Trying to fill out your March Madness bracket? Be wary of these five teams that could torch that work of art by busting it with a shocking result.
The March Madness bracket is officially out and the challenge of picking all 63 games correctly is one that proves nigh-impossible to achieve. The thrill of examining 32 matchups with plenty of possibilities for how the whole NCAA Tournament could play out is intense but all of your hard work can go up in smoke with a big upset or two.
While the debate over potential snubs lasts for a day or two, the discussion of which 12-seed can beat a 5 rages until the first ball is tipped on Thursday afternoon. Watching the games during the regular season helps to a degree but anything can happen in the span of 40 minutes of a March Madness game.
Before you grab a pencil and start working on your bracket, take a closer look at these five teams that have the potential to bust your bracket in more ways than one. Let’s start with one potential 4-13 upset by looking at the Chattanooga Mocs.
5. March Madness teams that will bust brackets – Chattanooga Mocs
Considering the chaos of this college basketball season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet 16 with ease. The top candidate in that department on the mid-major level is Chattanooga, which won a good Southern Conference in the regular season and followed it up by securing the SoCon’s automatic bid in the conference tournament.
The Mocs are battle-tested and have an electric offense that averages just under 75 points per game. Guard Malachi Smith can be a difference-maker as well, averaging 20.1 points per game, while Kansas transfer Silvio De Sousa adds some March Madness experience in the post.
Chattanooga has a good shot to take down Illinois, which has had issues with consistency all year long, and could draw an overrated Houston team in the Round of 32 that is down two of its best players for the season. Keep an eye on the Mocs as they could advance into the second weekend and bust your bracket in the process.
4. March Madness teams that will bust brackets – Alabama Crimson Tide
You might want to pour a stiff drink when trying to figure out how far to advance Alabama in your bracket. Nate Oats’ team entered the year as a preseason Top 25 team and has been one of the most frighteningly inconsistent teams in the sport ever since.
There have been incredibly high highs for Alabama, which upset Gonzaga in Seattle, knocked off Houston at home, and scored huge victories against SEC foes like Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU. The Crimson Tide have also shown they can lose to anyone as well, falling to the likes of Iona, Davidson, Missouri and Georgia before getting upset by Vanderbilt in their first SEC Tournament game.
A good indicator of how the Crimson Tide will do on a given day is looking at their three-point percentages. If Alabama is knocking down its perimeter shots they are very hard to beat but that is a skill set that can vary wildly from game to game.
It feels like the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee trolled us by pitting Alabama against a First Four winner in the Round of 64 before a potential showdown against Texas Tech in the Round of 32. The Crimson Tide could lose to Rutgers or get all the way to the Elite Eight. Good luck trying to figure out which version of Alabama shows up in March.
3. March Madness teams that will bust brackets – UCLA Bruins
There is a lot to like on paper when it comes to UCLA. Mick Cronin’s team returned pretty much everyone from last season’s Final Four team and added Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson to their interior, leading to a No. 2 ranking in the preseason polls.
The Bruins then got off to a hot start before getting blown out by Gonzaga in Las Vegas, went on an extended COVID pause in December, beat Arizona at home, and then proceeded to slide down the polls by dropping three out of four in February. It looked like UCLA righted the ship down the stretch and gave Arizona everything they could handle in the Pac-12 title game before losing late, teasing everyone with the Final Four upside we saw in the preseason.
The scary thing about trying to project UCLA’s March Madness path is that the Bruins can seemingly lose focus at any moment, which could lead to them getting picked off by an inferior opponent over the course of 40 minutes. The Bruins also have a potentially tough Round of 32 draw against a scary Saint Mary’s team that loves to bog down the pace and plays rugged defense, a formula they used to knock off Gonzaga in the regular-season finale.
The talent level and the fact that UCLA is in the weakest region makes them a tempting Final Four pick if you’re looking to go against the chalk. The Bruins’ overall performance makes it more likely they get bounced early and ruin your bracket if you try that approach.
2. March Madness teams that will bust brackets – Providence Friars
Providence fits the mold of a classic March Madness team that should do well in the NCAA Tournament. Ed Cooley’s team doesn’t have a true one-and-done superstar like Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren but the Friars are loaded with experienced veterans that have found ways to win all season long.
Famously rated as one of the luckiest teams in the history of college basketball by KenPom, the Friars have made a routine of grinding out close wins throughout the regular season. It is also fair to say that some of Providence’s best wins have come with asterisks, such as beating Wisconsin without Johnny Davis or UCONN minus Adama Sanogo.
The Big East regular season crown and lofty record do have Providence in line for a 4-seed in the Midwest Region, where they will have to slow down high-scoring offenses like South Dakota State and Iowa to reach the Sweet 16. The concern here is that the Friars have looked mortal down the stretch, getting swept by Villanova and blown out by Creighton in the Big East Tournament semifinals.
Even though there is plenty of evidence that this Friars’ team simply knows how to win, the odds are that their true talent level will get exposed in March Madness. Picking Providence to go far will leave your bracket in pieces by the end of the first weekend.
1. March Madness teams that will bust brackets – Virginia Tech Hokies
It feels rare to see a bid-thief come out of a power conference but Virginia Tech pulled off the feat in Brooklyn. The Hokies were not going to make the field before they showed up at the Barclays Center last week and beat Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke on three consecutive days to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
That performance isn’t surprising to anyone who follows predictive metrics, which have consistently rated Virginia Tech higher than their record and resume would warrant. A slew of bad losses early in the season and a middling performance in a down ACC left the Hokies in need of the auto-bid to get in, which they grabbed in scary fashion.
The selection committee set up Virginia Tech as an 11-seed in the East Region and they will start off against a Texas team that has had trouble delivering consistent performances away from Austin all season long. Big Ten runner-up Purdue would be waiting for the Hokies in the Round of 32 in a track meet since the Boilermakers have had tremendous issues on defense all season long.
That path is a viable one for Virginia Tech to reach the Sweet 16, an outcome no one saw as remotely possible just seven days ago. Do plenty of homework on the Hokies as they are the top team that could ruin brackets this March.
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