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Monday, September 20, 2021
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Cardinal Madness: Four at-large bids that shouldn’t be overlooked

It’s that time of year again.

As March Madness gets into full swing this Friday, spectators are looking at rankings and filling out their brackets.

The top seeds — Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan and Illinois — have undoubtedly had great seasons and a good chance to win it all. However, teams that have begun to hit their stride late in the season are not ones to overlook.

Sleeper seeds are seeds that are ranked below the top three but performed well in their conferences and have winning momentum coming into the tournament, presenting an opportunity for them to make the final four.

Here are some sleeper teams with great end of season momentum to consider adding to your bracket:

No. 7 UCONN (15-7)

Earlier in the season, leading scorer James Boughknight was out for eight games with an elbow injury. Averaging 20 points-per-game, the Huskies struggled without Bouknight, but he has now been cleared to play again. The Huskies won by 34 in his first game back against DePaul, and the return of the Huskies’ confidence is going to bolster their March Madness run, possibly propelling them to the final four. 

No. 6 USC (22-7)

Utilizing their top NBA prospect Evan Mobely, sixth-seeded USC has an impressive offense that could be a roadblock for other teams in the West Region. The caliber of teams in this region is impressive, with Gonzaga, Iowa and Kansas posed as big threats for the Trojans. But all of these teams would feel the heat of the Trojan offense, making them a team to watch as they move through the tournament. 

No. 9 Wisconsin (17-12)

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Cardinal article without including our very own Wisconsin Badgers. Seeded ninth with a record of 17-12, the Badgers have been struggling, losing six of their last eight games. However, their turnover rate is 13.5%, the second best in Division I. If the Badgers can keep the ball in their possession, they have a good chance to charge through the early matchups and into the final four.

No. 8 Loyola-Chicago (24-4)

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A lesser known presence in the March Madness tournament, Loyola-Chicago of the Missouri Valley conference had an impressive record this season losing only four games, two of which were to tournament bound teams — Wisconsin and Drake. With top player Cameron Krutwig averaging 15 points and 6.7 rebounds-per-game, as well as boasting the fourth highest field goal percentage in the nation (50.5%), this mid-major team will be one to watch as it tries its hand in the tournament. LA-C’s second round matchup against No. 1 Illinois could be a challenge, but the ramblers had a memorable Cinderella story run in the 2018 tournament, making it to the final four but ultimately losing to No. 3 Michigan State. 

Despite their lower rankings, Connecticut, USC, Wisconsin and Loyola-Chicago boast some real talent and skills and their momentum in the later weeks of the season could still be churning. Don’t count them out of the final four just yet. After all, everyone loves an underdog. 

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