NCAA Tournament: 5 'little guys' that could break your bracket

5 mid-majors that could pull off early upsets


We all know the blue blood programs like Kentucky, Duke and Kansas are expected to make deep runs in this year's NCAA Tournament, but which teams from mid-major conferences are most likely to take down higher seeds?

Here are five teams that could bust your bracket this weekend.

Middle Tennessee State

You might remember MTSU from their stunning upset over No. 2 Michigan State in last season's tournament. The former No. 15 Cinderella is back this season as an even more dangerous No. 12 seed.

The Blue Raiders won 30 games this season en route to the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles. Middle Tennessee State has wins over fellow tournament teams UNC Wilmington and Vanderbilt.

The stars who led MTSU past the Spartans last season are back for another NCAA Tournament with an extra year of experience. Reggie Upshaw, who scored 21 points against Michigan State, and Giddy Potts, who scored 19, are averaging around 15 points apiece as seniors.

But what makes MTSU even more dangerous is the addition of JaCorey Williams, who transferred from Arkansas and became the Blue Raiders' leading scorer at 17.4 per game. Williams gives Middle Tennessee State a three-headed monster that can score against anybody.

Minnesota will be playing without injured starter Akeem Springs, and this first-round matchup gives the Golden Gophers very little time to adjust.


If you don't know how dangerous the Ivy League is in the NCAA Tournament, you haven't been paying attention. Harvard beat No. 3 New Mexico in 2013 and No. 5 Cincinnati in 2014. The Crimson lost by two points in 2015.

Last season, Yale knocked off No. 5 Baylor in the first round and nearly took down No. 4 Duke to advance to the second weekend.

This year's Ivy League representative is just as dangerous after winning the regular season title and getting into the Big Dance by emerging from the conference's first postseason tournament.

Princeton is on a 19-game winning streak and finished with a perfect 14-0 record in Ivy League games. The team that lost four of its first 10 games is a distant memory, and Notre Dame will have to play a great game to advance.


Vermont's season followed a similar script as Princeton's -- the Catamounts started just 8-5 before ripping off 21 straight wins, including a perfect America East slate.

Vermont went 0-3 against teams in the NCAA Tournament field, but they were dominant at the end of the season to finish with 29 wins.

Anthony Lamb, Payton Henson and Trae Bell-Haynes all average more than 10 points per game, and the Catamounts shoot nearly 50 percent from the field as a team.

Purdue lost in the first round last season against No. 12 Arkansas Little Rock and hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 2012. The Boilermakers will have their hands full with the America East champion.

UNC Wilmington

You might not be familiar with the UNC Wilmington Seahawks, but they hung with No. 4 Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season. UNC Wilmington held a three-point halftime lead over Duke last season and lost by just eight points.

This year, the Seahawks rolled through the Colonial Athletic Association, earning the No. 1 seed with a 15-3 record and winning the conference tournament. They finished with 29 wins and moved up to a No. 12 seed against Virginia.

UNC Wilmington has an extremely balanced lineup, as four players average more than 12 points per game. The team's top two scorers -- C.J. Bryce (17.6 points per game) and Chris Flemmings (15.8 points per game) -- also average 5.5 rebounds per game and combine for 5.1 assists per game. Devontae Cacok leads the team with 9.6 rebounds per game and also averages 12.3 points.

Virginia is the best defensive team in the country, so those three players, along with Denzel Ingram, are facing their toughest challenge yet.

Wichita State

Is it cheating to include Wichita State on this list? Well thanks to the committee, the Shockers are a double-digit seed that's favored to at least win its first tournament matchup.

Wichita State is one of the mid-major blue bloods that seems to be in the NCAA Tournament every single season. This year's edition won 30 games and lost only one game to a team outside the tournament.

One of the most surprising statistics about the Shockers' season is that they only beat one tournament team: 16th-seeded South Dakota State. Despite the widespread love for Wichita State due to their recent history in the tournament, it didn't play a tough schedule like teams in the major conferences.

The new-look Shockers have 10 players who appeared in more than 30 games, and five players average between nine and 12 points. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet aren't walking through the tunnel this season, but Wichita State is still among the mid-majors' best teams.

Dayton is also one of the most consistent mid-major teams in the country, so this first-round battle could be one of the best of the opening weekend. Whoever wins will likely face a much tougher test against No. 2 Kentucky.