Last-minute NCAA bracket advice: No. 12 seeds a riskier pick than usual

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Last year, No. 12 seeds failed to score an upset in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Everyone's favorite Cinderellas could be in line for more disappointment in 2016.

No. 12 seeds are considered a popular pick for the millions of folks who fill out brackets each year. And for good reason, as they've posted a relatively impressive 36.7 winning percentage in first-round games since 1985. However, the teams occupying the 12-line in this year's tournament — South Dakota State, Yale, Chattanooga and Arkansas-Little Rock — are extremely untested compared to No. 12 seeds of year's past.

In fact, these squads bear a striking resemblance to the four teams who failed to topple the No. 5 seeds in last year's tourney: Buffalo, Wyoming, Stephen F. Austin and Wofford. While at least one or two No. 12 seeds usually hail from storied basketball conferences like the ACC or Big Ten, all of the No. 12 seeds from this year and last year played in low- to mid-major conferences. And that's the crux of the problem — these teams have hardly any experience playing against other talented squads.

Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011, the four No. 12 seeds have played a combined average of 19.8 games against teams ranked in the top 50 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), a metric the NCAA Tournament selection committee leans on to pick the field of competitors. This year's crop has played a total of just nine games against RPI top 50 teams, going 3-6. No team has more than one win against RPI top 50 squads, and South Dakota State doesn't even boast one, as the Jackrabbits lost their lone top 50 matchup against Texas Tech by 12 points.

They've also shown a tendency to lose to subpar competition, racking up a combined four losses to teams ranked outside the RPI top 200. That's tied for the most such defeats in a group of No. 12 seeds since the field expanded, along with last season's maligned bunch.

Why is this year's group of No. 12 seeds so uninspiring, you ask? Most experts have hyped this March as holding mega upset potential, pointing to a wacky regular season during which no overwhelming favorites emerged. And they're correct — but the carnage started a little too early.

Conference tournaments were ridden by upsets last week, wiping out 12 of the 13 No. 1 seeds in low- to mid-major conference tournaments through Thursday. They made a slight comeback through the weekend, but just seven of the low- to mid-major 25 No. 1 seeds ended up winning their league's qualifying bid. And since the likes of Monmouth, San Diego State, Saint Mary's and Valparaiso were thereafter snubbed by the selection committee, many potential giant killers were eliminated before they could even be penciled into the bracket.

As a result, the "Davids" who remain have very little experience dealing with the sort of Goliaths they're about to face.

By: Will Laws

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