Final Four Longshots

Final Four Longshots

Vegas bookmakers and pundits will suggest that Florida, Michigan State, and Louisville are the teams to back when filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket. Odds are that’s the smart play, but recent history tells us there is a decent chance a so-called “Cinderella” advances to the Final Four. Since 2010, the likes of Butler, VCU, and Wichita State have found themselves playing on college basketball’s biggest stage. Here are some longshots to consider in the 2014 field.

North Carolina 75/1 – Prior to stumbling down the stretch, the Tar Heels had won twelve in a row, including victories over Duke, Pitt, and two against NC State. Roy Williams’ squad is at its best when no one is talking about them. They beat tournament favorite Michigan State and gave Louisville fits. Sophomore Marcus Paige is a streaky scorer, but when his shot is falling, the Heels can hang with anyone. The key player is forward James Michael McAdoo, who is prone to foul trouble and lapses in concentration; if he remains focused and crashes the glass, UNC could make noise in the East.

VCU 100/1 – Shaka Smart is no stranger to March Madness. He took the Rams to the Final Four in 2011, and appears to have another roster capable of inflicting damage. Treveon Graham can score, Juvonte Reddic can rebound, and Briante Weber averages 3.4 steals per game on a team that leads the country in steals. However, a tough Stephen F. Austin team awaits in the opening round, and future dates with UCLA and Florida means the road will be a bumpy one for VCU.

Baylor 100/1 – The Bears struggled against Top 25 competition this season, but they should be battle-tested after facing ten tournament teams. The inside foursome of Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin, Royce O’Neale, and Rico Gathers presents matchup difficulties for smaller opponents. A showdown with Doug McDermott and Creighton in the third-round would be an interesting contrast in styles. If they get hot, the lower half of the South region could be Baylor’s for the taking.

Connecticut 100/1 – The Huskies were the last team to beat Florida. In addition to that feat, they also beat Memphis three times and Cincinnati twice. On the negative side, tourney snub SMU dropped them twice and defending champion Louisville defeated them three times by double-digits. Shabazz Napier is a do-it-all player, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals. If he gets help from DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright, UCONN is dangerous. A potential meeting with former Big East foe Villanova in the Round of 32 would be epic.

George Washington 500/1 – The Colonials are a serious longshot, but they do have victories over Creighton, VCU, UMASS, and Saint Joseph’s on their resume. Senior guard Maurice Creek is a deadly three-point sniper and forward Isaiah Armwood is a tenacious rebounder. If they can dispose of a talented, veteran Memphis team in the second-round, a showdown with top seed Virginia awaits. Knocking off the Cavs is a tall order, but the ACC champ’s slow-it-down style makes them vulnerable to upset.