Butler, VCU, and Wichita State have all shocked the basketball world in recent years. And anybody who bet on these teams multiple times during their runs made a lot of money.
Who are the Cinderellas that you can count on in the 2017 NCAA Tournament? Let’s look at 5 double-digit seeds that have an opportunity to make some serious noise – and will win you some bets!
1. Nevada, 28-6; No 12 seed in Midwest
Round 1 Opponent: No. 5 Iowa State
Round 1 Betting Line: Iowa State -6; Nevada +6
The Wolf Pack aren’t going to lock down opponents with their defense. But what they do better than most teams is score, pouring in 1.14 points per possession (PPP). Another unique aspect of Nevada is that they play their starters as much as possible. Coach Eric Musselman prepared them for this by running 5-minute drills during preseason practices, which has helped the starters endure the grueling minutes.
Getting into the stats, this team hits 39% from beyond the arc, led by 6’6″ guard DJ Fenner’s 43.5% shooting. This makes them a dangerous matchup for any higher seed if they get hot.
Nevada will make things difficult for Iowa State (23-10) because the latter excels at limiting second-chance points and playing tough interior defense. Furthermore, the Wolf Pack don’t commit many turnovers, which is bad for the Cyclones because they don’t force many either.
Looking ahead, if Nevada and No. 4 Purdue (faces Vermont) win, the Boilermakers are similar to Iowa State, meaning the first two rounds play into the hands of the Wolf Pack.
2. Wichita State, 30-4, No. 10 seed in South Regional
Round 1 Opponent: No. 7 Dayton
Round 1 Betting Line: Dayton -6; Wichita State +6
We don’t see a bigger mismatch among the No. 7/No. 10 games in the tournament. Even if the Shockers don’t win, you’ll get great value from them at +6 in our GTBets’ lines. In all honesty, Wichita State could’ve been as high as a No. 5 seed, but they lost a couple of key non-conference games against Michigan State (19-14) and Illinois State (27-6).
Based on strength of schedule, Wichita ranked 19th in defensive efficiency. So even when they’re not hitting from the field, the Shockers have a good chance to win.
Another area where WSU is good is the offensive glass because they grab 34.1% of their misses. Combine this with the fact that they can still get back in transition defense – teams are converting just 46.3% of shots within the first 10 seconds – and this team is solid in several important areas.
This by no means guarantees victory over Dayton (24-7), which is also playing solid basketball right now. And the bad thing about Wichita State’s Cinderella potential is that they’d face a talented Kentucky (29-5) squad in the second round. Even still, the Shockers have the experience and talent to go deep.
3. Princeton, 23-6; No. 12 seed in East Regional
Round 1 Opponent: No. 5 Notre Dame
Round 1 Betting Line: Notre Dame -6.5; Princeton +6.5
Compounding problems for Notre Dame is that Princeton allows just 0.96 points per possession, which is the best in Mitch Henderson’s coaching career. They not only limit opponents’ second-chance points, but also force turnovers on 20% of opposing posessions.
Another thing that the Tigers do well is take advantage of mismatches in the halfcourt. There may not be many of these against Notre Dame, but if there are any, Princeton will find them.
If Princeton advances, they’ll face either No. 4 West Virginia or No. 13 Bucknell – with the latter actually having a chance in the first round. If it’s Bucknell, watch out because the Bison don’t turn the ball over much and are methodical on offense.
4. Rhode Island, 24-9; No. 11 seed in Midwest Regional
Round 1 Opponent: No. 6 Creighton
Round 1 Betting Line: Creighton 0: Rhode Island 0
Danny Hurley’s team is great at defense, holding opposing schools to just 0.95 points per possession. The Rams are all over on the defensive end, forcing opponents away from the three-point line, and getting a hand in anybody’s face who does shoot from deep. Assuming teams take it into the paint, Kuran Iverson (1.3 blocks) and Hassan Martin (2.6 blocks) are there to force tough shots.
The one thing that Rhode Island needs to shore up is second-chance points, given that they allowed VCU to grab 23 offensive boards in the A-10 championship game. But thanks to the defense of Iverson and Martin, the Commodores also converted just 20 percent of these chances.
As if the Rams’ defense isn’t already reason enough to bet on them, they’ll get help from injuries to early round opponents. Creighton (25-9) has been without guard Mo Watson (12.9 PPG) for weeks. If the Rams advance, they could face an Oregon (29-5) team who lost forward Chris Boucher (11.8 PPG) to a torn ACL.
5. East Tennessee State, 27-7; No. 13 Seed in East Regional
Round 1 Opponent: No. 4 Florida
Round 1 Betting Line: Florida -10; East Tennessee +10
This is the biggest discrepancy on this list in terms of GTBets’ betting lines. Given the Cinderella potential, we think the Buccaneers are a great bet to cover the spread against Florida, if nothing else. Steve Forbes’ team does an excellent job of forcing turnovers at a high rate (22%), and they’re good at limiting second-chance opportunities. Finally, ESU holds opponents to just 52% shooting at the rim.
The biggest downside to the Bucs is that they’re not strong at three-point defense, allowing opponents to hit nearly 40% from beyond the arc. This could be a problem because Florida, and potential second-round opponents Virginia and UNC Wilmington, all shoot around 38% from three-point range.
But on the plus side, East Tennessee State does hold opposing teams to 45% shooting within the arc. Provided they can chase opponents off the three-point line, then they have a strong chance at a Sweet 16 run.