If recent history is any indicator, some mid-major team -- maybe more than one -- will stun its opening-round opponent in this year's NCAA Tournament.
Here are five who might cause a problem in late March:
UNCW (15-2, 4-0 in Colonial Athletic Association)
The Seahawks, with no player taller than 6-foot-9, might struggle against a team with height. Ultimately, the play of Duke’s 7-footer Marshall Plumlee sank them last year. But if they find themselves matched up against another strong perimeter team, the Seahawks could soar.
UT Arlington (12-4, 2-1 in Sun Belt)
A key to most mid-majors’ tournament success is experience. The Mavericks have plenty of it. Of the team’s top eight in minutes played, all are juniors and seniors. Last year, UT Arlington knocked off Ohio State and Memphis in the regular season. With the same core of players back this year, led by forward Kevin Hervey (who has scored at least 10 points in 11 straight games), the Mavericks seem poised to find success in the postseason this time around.
Middle Tennessee (13-3, 3-0 in Conference USA)
The addition of forward JaCorey Williams, a transfer from Arkansas, helps offset the loss of a trio of senior contributors. Averaging 17.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, Williams provides the Blue Raiders another go-to frontcourt player alongside Upshaw. And by taking care of the basketball -- only 10 teams have fewer turnovers -- the Blue Raiders limit easy scoring opportunities for opponents.
Ohio University (11-3, 3-0 in Mid-American Conference)
In the backcourt, redshirt junior Jaaron Simmons, whose 7.4 assists per game ranks third in the country, and sophomore sharpshooter Jordan Dartis make things difficult for defenders. Multidimensional senior forward Antonio Campbell, the team’s leading scorer and an excellent defender (he ranks No. 5 nationally in defensive rating), can wear down opposing bigs. If the Bobcats can get through the MAC tournament and into the field of 68, keep an eye on them.
Chattanooga (13-4, 4-1 in Southern Conference)
Chattanooga opened its season with a statement win over Tennessee and was a last-second 3-pointer away from knocking off Vanderbilt. It also played North Carolina on the road. While the Mocs lost than one badly, they won some valuable tournament preparation. Last season, the Mocs won 29 games, a school record, and returned to the Big Dance for the first time since 2009. McCall is pointing his team toward its second straight trip to the tournament..