Busting Brackets

10 surprise teams primed to steal the NCAA Tournament

These 10 teams who likely won't end up as a No. 1 or 2 seed in March Madness, could shake up their region and maybe even make a run to a national title if things break right.

Saint Mary's Gaels guard Alex Ducas (44)
Saint Mary's Gaels guard Alex Ducas (44) / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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1. 525. Net: 6 Projected Seed: 4. . . Auburn Tigers. 24-7 (13-5). . .

By now, everyone is familiar with the Kenpom 20/20 model and Auburn is one of a few teams firmly within that 20/20 window. The Tigers are fourth overall, 12th on offense, and sixth defensively.

Despite a few tough losses to Tennessee and Kentucky in SEC play which dropped Bruce Pearl’s team out of contention for the regular season title, the Tigers were very competitive in a league that could have as many as eight tournament bids. 

Auburn reminds me very much of San Diego State last season. The Aztecs were incredibly deep and didn’t rely on one superstar to bail them out, this Auburn team is the same way. Johni Broome is an elite center but only plays 24.7 minutes a game because Pearl goes as many as 11-deep on his bench, depending on the matchup, and requires constant intensity from his players on the floor. 

I’m not as sold on Auburn’s backcourt as I’d like to be, Aden Holloway, the five-star freshman is inexperienced, and KD Johnson is, well, mercurial, that’s the nice way to put it. However, Pearl has options with Denver Jones and Tre Donaldson, so he can ride the hot hand for a deep tournament run.

dark. Next. 5 teams on upset alert during Champ Week. 5 teams on upset alert during Champ Week