When you’re looking for your Cinderella teams in your March Madness bracket, the 5-12 matchups are often a good place to start. Since 2010, 12 seeds have a straight-up winning percentage of 39.6%. They’re also hitting against the spread at a clip of 58.7% over that span.
Last year, New Mexico State beat UConn and Richmond beat Iowa in outright upsets. They both went on to lose in the Round of 32, but it doesn’t always stop there. Most recently, Oregon State made a run to the Elite Eight as a 12 seed in 2021.
In this article, I’ll take a brief look at each of the 5 vs. 12 matchups this season. Keep an eye out for my best bets articles this week as they might even feature one or two of these teams. Let’s get to work.
East: 12 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles vs. 5 Duke Blue Devils
Oral Roberts captured hearts across America in 2021 as they made a run to the Sweet 16 as a 15 seed, upsetting Ohio State and Florida in the process. Max Abmas, who is back for his senior season, made the South Regional all tournament team that postseason.
The Golden Eagles bring a 17-game win streak into this showdown against a Duke team on a 9-game win streak of its own. The Blue Devils are one of the youngest teams in the country, but they found their footing towards the end of the season.
Oral Roberts has a much better defense now than it did in 2021 and Abmas is every bit the superstar guard he was that year. They won’t be an easy out for Duke, and if they get past this first round matchup, they could be alive for a run even deeper in the tournament.
South: 12 Charleston Cougars vs. 5 San Diego State Aztecs
The Charleston Cougars are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Pat Kelsey is in his second season as head coach, and he led the Cougars to a 31-win season that included a streak of 20 straight wins at one point.
The Cougars have tons of balance with five players scoring in double figures, but the Aztecs have an elite half-court defense. The Cougars want to run in transition, but the Aztecs have a ton of speed and force opponents to play in the half court.
The biggest advantage for Charleston in this game is the travel spot for San Diego State. A noon tip off on the East Coast won’t be easy for a West Coast team. That’s a small inconvenience, however, for an Aztecs team that has loads of experience and has lost just three times since December 10.
West: 12 VCU Rams vs. 5 Saint Mary’s Gaels
In 2011, VCU made a shocking run to the Final Four despite having to play an extra game in the First Four. The Rams are a different team now, but head coach Mike Rhoades has led this group to its third tournament appearance in his six seasons at the helm.
One area of concern for Saint Mary’s in this matchup is with VCU’s press defense. The Rams have a ton of athleticism and love to press while the Gaels have shown cracks against the press lately. The Gaels have also been liable to go through prolonged scoring droughts at various points.
Like San Diego State, Saint Mary’s also got hosed with this travel situation as they have to fly cross country for a tipoff that will be at 11 AM Pacific time. Could potential fatigue play a role for the Gaels?
Midwest: 12 Drake Bulldogs vs. 5 Miami Hurricanes
The Drake Bulldogs have the shortest spread of any 12 seed this year, and for good reason. They are one of the oldest teams in the country that’s finally healthy and peaking at the right time – they’re the 12th-best team in the country since February 8th according to Bart Torvik.
Drake is led by sophomore forward Tucker DeVries, the MVC player of the year and a legitimate high-major talent who’s playing at the mid-major level because he wanted to play for his dad, coach Darian DeVries.
It’s not just the DeVries show for Drake, though, as they have the oldest backcourt in the country with 25-year-olds D.J. Wilkins and Roman Penn. All of that experience and veteran leadership will provide a challenge for a Miami team with a highly questionable defense.
The Hurricanes could also be without Norchad Omier, their top forward, who was hurt in the ACC Tournament against Duke. That injury would be massive against Drake’s big men, so keep an eye on his status.