NCAA Tournament picks 2016: 5 dark horses that could go far

How To Pick Your NCAA Tournament Bracket

We are already two days removed from Selection Sunday, so if you haven't filled out your NCAA Tournament 2016 bracket, then you're already behind a majority of the country. March Madness isn't just a special time for college basketball fans, but sports and non sports followers from around the country get involved in office pools and it's the most exciting three weeks in sports.

SEE MORE: Picking the tournament by mascots

At the end of the tournament, we will get to see a deserving team cut down the nets in Houston, but before that can even happen, upsets will need to occur. The first and second rounds are usually riddled with high seeds taking down favorites while the Sweet 16 on is usually business as usual.

If you're stuck on who you think would be a potential dark horse candidate and you don't know if they're the right choice, go with your gut. Otherwise, this list is here to help.

SEE MORE: Print your bracket for March Madness

Taking a look at the dark horse candidates in this year's field, there aren't many that really stick out, but some potential No. 5 and higher seeds who can be considered underdogs who could really make a run at the Final Four.

When I said "dark horse" I don't mean Cinderella teams like No. 13 or No. 12 seeds that could win a round or two, I mean No. 5, No. 6, No. 7 and maybe even a No. 11 seed who could run all the way to the Elite Eight and maybe pull a George Mason and snag a bid to the Final Four.

SEE MORE: Ranking the best matchups in March Madness

Let's take a look at five dark horse candidates who could go far in the 2016 NCAA Tournament:

March Madness 2016 - 5 dark horses that can go far
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NCAA Tournament picks 2016: 5 dark horses that could go far

5. Providence

Providence can be a scary team when it plays to potential. With Ben Bentil as a dominant forward and Kris Dunn as one of the nation’s best point guards, the Friars look to be a force in this year’s NCAA Tournament despite being only a No. 9 seed in the East Region.

If you’re North Carolina, you have to feel a little shafted by the selection committee’s choice to give the 23-10 Friars the nine seed in your bracket because if the Tar Heels and Providence meet in the second round, it could be an interesting battle, potentially sending the top seed home early.

No one really wants to play a team with elite players at both the point guard position and in the post. One thing that really killed Providence this year, though, was the play against top-tier teams. The Friars were 5-0 against RPI 26-100 teams, but just 1-7 against top 25 squads. That was the difference between a No. 5 seed and a No. 9 seed.

The Friars have played teams like Villanova, Xavier and Michigan State tough this season and the Tar Heels are along the same lines as those teams.

Watch out for the Friars to get past North Carolina and even make a run at a Final Four as the nine seed in the East. Dangerous team.

(Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

4. Arizona

At the beginning of the season, if you looked at the Arizona Wildcats’ roster, you would have labeled it a strong contender for a Final Four. At this point in the year, that talent is still there, but the Wildcats had to fight through injuries all season long and still managed to finish 25-8, but earned just a No. 6 seed.

The selection committee revealed why it gave Oregon a No. 1 seed over Michigan State and it said that injuries played a major role in that selection because the Ducks weren’t healthy at all times, but yet the Wildcats earned a No. 6 seed with a solid RPI as well as finish to the regular season.

One thing that may hold the Wildcats back in the South Region is that they have a tough time playing defense. Arizona might score 81 points per game, but it also allows nearly 70. That will need to be fixed if the Wildcats believe they’re going to be the team who upsets the No. 1 overall seed: Kansas.

Heck, Arizona could match up with No. 2 seed Villanova pretty well after getting past Vanderbilt or Wichita State and potentially No. 3 seed Miami. Ryan Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York have been here before, so don’t be surprised to see the underrated Wildcats make a run.

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

3. Gonzaga 

You might look at Gonzaga’s record and the fact that the Bulldogs won the West Coast Conference Tournament title and wonder how they got just a No. 11 seed, but the answer is quite simple: they didn’t play anyone.

The West Coast Conference isn’t exactly elite and the Bulldogs didn’t “dominate” like they had in years past. Couple that with an 0-2 record against RPI top 25 teams and you have a weak schedule with no real signature wins.

Earning the No. 1 seed a couple of years ago, Mark Few knows how to earn respect from the selection committee, but apparently he didn’t do enough this year and therefore was given a No. 11 seed. However, the Bulldogs were paired with the lowest No. 6 seed, or so it seems, in Seton Hall even though the Pirates are coming off a win against Villanova in the Big East title game.

Seton Hall is a team Gonzaga can match up with very well and Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabots are two guys who won’t lay down without a fight. If Gonzaga does get past Seton Hall, like I believe it will, the Bulldogs will likely face Utah in another game that isn’t a huge mismatch.

Beat Utah and then potentially play Michigan State for a shot at the Elite Eight. Anything could happen at that point.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

2. Purdue 

First off, let’s get this out of the way early on: the selection committee made a terrible mistake by giving Purdue a No. 5 seed. Why, you ask? Well, the Boilermakers were ranked No. 13 in the nation going into the Big Ten Tournament, made it all the way to the final against No. 2 Michigan State and nearly knocked off the Spartans.

How does a team do all of that and not get one of the top 16 seeds overall in the country? It just does’t make sense. Heck, the entire Big Ten seemed a tad disrespected. The Big Ten regular season champ, Indiana, only got a five seed. The tournament champ who was ranked No. 2 in the nation, Michigan State, only received a No. 2 seed and Purdue a five.

Anyways, the Boilermakers are a scary team. Right now, I can bet you Michigan State is hoping it doesn’t have to face the Boilermakers once again as Purdue played the Spartans tough, narrowly falling just a few weeks after beating the same team in West Lafayette.

A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan are a tough duo in the post as the senior and freshman, respectively, bully opposing big men around with ease. It’s hard enough to score on these guys let alone stop them.

I can see Purdue advancing to the second round to face Virginia and pulling off the major upset. Don’t be shocked to see a Purdue-Michigan State rematch in the Elite Eight.

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

1. Maryland 

Remember when I said the Big Ten was majorly overlooked by the selection committee this year? Maryland is another prime example of that. The Terrapins might be the most talented Big Ten teams, in terms of NBA talent, in the entire conference and were a preseason No. 1 team in the nation candidate.

The Terrapins were expected to just run away with the Big Ten title this season with the additions of Robert Carter, Diamond Stone and Rasheed Sulaimon to complement Jake Layman and Melo Trimble, but that hasn’t quite been the case.

Sure, Maryland finished the year 25-8, but the final stretch of games were ugly for the Terrapins and they were from 10-2 and the favorite to win the conference regular season title to 12-6 in no time.

That doesn’t mean they’re not a good team, though. No team should want to face off against the Terrapins because they do have the potential to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but they just didn’t play together near the end of the year.

Kansas was put in a very tough bracket and having to get past a team like Maryland in order to reach the Elite Eight is something that no No. 1 seed wishes upon. The Terrapins have more NBA talent than just about every No. 5, No. 4 and No. 3 seed in this year’s tourney.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)


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