Jerry Sullivan’s Bracket: As usual, I’m on the lookout for sleepers

Jerry Sullivan’s Bracket: As regular, I’m looking out for sleepers

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Maintain on a second. I assumed I simply noticed a Jackrabbit operating throughout my entrance yard. Or wait, perhaps it was a Peacock, or Blue Hen. Perhaps even a Panther.

Sure, it’s that point of yr once more: March Insanity, once I see a possible NCAA Match upset in every single place I flip. They are saying males typically get extra conservative as they age. I’m the alternative. The older I get, the extra liberal I turn out to be in my obsession with sleepers, my fascination with the little man. 

I’m at all times looking out for the subsequent George Mason, Valparaiso, Florida Gulf Coast or Oral Roberts. They’re on the market. It’s a matter of discovering them. Who noticed Maryland-Baltimore County coming as the primary 16 seed to win? Who imagined Loyola Chicago attending to the Last 4 (aside from me, that’s).

It’s the enjoyment of the hunt, the seek for the subsequent David to take down one of many Goliaths from the ability conferences that rule faculty sports activities. Anybody can play the chalk and wager all of the favorites. And I do know this can be a radical notion, however it’s nonetheless attainable to take pleasure in sports activities with out having an account on DraftKings.

The Large Dance is much more enjoyable when there’s a subregional in your again yards. The NCAA tourney is again in Buffalo this yr. It’s laborious to imagine that is the seventh time. Speak about getting outdated. I bear in mind the times once I wrote longingly about the opportunity of internet hosting the primary one in downtown Buffalo. 

We don’t have any high three seeds this time, which is okay with me. As a lot as I like the massive upset, a lot of these groups win their openers in blowouts. There’s a a lot better likelihood of getting the massive upset in these 4-13 and 5-12 video games. 

We’ve two of every: Windfall-South Dakota State and Arkansas-Vermont on the 4-13 line; Iowa-Richmond and UConn-New Mexico State on the 5-12.

Historical past says we’re more likely to get a minimum of one first-round upset at KeyBank on Thursday. The No. 12 seeds have gained 35 % of their first-round video games because the tourney went to 64 groups in 1985. The No. 13s have gained 22 %. You are able to do the mathematics, however I like the percentages of us getting a minimum of one Cinderella.

Listed here are just a few suggestions for filling out your brackets. The primary, after all, is to have enjoyable and never be afraid to make some outlandish picks. 

  • The No 1. seeds are 143-1 because the area expanded to 64 groups in 1985. I feel the percentages are of a 16 successful improved barely after they went to 68 groups just a few years again and gave a few the 16s an additional sport to heat up.
  • The No. 2s are 135-9. However the 15 seeds have grown extra harmful over time. Oral Roberts gained as a 15 final yr. That makes 5 within the final 11 years: Center Tennessee in 2016; Gulf Coast in 2013; Lehigh and Norfolk State in 2012.
  • The No. 3 seeds are 122-22. Abilene Christian beat Texas a yr in the past, changing into the primary 14 to win a sport since Stephen F. Austin beat West Virginia in 2017. 
  • The No. 4 seeds are 113-31. However once more, the 13s have been on the rise. Two of them gained final yr — North Texas beat Purdue and Ohio beat Virginia. Over the past 5 tourneys, six No. 13s have gained, together with UB in 2018.
  • The No. 5 seeds are 93-51. The No. 6s are 90-54. However the 11 seeds make runs. Over the past 11 years, 9 went to the Candy 16. Two reached the Last 4 within the final three tournaments: UCLA final yr and that Loyola Chicago crew again in 2018. Syracuse acquired to the Candy 16 as an 11 seed final yr. 

Anyway, that’s sufficient historical past. Let’s transfer on to my brackets. By sleeper, I imply any crew seeded sixth or decrease that might make a deep run. 

West Area

Drew Timme of Gonzaga is launched earlier than the championship sport of the West Coast Convention basketball event (Picture by Ethan Miller/Getty Photographs)

Recreation to look at: Gonzaga-Georgia State. It’s too unhealthy Rob Lanier couldn’t have been despatched to Buffalo to teach in his hometown. It’s extra unlucky that the choice committee put his crew up towards the event’s first total seed in Portland, Ore. The Panthers are higher than a sixteenth seed. They caught hearth in January after getting 6-8 ahead Eliel Nsoseme again from a knee damage and experience a 10-game successful streak into the NCAAs. Georgia State will give the Zags a combat, however they don’t have sufficient firepower up entrance to deal with 6-10 senior Drew Timme, an old-school large man, and 7-foot freshman Chet Holmgren, who has the abilities of a guard and can go excessive within the NBA draft.

