Every NCAA Tournament bracket buster must start with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.
In 2018, the Ramblers introduced the rest of the world to Sister Jean with a Final Four run. Last season, Loyola-Chicago struck again with a Sweet 16 run that knocked out tournament favorite Illinois in the second round.
The Ramblers are back, with first-year coach Drew Valentine, and with three senior starters and a been-there, done-that appeal they will be a popular pick as a No. 10 seed to knock off No. 7 Ohio State in the first round. The Ramblers would have a possible matchup with Villanova from there.
Last year's tournament saw a double-digit team in UCLA make a run to the Final Four. Who are the bracket busters in 2022 other than the usual with Sister Jean and Loyola? We take a closer look:
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Best bets to reach Sweet 16
South Dakota State (30-4)
The Jackrabbits didn't lose a game in Summit League play and ranked second in the nation with 86.7 points per game. That means South Dakota State will likely be the most-popular team seeded No. 13 or lower to pull a first-round upset given the way the committee slipped Providence to a No. Broward Seahawks shirt 4 seed. Guard Baylor Scheirman (16.2 ppg.) and forward Douglas Wilson (16.5 ppg.) are a great inside-outside connection, and a potential second-round matchup with No. 5 Alabama vs. Auburn Rivalry Jerseys Iowa could be the most-entertaining game of the first weekend.
Who else would you pick? The Ramblers have become the face of first-round mayhem in their last two tournaments, and they have experience. Four of Loyola's top six scorers are seniors, led by Lucas Williamson (14.0 ppg.). Ohio State has been inconsistent all season and lost to Oral Roberts in the first round last season. Loyola would have a tough second-round out against Villanova, but that's a game the Ramblers coul Columbia Renegades clothes d win.
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Other sleepers who could pull off upsets
Murray State (30-2)
Any team that wins 30 games must be taken seriously in the tournament, and the Racers have three big-time scorers in K.J. Williams (18.2 ppg.), Tevin Brown (16.9 ppg.) and Justice Hill (13.2 WVU vs. Pitt Rivalry Jerseys ppg.) Williams is a 6-10, 245-pound forward who averages 8.6 rebounds. The Racers are a No. 7 seed now, so it's hard to call them a true bracket buster. But we are eyeing that second-round matchup with Kentucky, and that could be a doozy in the Bluegrass State.
Here is that 5-12 upset everyone loves to single out. The Blazers won seven straight games under coach Andy Kennedy to close the season, and they can score at 80.7 points per game. Jordan Walker averages 20.4 ppg. and is shooting 40.7% from three-point range. He averaged 31 points per game in the Conference-USA tournament. Houston is a tall challenge, but UAB could certainly make it interesting.
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The Mocs are in the same pod as UAB, and they are a No. 13 seed that offers a lot to like heading into a matchup with No. 4 Illinois. Malachi Smith (20.1 ppg.) is an all-around stud at guard. They are a good complimentary basketball team that can challenge an Illini team that lost three of its last seven games, including a Big Ten quarterfinal loss against Indiana.
Colgate threw a scare into Tennessee in 2019 and they are fully capable of doing the same to No. 3 seed Wisconsin in the Midwest Region. With rising coach Matt Langel, the Raiders have won 15 straight games and they have five starters who average double figures. Colgate also ranks second in the nation at 40.3% in three-point percentage. If the shots fall against the Badgers, then this could happen.
HISTORY OF UPSETS BY SEED:
15 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5
Montana State (27-7)
We would like the Bobcats if not for a rough matchup against No. 3 seed Texas Tech. Montana State is hot with six straight victories, and it starts with 5-8 guard Xavier Bishop, who averages 13.9 points and 4.4 assists. Texas Tech has a tough defensive team that allows just 60.3 points per game, which is going to make it tough. This is a long-shot but worth a look.
Jacksonville State (21-10)
Of the No. 15 seeds, this is the team most-likely pull of a miracle. The Gamecocks are in despite not winning the Atlantic Sun tournament, and that could energize a Columbia College of Missouri Cougars clothes team that ranks sixth in the nation in three-point percentage at 38.8%. Senior Darian Adams is the team leader with 15.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, and this isn't the first tournament appearance for coach Ray Harper. They will be ready for No. 2 Auburn, who has struggled down the stretch.
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