2 Arizona might be Xavier’s toughest test. If junior guard Trevon Bluiett is on, he can lead the Musketeers on a memorable run.
No.8 Miami (Midwest)
The Hurricanes didn’t improve their seeding in the tournament with the way they finished the season. Miami lost three of their last four games, and their only victory came against a team that failed to reach the Big Dance. That could force some to overlook a team that can do some real damage in the Midwest region.
Miami has proven on multiple occasions that they can beat anyone in the country. They have wins over both Duke and North Carolina, who are the favorites to win the national title. That means the Hurricanes certainly have what it takes to win a second-round matchup against No.1 Kansas, who has a history of underachieving in March Madness. The Jayhawks failed to reach the Final Four five out of six times as a top seed under Bill Self, and they are one of a few teams that could have trouble against Miami’s experienced backcourt.
No.10 Wichita State (South)
The Shockers aren’t exactly a sleeper in the most traditional sense. They are heavy favorites over No.7 Dayton in their first-round matchup, and many experts agree that they weren’t seeded properly. Still, 20 teams have better national championship odds than Wichita State and they aren’t expected to win four straight games and reach the Final Four.
Wichita State has such low title odds because of their path to the Final Four and their weak regular-season schedule, but that might not prevent them from going far in the tournament. No.2 Kentucky, whom the Shockers would likely meet in the second round, is certainly beatable. Wichita State will always have a weak schedule in the Missouri Valley Conference, but don’t let that fool you. They’ve joined Gonzaga as the mid-major that can play with the top conferences each year, having put together seven straight 25-win seasons.