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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Saint Mary's. . 26-7 (15-1). . 2514. . Net: 15 Projected Seed: 6. . 4.

Under Randy Bennett, the Saint Mary’s Gaels have made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons, emerging as the only West Coast Conference threat to Gonzaga. The Gaels will be back in the tourney this season, after punching their ticket by beating the Zags in the WCC final. 

Saint Mary’s started this season 3-5 but are 23-2 since with two wins in three meetings with Gonzaga and a 9-0 record away from home. Road success is almost always a reliable indicator of postseason success and it doesn’t get any better than what the Gaels have done in 2023-24. 

In this recent stretch of success, Bennett is yet to take a team to the second weekend of the tournament but has made the Sweet 16 once in his 23-year career. If there’s ever going to be a year that the Gaels will make a run to the Final Four, it's this one. 

Aidan Maheny, the team’s leading scorer, is a sophomore now, and veterans, Alex Ducas and Augustus Marciulionis. As always, the Gaels play a methodical pace, 352nd in possessions per game, but they are 34th in offensive efficiency and in the WCC championship, held Gonzaga to just 60 points. 

The Zags couldn’t penetrate against Saint Mary’s at all. The Gaels look incredibly strong physically which will help against more athletic teams from major conferences, and with their painstaking pace, they’ll force the opposition to out-execute, which isn’t easy.