Upset Metropolis: New Mexico State over UConn. An opportunity for the nation to look in on KeyBank Middle, and for Buffalo followers to get behind the underdog and allow the drama. The Aggies gained the WAC regular-season and event titles, beating Abilene Christian within the remaining. Sure, that Abilene Christian, the one which gained as a 14 a yr in the past. Stephen F. Austin, which gained as a 14 in 2017, can also be from the WAC. Teddy Allen, a Nebraska switch who started his profession at West Virginia, leads them in scoring at 19.3 a sport. Johnny McCants, a 6-7 fifth-year ahead, is the main rebounder and shot-blocker. The Aggies play 11 guys a minimum of 10 minutes a sport, so have these scorecards prepared at KeyBank.

Sleeper: Davidson. The Tenth-seeded Wildcats can strike a blow for the Atlantic 10, which acquired solely two groups into the sector. They haven’t gained a sport within the event since 2008, when Steph Curry took them on a run to the Elite Eight — as a tenth seed. Junior guard Foster Loyer can shoot like Curry. Loyer is third within the nation in three-point share (44.5) and first in free-throw accuracy (93.3). Not surprisingly, the Wildcats are Tenth in KenPom in offensive effectivity. I may see Davidson taking out 2 seed Duke in a second-round matchup of 70-plus head coaches — Bob McKillop and the retiring Mike Krzyzewski.

It’s a reality: Rob Lanier’s son, Emory, is a reserve guard for Davidson. Jordan Glover, a Buffalo native and Park Faculty alum, is an assistant for Lanier at Georgia State. I wouldn’t financial institution on a Georgia State-Davidson regional remaining.

Candy 16: Davidson, New Mexico State, Texas Tech, Gonzaga

East Area 

Hunter Cattoor of Virginia Tech celebrates after defeating the Duke Blue Devils to win the 2022 Males’s ACC Basketball Match (Picture by Mike Stobe/Getty Photographs)

Recreation to look at: Kentucky-St. Peter’s. A traditional conflict of types. Kentucky is sixteenth within the nation in scoring. St. Peter’s, the MAAC champ, is fifth in field-goal protection and might make issues ugly. John Calipari lived off freshmen for years, then was criticized for not capitalizing on the switch craze. After the Wildcats completed 9-16 final yr, Cal introduced in three veterans from different packages: Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia), Kellan Grady (Davidson) and Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia). Tshiebwe leads the nation in rebounding (15.1) and Kentucky in scoring, blocks and steals. Wheeler is third within the nation in assists. Calipari additionally has his requisite star freshman, TyTy Washington, who’s second on the crew in scoring.

Upset Metropolis: Virginia Tech over Texas. This might be everybody’s stylish upset. Why not? Virginia Tech has gained 13 of 15 and comes off a rousing run to the ACC Match title, drilling Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke alongside the way in which. That hardly feels like a typical 11 seed. Conversely, Texas has misplaced 5 of eight and appears overseeded. The Hokies have a veteran, balanced squad, led by 6-9 senior Keve Aluma, an inside-outside risk who led them in scoring at 15.8 factors a sport, and 6-3 junior guard Hunter Cattoor, who sank seven threes and scored a season-high 31 factors within the ACC remaining towards Duke. St. Bonaventure can attest to the Hokies’ expertise. They misplaced to them by 37 in December.

Sleeper: Murray State. Three years after introducing Ja Morant to the nation in a first-round NCAA upset, the Racers completed 30-2 and have become the primary crew to go unbeaten within the Ohio Valley common season. They performed a reasonably straightforward schedule, however it’s not straightforward getting video games with the ability faculties. Mike McMahon has a deep, bodily squad was sixth within the nation in rebound margin and twenty second in field-goal share. Okay.J. Williams, a 6-10 junior, averaged 18.2 factors and eight.6 boards and was participant of the yr within the Valley. Tevin Brown, like Williams a fourth-year junior, averages 16.9 factors. It seems like a battle for state bragging rights in Kentucky within the second spherical in Indianapolis.

It’s a reality: One among Murray State’s two losses was in November towards East Tennessee State, which went 15-17 in its first yr below Buffalo native Desmond Oliver. The opposite loss was to Auburn, a 2 seed within the Midwest.

Candy 16: Baylor, St. Mary’s, Kentucky, Virginia Tech.

South Area

Loyola Ramblers crew chaplain Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt seems on earlier than the 2018 NCAA Males’s Last 4 Semifinal (Picture by Ronald Martinez/Getty Photographs)

Recreation to look at: UAB-Houston. One other distinction in types. Alabama-Birmingham is sixth within the nation in scoring at 80.7 a sport. Guard Jordan “Jelly” Walker is second within the nation in made threes. Walker is certainly one of many well-traveled NCAA stars. He performed beforehand at Seton Corridor and Tulane. Houston, which reached the Last 4 a yr in the past, leads the nation in field-goal protection (37.3) and is fourth in scoring protection. The Cougars gained the AAC regular-season and tourney titles below Kelvin Sampson, regardless of shedding main scorer Marcus Sasser to damage. However UAB, the Convention USA tourney champion, has gained seven in a row and has just one loss all season by greater than six factors. 

