As the 2023 NCAA Tournament approaches, three mid-major teams with over 30 wins this season are gaining attention for their potential to disrupt brackets: Florida Atlantic, Oral Roberts, and Charleston. Their impressive win records and first-round matchups make them prime candidates for potential upsets.
Florida Atlantic (31-3) enters as a No. 9 seed and Conference-USA champions, returning to the tournament for the first time since 2002. Despite not being a traditional Cinderella team, they face a challenging matchup against No. 8 Memphis. Oral Roberts (30-4), a Summit League team, is no stranger to the tournament, having made a Sweet 16 run in 2021 as a No. 15 seed. With key players returning, they’re poised for another run. Charleston (31-3) had an outstanding season in the CAA and is back in the tournament for the first time since 2018.
Over the last ten seasons, 12 teams with 30 or more wins from non-major conferences (excluding Gonzaga) have made the Big Dance, posting a 10-2 first-round record. Three of those teams, Stephen F. Austin (2014), Middle Tennessee State (2017), and UC-Irvine (2019), won as double-digit seeds.
With a trend of four double-digit seeds making the Sweet 16 in each of the last two seasons, it’s essential to keep an eye on other potential bracket busters:
- VCU (27-7): The Atlantic-10 champions are undervalued as a No. 12 seed. Their full-court press and strong defense led by guard Ace Baldwin and forward Brandon Johns could propel them on a Sweet 16 run.
- Charleston (31-3): Led by senior guard Dalton Bolton and 6-foot-10 sophomore Ante Brzovic from Croatia, Charleston has a potent inside-outside combination. Their high-scoring offense and strong rebounding make them a tough matchup for any team.
- Oral Roberts (30-4): As a No. 12 seed, Oral Roberts boasts an impressive offense led by Max Abmas and 7-foot-5 center Connor Vanover. However, their first-round matchup against Duke might prove challenging.
- Drake (27-7): The Missouri Valley Conference champions, led by the father-son duo of coach Darian DeVries and Tucker DeVries, are poised to be a popular 5-12 upset pick against an injured Miami.
- Kent State (28-6): First-time tournament participants since 2017, Kent State’s high-scoring offense, led by Duquesne transfer Sincere Carry, could pose a threat to Indiana.
- Louisiana (26-7): Facing an overseeded Tennessee, Louisiana’s veteran forward Jordan Brown could help the Ragin’ Cajuns pull off a No. 13 upset.
- Iona (27-7): With Rick Pitino at the helm, Iona’s balanced scoring attack could make their matchup against No. 3 UConn interesting.
- Princeton (21-8): Led by coach Mitch Henderson, a member of the 1996 team that upset UCLA, Princeton’s high-scoring offense and solid rebounding might surprise Pac-12 powerhouse Arizona.
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