Now that the NCAA has returned to sensible terminology, we can say this and mean it: For huge gains in your tournament pool this year, look toward the second round.
Trying to distinguish among teams seeded seventh through 10th is often a difficult task, but this season, it’s worth your time. A couple of Killertastic mid-majors and a whole batch of “Wounded Lions” are likely to land in the middle of brackets, carrying the qualities needed to pull off big upsets if they advance to the round of 32.
But so are several teams sorely lacking in Giant-Killing characteristics, including a bunch of also-rans from the Pac-12, home to many fine teams but which tends to breed very poor underdogs. As a result, there’s an enormous spread in the capacities of midbracket teams to take down this year’s top seeds -- a group that appears ripe for slaying. For example, our basic power rankings rate VCU as the 39th-best team in the country, just a hair behind California. But our statistical model sees the Rams as almost 52 points more likely than the Golden Bears to defeat an average Giant (Giant Killer Ratings: 61.0 and 9.2). Overall, the variance in GK Ratings among teams projected as 7-10 seeds by Joe Lunardi is more than four times the variance in their basic power ratings. It’s a real boom-or-bust group.