Possible BracketBusters for 2011 March Madness

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 By: Brandon Cooper > Junior > Journalism > University of Maryland, Photo by: Kimberly N. 

Some college students spend a lot of time analyzing and often risk a lot of money when picking their brackets for March Madness. 
Hardcore fans examine teams’ strength of schedule, their RPI (Rating Percentage Index) and advanced metrics to find out who is legitimate, who is ripe for an upset and who is ready to become the lovable underdog.  

 But often, despite all this preparation, the 12-year-old in the pool ultimately wins because she thought Northern Iowa’s purple jerseys were cuter than Kansas’ blue.  

To get you ahead of your rivals (even the pre-teen ones with beginner’s luck on their side), College Magazine has reviews of the small schools with legitimate chances at making some waves in the tournament. 
This list only includes teams who have never been ranked in either the AP or the Coaches Poll. Sorry Utah State, George Mason and St. Mary’s. 
Old Dominion (27-6)
Best Player: Frank Hassel, F
Best Win: vs. Xavier, 67-58
Worst Loss: at Delaware, 67-75
Old Dominion busted some brackets last year when they beat sixth-seeded Notre Dame in the first round. 
Looking at the schedule this season, the Monarchs have had multiple wins over quality opponents. Aside from Xavier, the team also beat Clemson, George Mason, Cleveland State and VCU. They even played Georgetown close at the beginning of the year.
Unlike Belmont, Old Dominion is a strong rebounding team. Led by forward Frank Hassel, the Monarchs are sixth in the country in rebounding and average more than 40 boards a game. Their ability to rebound combined with strong defense means coach Blaine Taylor’s team wins in grind-it-out games.
Although, the Monarchs are not great offensively and turn the ball over often, they make up for their lack of scoring by being one of, if not the, best offensive rebounding teams in the country.
A fast, hot-shooting team will have the best chance against Old Dominion, but only if they push the ball in transition.
Chance of an upset: 50%
Best Player: Keith Benson, C
Best Win: at Tennessee, 89-82
Worst Loss: at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, 88-100
Oakland clinched an automatic bid by beating Oral Roberts for the third time this season in the Summit League Championship. 
The Golden Grizzlies have emphatically dominated their conference recently, having only lost twice in the past two seasons. Not even Oral Roberts, who finished second in the Summit League during the regular season, really put up a fight against Oakland.
The problem with the Golden Grizzlies is that when they are playing top-tier teams outside of the Summit League, they lose. Oakland was 1-4 this year when they played teams that were ranked at the time, including a 63-92 shellacking by Ohio State.   
Statistically though, the Golden Grizzlies should scare any team that makes it to the tournament.
The team is second in the nation in scoring and third in field-goal percentage. The offense, run by guard Reggie Evans, operates quickly and consists of a lot of ball movement, which leads to a large amount of assists.
Although the Golden Grizzlies did not win much against teams in major conferences, they often played them close. They could finally get over the hump in the tournament. 
Chances of an upset: 35%
Belmont (30-4)
Best Player: Ian Clark, G
Best Win: at East Tennessee State, 72-62
Worst Loss: at Lipscomb, 64-73
With only four losses thus far, the Bruins have had a very consistent season. 
Guard Ian Clark is their guy on offense, but teams cannot solely focus on the sophomore to shut Belmont down. Forwards Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders are also averaging double-digits in points. The Bruins are a very well-rounded team, with every player on the court contributing in some way. 
The difficult part about predicting Belmont as a bracketbuster is, like most bracketbusters, their lack of wins against prominent programs. The Bruins have beaten every team they were supposed to (other than Lipscomb), but lost their three big matchups of the season when they faced Tennessee twice and Vanderbilt.
Aside from a signature win, the team’s other two biggest weaknesses are rebounds and fouls. The Bruins only average 22 defensive rebounds (good for 159th in the country) and foul a staggering 21 times a game. A team with some strong big men inside could give them trouble.
Chance of an upset: 25%

 Bucknell (24-8)

Best Player: Mike Muscala, C

Best Win: at Richmond, 62-61
Worst Loss: at Army, 70-90

The Bucknell Bisons sit one win away against Lafayette to claim the Patriot League Championship and at automatic berth to the tournament.

Based on the team’s regular season conference record, they should have no problem taking down the Leopards this Friday. Bucknell has completely dominated their league this season, winning 15 of 16 games in conference so far. Their sole loss was in a game at Army on a night when the Black Knights could not miss. 
The team has not been as amazing when playing teams outside of the Patriot League. The team only went 11-7 in non-conference play and lost all of their games against possible tournament teams (Villanova, Princeton and Boston College).
Usually though, Bucknell is a team that any coach can respect. Led by big man Mike Muscala, the Bisons play tough, consistent defense, rebound strong and are smart with the ball on offense, averaging only 11 turnovers on the season. 
However, ultimately, if they are going to upset a higher seed in the tournament, they are going to have to rely on what they do best: shooting the three ball. The team shoots an astonishing 40 percent from beyond the arc, a statistic mostly garnered by guards Bryson Johnson and G.W. Boon.
If the Bison are matched up against a team with poor perimeter defense that gives Johnson and Boon plenty of open looks, look for the upset.

Chances of an upset: 10%

College Magazine Staff

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