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Which Lower Seeds Have the Best Shot at Making the Final Four?

Someone outside of the top four seeds is bound to make a NCAA tournament run, and while these are always tough to predict, we've tried to find the team from each region that is most suited for one.
Photo by Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

When I picked my bracket earlier this week, I chose three No. 1 seeds and one No. 2 seed to make the Final Four. This was dumb, and I'm already regretting it, because some lower seed is going to make a run. Even last year, which was a super top-heavy tournament, included No. 8 seed Michigan State in the Final Four.

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Someone outside of the top four seeds is bound to make a run. Here, in our estimation, is the non-top-four-seeded team in each region with the best shot at reaching the Final Four.


When you know your team can do this. Photo by Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

East Region: No. 5 Indiana

Despite being the outright Big Ten champion, Indiana received a relatively low seed due to a weak-ish Big Ten schedule and early-season losses to UNLV and Wake Forest. However, the Hoosiers are playing their best basketball of the season right now, and for the most part they've dominated their opponents.

Since the beginning of February, the Hoosiers have swept Iowa, beat Purdue, and beat Maryland by 18 points. There have been three slip-ups—a shocker at Penn State, at Michigan State, and against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament—but the Hoosiers have exactly what is needed to go on a big run.

IU has the seventh most efficient offense in the country, according to, along with the second best effective field goal percentage. They shoot well enough all the time that it's unlikely they'll be outshot by inferior competition—there are simply too many talented shooters for that to happen—and they can catch fire to beat anyone in the country.

The Hoosiers have a tough draw against Kentucky and North Carolina before the Elite Eight, but if any team can shoot their way past those interior defenses, it's Indiana.

The Shockers are always good for a March headline pun. Photo by Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

South Region: No. 11 Wichita State

When looking at Wichita State's resume through the NCAA's lens, it makes sense why the Shockers are an 11-seed and were forced to go to Dayton for the First Four. But by any good metric, Wichita is probably a three-seed. So that's why it should be no surprise if the Shockers run all the way to an epic Elite Eight showdown with Kansas.


The Shockers dominated Vanderbilt, another better-than-it-was-seeded team, in Dayton, winning by 20 points. Now they'll face Arizona, which is also probably better than its No. 6 seed indicates and got handed a helluva bad draw.

Wichita State has some flaws that are not usually found in a team KenPom ranks ninth best in the country. The Shockers have a weak post presence, and they're almost entirely guard-reliant. They will be in every game, though, because they slow down the pace and play top-notch defense. Then they strike with great shooters Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet.

It's incredibly annoying to play against such a slow pace, but it's effective, and it's why Wichita State keeps shocking the world in the NCAA tournament.

Purdue has size on its side. Photo by Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Midwest Region: No. 5 Purdue

For a while this season, Purdue looked like a disappointment. The Boilermakers were expected to be one of the top teams in the Big Ten, and they suffered two early losses to Iowa, as well as an inexplicable loss to Illinois.

They haven't gone on any huge winning streaks this season, but the Boilermakers have improved as conference season has gone on, reaching the finals of the Big Ten tournament. And they play a unique of basketball that will be a giant mismatch for many teams they'll see in the NCAA tournament.

Purdue has one of the best frontcourts in the country, with two All-Big Ten-caliber centers, seven-foot A.J. Hammons and seven-foot-two Isaac Haas. Add in forwards Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards, and the Boilermakers present a formidable challenge to anyone inside the three-point line. The same is true on offense, as nobody can match Purdue's size. That's led to impressive wins over Michigan State, Michigan (twice), Wisconsin (twice), and Vanderbilt, and close road losses to Maryland and Indiana.


Purdue will need to shoot well to win. That has been a mixed bag for the team this season. Ryan Cline and P.J. Thompson are excellent from the three, but at times the Boilermakers have lost their shot. That's bound to happen at some point in a six-game stretch. But as a stylistic oddity, Purdue will be a tough matchup for anyone, and that's why higher-seeded Virginia, Michigan State, and Iowa State can't love having the Boilermakers as their region's No. 5 seed.

Shaka Smart has had a pretty good first season in Texas. Photo by Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

West Region: No. 6 Texas

Texas is on upset alert in the first round against No. 11 Northern Iowa, which has some perplexing losses but also has wins over North Carolina, Iowa State, and Wichita State (twice) to prove that it can play with anybody.

In a way, that's a lot like Texas—except the Longhorns have a higher floor and more talent. In Shaka Smart's first season as head coach, Texas has lost to Washington and TCU, but it has also beaten No. 1 seed North Carolina, No. 2 seed Oklahoma, No. 3 seed West Virginia (twice), No. 4 seed Iowa State, No. 5 seed Baylor, No. 8 seed Texas Tech, and No. 11 seed Vanderbilt.

That's a pretty incredible string of good wins. There's an element of luck in every March Madness run, so why not Texas? The Longhorns clearly have the skill, and the experience winning big games, to go for it.

Texas isn't particularly great at anything, but it's well above average in everything. And perhaps its best attribute is the ability to not turn the ball over. The Longhorns won't beat themselves, and they have the talent to play with anyone who isn't shooting lights out. That's a scary prospect for everyone in the West region.