Dust off your crystal balls and shine them up for all they're worth, because there's another batch of sneaky teams pining to bust brackets in this year's NCAA tournament.
One of the toughest parts about picking an NCAA tournament bracket every year is trying to pinpoint upsets, and this season is no different. Before you go ahead and lean on all the favorites, however, there are a few programs to consider penciling deeper into the tournament than you may intend to.
Marshall's last NCAA tournament appearance came all the way back in 1987, so needless to say, the Thundering Herd will be looking to make the most of their opportunity, and they may just have the skill set to make some noise. Marshall is known for its high-volume scoring and has averaged the 10th-highest point total, with the bulk of the offense running through the guard tandem of Jon Elmore (22.8 points per game) and C.J. Burks (20.5). The impact of Ajdin Penava cannot be overlooked either, as the junior leads the country in average blocks with a ridiculous 4.06. If you're looking for a team on a roll that can get hot in the blink of an eye, the Thundering Herd will certainly take every opportunity to put shots up.
St. Bonaventure will have to play one extra game just to reach the round of 64, but that disadvantage could be turned into a strength with a strong showing against UCLA. If St. Bonaventure can go into its potential matchup with Florida with some wind in its sails, it can use its 39.8 3-point percentage (T-20th) to take advantage of a Gators defense that has allowed opponents to score on 35.7 percent of their 3-point attempts (231st). It can be argued that there are no real significant threats other than Villanova, and perhaps Purdue, to make a deep push in the tournament, so St. Bonaventure could be a team that surprises a lot of people depending how later matchups pan out.
Perhaps no underdog team has a more impressive resume of victories than Providence, and if there was any doubt as to whether the Friars could stack important wins on top of one another, the Big East tournament erased all of it. The Friars defeated Creighton in the opening round of the tournament, and put everyone on notice when it toppled Xavier to reach the tournament finals. The Friars don't own just one victory against a No. 1 tournament seed, however, as they also defeated the Musketeers earlier in the season, and added a win over Villanova to boot. Any team that believes it can defeat any program on any given night is a force to be reckoned with, and Ed Cooley's boys have about as much to back that up as any team in the nation.
New Mexico State
New Mexico State may just be another mid-major program to some fans, but it has played a consistent level of ball this season that warrants consideration as a bracket destroyer. The Aggies are ranked among the nation's elite in both rebounding and points allowed, and those two strengths could bode well for a deep tournament push with teams like Clemson and Auburn on their immediate horizon. The legend of the 5-12 upset could be alive and well Thursday, and the Aggies may just decide to keep on dancing in their glass shoes.
Stephen F. Austin
The East region holds arguably the most opportunity for a mid-major team to make a big splash, and Stephen F. Austin is in a prime position to do just that. The Lumberjacks are no strangers to crushing dreams in the round of 64, having defeated VCU in 2014 and West Virginia in 2016. Not only has Stephen F. Austin averaged over 80 points per contest this season, but it leads the nation in steals with 10.3 and boasts a 37.2 3-point percentage as well. Those are some scary statistics considering a team's fate can be sealed seemingly on a whim during crunch time.
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