Below we will examine one team from each region that could flip the script, bust the brackets and surprise us all by becoming the Cinderella story in our NCAA Men’s Basketball picks.
I submit to you that if any team but Kentucky gets to the Final Four out of the Midwest then you can consider that a bona fide upset because as of this writing the Wildcats are installed as 6-5 betting favorites in NCAA Tournament odds to win the tournament and maintain their pristine record. Therefore, let’s take a leap into the rabbit hole and see what we can see.
I tried to make a case for a team in the bottom of the Midwest bracket that wouldn’t have to meet Kentucky until the bitter end but alas, even #2 seeded Kansas doesn’t strike me as a team that could compete particularly when you consider the fact that the Wildcats thoroughly dismantled them 72-40 earlier in the season. I know it was a million years ago in relative terms but that kind of a beating sticks with a team and I doubt they could get over that emotional hurdle not to mention the physical aspect of playing a tower of power like Kentucky. Therefore, I will throw caution to the wind and predict that the Maryland Terrapins have the best shot at upending the Cats and getting into the Final Four from the Midwest region.
The Terps did drop a close one at home to Tom Izzo’s Spartans at the end of the season but their victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, a top seed coming out of the West region, as 5 ½ point home dogs impressed me to no end. This is a team that could surprise and if they get by the Wildcats the Final Four is in their sights.
Dark Horse: Maryland 66-1
I am not sold on Villanova as the top seed in the East so I will turn my attention to another team that could make it to the Final Four and it wouldn’t shock me. I speak of the Louisville Cardinals and their head coach the illustrious Rick Pitino. I realize Pitino is a polarizing personality but you can’t argue with his results.
This season’s Louisville Cardinals may not have the panache of some previous editions but they looked fierce in taking down Virginia 59-57 and avenging a loss to the Cavaliers earlier in the season. You could do much worse than betting Louisville at 66-1 in NCAA basketball odds.
Dark Horse: Louisville 66-1
This is kind of a “pick your poison” region if you’re seeking a dark horse because on the top of the region you have top seed Wisconsin and at the bottom there is the silky smooth Arizona Wildcats. But if we have to take a flier on a longshot to cash big then why not #4 seed North Carolina at 40-1 in NCAA basketball odds?
The Tar Heels certainly have the legacy and the pedigree to get the job done and their opening matchup against the boys from Harvard should be a breeze. They would then most likely face Arkansas before squaring up against the big bullies of the West region, the Wisconsin Badgers. I say if the Heels can get by Wisconsin then anything is possible.
Dark Horse: North Carolina 40-1
The perennial powerhouse Duke Blue Devils is the cream of the crop in the South region but they’re no Kentucky, at least not this season. So if we are to look elsewhere for a school to emerge as a Cinderella story in this region then look no further than the Iowa Hawkeyes. The seventh seed and 200-1 favorite to win the NCAA Tournament according to Bovada.com will have to get by a sharpshooting Davidson team in the opening round and will most likely have Gonzaga to deal with after that. Sure it is a long road to hoe but the Hawkeyes are a tough rebounding team and rattled off six consecutive victories down the home stretch of the season before they were shocked at home as 8 ½ point betting favorites against a game Penn State.
Perhaps I like this dark horse more than others in the region because I just don’t trust Gonzaga as a number two seed and see Iowa’s road to the Final Four a bit easier because of it, so I'm taking them with my NCAA tournament picks.
Dark Horse: Iowa 200-1