March Madness: 5 teams that could bust your men’s NCAA tournament bracket

March Madness: 5 teams that could bust your men's NCAA tournament bracket

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Monday we tackled the Cinderellas, the upset-hounds, the feel-good stories. Today's all about the cold water, the pitfalls, the downsides.

What highly seeded teams could wreck your bracket before the first weekend is over?

Every region will receive at least one cautionary tale. You probably won't be surprised by the first selection.

Tennessee (Midwest Region, 2-seed)

It's time for our yearly conversation about Rick Barnes. You don't pile up 803 NCAA wins without some coaching chops, but his teams have a shockingly mediocre record in the NCAA Tournament.

Barnes has made it to the Final Four just once in 27 tournament trips. Barnes' teams are just 9-21 against the spread in tournament games since 2005 — that makes his teams the worst bet on the board for the past two decades. Barnes had Kevin Durant as part of his 2007 Texas team — the Longhorns didn't make it to the second weekend. (I hate to see Matthew McConaughey sad.)

Barnes has engineered a seed-upset just once in his 27 tournaments. Meanwhile, his teams have been knocked out by a lower seed a whopping 16 times.

To be fair, upsets are more likely to happen when you're a higher-seeded team with expectations. Nonetheless, Barnes is collecting quite the negative resume here. His squads have lost four times to 11-seeds, once to a 12-seed, and last year they were tripped up by No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic in the Sweet 16 when they were a four seed.

Maybe this year's team is different; as of Tuesday morning, 22.50% of Yahoo Bracket Madness entries had Tennessee in the Final Four, which was tied for the sixth-most popular pick. Transfer Dalton Knecht blossomed into a superstar. The top six Tennessee scorers are all upperclassmen. The Volunteers always have excellent defensive metrics. The Knecht breakout has only upped the offensive efficiency.

Nobody expects Tennessee to lose to Saint Peter's in the first round, me included. But I'll have tickets against the Volunteers every game after that. Coaching is too critical in this game and in this tournament.

Kansas (Midwest Region, 4-seed)

We'll give you a bonus pick in the Midwest, a reminder not to pick the Jayhawks to go deep in this tournament. It's not easy to go against the Blue Blood programs, and you'll recall Kansas opened the year as the No. 1 team in the country. But the season hasn't gone according to script.

The Jayhawks knew they entered the season with little depth, but felt like their starting five could compete with anyone. And maybe that's still true, but with stars Hunter Dickinson (shoulder) and Kevin McCullar Jr. (bone bruise) dinged up, Kansas is hobbling into the tournament. The Jayhawks stumbled to a 9-9 finish, and dropped out of the Top 20 in KenPom efficiency by the time the brackets were announced.

There are all sorts of frisky teams capable of taking Kansas down. Samford is merely an 8.5-point underdog for Thursday, and plucky McNeese or reliable Gonzaga would call in Round 2. Only 47.2% of Yahoo Bracket Madness entries have the Jayhawks making the Sweet 16. I hate to see Paul Rudd unhappy, but this isn't Kansas' year.

Kansas is vulnerable as it enters the tournament with stars Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. both inured. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Illinois (East Region, 3-seed)

This might be the region most bracket players spend the least time on; you scribble "Connecticut" on four lines and get along with your day — a whopping 66% of Yahoo Bracket Madness entries have the Huskies in the Final Four. But there are 11 other games that require a decision. I wonder if Illinois peaked a little too early, fresh off the Big Ten tournament championship.

The Illinois defense might be the banana peel. The Illini rarely turn over their opponents and they struggle to locate and defend 3-point shooters. Morehead State is an efficient offensive team and a decent outside-shooting team, presenting upset potential right away. And if Illinois survives the first game, it will likely meet a BYU team that takes half of its shots from behind the arc.

Illinois only played five ranked teams all year, and it wasn't a banner season for the Big Ten. After the physical and emotional taxing of last week's tournament, I'm going to emotionally zig-zag and fade them the opening tournament week.

Houston (South Region, 1-seed)

My main thrust here is that I won't be picking Houston to win this region, something 45.1% of Yahoo Bracket Madness entries are doing. Marquette and Kentucky look appealing to me, and maybe Duke's ready to put things together (I'd like to see Jared McCain a little more involved in the offense).

Houston has some interesting flags for a 1-seed. It's not a deep team, and the offense is shockingly inefficient at times. The Cougars' effective field-goal percentage is a paltry 49.7% — that's 229th(!) in the country, and it's a mediocre free-throw shooting team. To be fair, Houston loves to attack the offensive glass, and it might not need that many points given how elite the defense is — the Cougars turn opponents over, block their shots and force them into contested heaves. This is also a roster lacking an obvious NBA impact player, though point guard Jamal Shead is a college star.

I'll probably have Houston escaping the first weekend, though Texas A&M won't be intimidated if the Aggies meet the Cougars in Round 2. But for my South champion, I'll lean toward one of the other top seeds.

Alabama (West Region, 4-seed)

If you like to see modern analytical basketball put into practice, the Crimson Tide are your jam. Their offense is all about spacing, 3s and layups — no mid-range jumpers here. Alabama's offensive metrics are a glorious sea of green.

And it's a good thing, because Alabama's defense is a sieve. The Tide doesn't turn you over, they don't keep you off the glass, they don't even keep you from the free-throw line.

An early exit would be history repeating — Alabama has made it out of the opening weekend just twice in the last six attempts. Opening-round opponent Charleston will take its chances outshooting Alabama. If that doesn't work, perhaps the lockdown St. Mary's defense will send Alabama packing. Only 56% of Yahoo Bracket Madness entries have Alabama making it to the Sweet 16.

Data from the indispensable site was used in the composition of this article. All point spreads quoted came from partner Bet MGM. All Yahoo Bracket Madness data as of Tuesday morning.


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