Upset Metropolis: Chattanooga over Illinois. The Illini misplaced as a No. 1 seed to Loyola within the Spherical of 32 final yr. The Mocs (27-7) might be driving excessive after successful the Southern Convention event on a 30-footer on the buzzer by David Jean-Baptiste. Guard Malachi Smith, the SoCon participant of the yr, averages 20.1 factors, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals. He shoots 51 % from the sector and 42 % from three. The Mocs are twentieth within the nation in offensive effectivity. I don’t perceive it; I belief the numbers. Chattanooga was the final 14th seed to succeed in the Candy 16, method again in 1997. By the way in which, a Moc is a fiercely territorial creature which shield its dwelling with braveness, willpower and talent. 

Sleeper: Loyola Chicago. I don’t know after they eliminated the ‘of’ from the college identify. All I do know is that they’re my favourite sleeper ever. The Ramblers acquired me to the Last 4 in 2018 and the Candy 16 a yr in the past. Perhaps it’s chaplain Sister Jean, nonetheless going sturdy at 102. They continue to be harmful below first-year coach Drew Valentine, who is barely 30. Loyola is Tenth within the nation in three-point share and has loads of expertise. That features main scorer Lucas Williamson, a fifth-year senior who was a key reserve on the ’18 Last 4 crew. They’ll actually beat Ohio State, which was upset as a No. 2 seed by Oral Roberts a yr in the past. Are you choosing up on my lack of regard for the Large Ten?

It’s a reality: Delaware head coach Martin Ingelsby is the son of Tom Ingelsby, who was a guard on the Villanova crew that made the 1971 Last 4. His brother, Brad, wrote “Mare of Easttown”, the HBO sequence wherein Kate Winslet performed a detective who was a former highschool basketball star. 

Candy 16: Arizona, UAB, Tennessee, Loyola Chicago. 

Midwest Area

Keegan Murray of Iowa reacts after a play within the sport towards Purdue through the second half of the Large Ten Championship (Picture by Justin Casterline/Getty Photographs)

Recreation to Watch: Iowa-Richmond. An opportunity for Buffalo hoop followers to look at Iowa sophomore Keegan Murray, a 6-9 ahead who will possible be taken close to the highest of the subsequent NBA draft. Murray is fourth within the nation in scoring at 23.7 a sport. He averages 6.6 rebounds and shoots 56 %. He’s an elite defender and passer. Sounds NBA-ready to me. Patrick McCaffery averages 10.3 factors for his dad, coach Fran McCaffery, who has but to succeed in the Candy 16 in 12 years at Iowa. Richmond is within the Dance for the primary time since 2011, when the Spiders acquired to the Candy 16 as a twelfth seed. Guard Jacob Gilyard, who scored 26 factors towards Davidson within the A-10 title sport, leads the nation in steals. 

Upset Metropolis: South Dakota State over Windfall. One other upset risk in Buffalo. This kills me as a Rhode Islander who grew up worshiping the Friars within the days of Jimmy Walker and Ernie DiGregorio. However this PC crew is overseeded at 4. The Jackrabbits are second within the land in scoring behind Gonzaga. They went 18-0 within the Summit and shot 44.9 % from three, the very best of any crew since ‘93-94 Indiana. They’ve three guys (Doug Wilson, Baylor Scheierman, Zeke Mayo) who shoot over 40 % from deep. Nonetheless, PC is an skilled, deep crew that gained 25 video games, probably the most because the Friars’ 1987 Last 4 crew. Perhaps they’re a type of modern upset victims that defy the consultants.

Sleeper: Miami. I forgot to say Jim Larranaga, one other Windfall star I rooted for as a child. He’s turn out to be among the finest coaches within the nation. Who may neglect his George Mason crew making that Last 4 run in 2006? By no means rely this man out in March. The Hurricanes are a sensible, veteran crew that shoots properly and is eleventh nationally in turnover margin. They’re by no means out of a sport. Six of their final seven losses had been by 4 factors or much less. Kameron McGusty (17.6 ppg), Isaiah Wong (15.2ppg) and Jordan Miller (10.2 pgg) are large guards who can create issues within the lane. Miller, who spent his first three seasons at George Mason, is capturing 73 % in his final 4 video games.

It’s a reality: Iowa’s McCaffery was the final coach to guide a MAAC faculty to victory within the NCAA Match. He did it at Siena, which gained a first-round sport in each 2008 (as a 13 seed over Vanderbilt) and 2009 (as a 9 over Ohio State).

Candy 16: Iowa, Kansas, LSU, Miami.


Last 4: Texas Tech, Kentucky, Tennessee, Miami.

Nationwide semifinals: Kentucky over Texas Tech, Tennessee over Miami.

Nationwide championship: Kentucky over Tennessee.

Jerry Sullivan is an award-winning journalist who joined the Minus Better crew in 2020 after three many years as a sports activities columnist at The Buffalo Information. See extra of his work right here.