7 NCAA tournament opponents your team should hope to avoid in 2019

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders moves the ball against Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils in the first half at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Selection Sunday is a day full of hope. A day when possibilities are endless; when dreams roam free. That is, until 6 p.m. ET at least. That’s when dreams start to crack.

Every NCAA tournament field is full of landmines. The idea is to avoid them for as long as possible. Which is why Sunday is dramatic. There are the dream draws – the teams you read about on Thursday. And there are the nightmares – the teams you’ll read about below.

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Nightmares, roughly, come in three forms:

1. Teams that lose close game after close game from November through February, and therefore are undervalued by win-loss-based metrics the committee uses. But in those losses, they prove they can hang with the nation’s best.

2. Teams that are trending upward.

3. Teams that, for one reason or another, are built for the Big Dance.

There are several schools that fit those criteria. And even more – Texas and Florida, to name two – who would if they make the tournament, but whose status is still uncertain.

We’ll stick to the certainties. Here are seven teams that would represent nightmare tourney draws if their names appear next to your school’s on sunday:

An extra No. 1 seed

Duke | Projected seed: 2 | KenPom: 3

The best team in the country when healthy. But three weeks sans Zion Williamson might bump them down off the top line. If so, the Blue Devils’ region will effectively have two No. 1 seeds.

(And if not? Well, you still don’t want to play full-strength Zion-led Duke.)

The dangerous second tier

Texas Tech | Projected seed: 3 | KenPom: 8

The streak-stoppers play the nation’s stingiest defense. They sit atop KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, and have for much of the season. Now, though, they’re scoring as well – 1.27 points per possession over their final seven regular-season games, to be exact.

Tech has a lottery pick in Jarrett Culver; a brilliant coach in Chris Beard; a game-altering shot-blocker in Tariq Owens; and shooting and depth around them. Yet it’ll likely be one of two odd teams out in a 10-way battle for eight top-two seeds. It’ll be one of a few true title contenders below those top two lines.

Florida State | Projected seed: 4 | KenPom: 15

The Noles, 13-1 in their last 14, have played their way up from a 9-seed into 3-seed territory. And if that’s where they land, they’d still be a menace relative to seed-line peers. They have a skilled, ascendant big (Mfiondu Kabengele), size at all five positions, and Elite Eight experience. Nobody wants any part of a matchup with Leonard Hamilton’s crew right now.

Virginia Tech | Projected seed: 5 | KenPom: 11

Half the ACC belongs on this list. Seriously. Nobody is talking about the Hokies, even when Buzz Williams is karate-chopping water bottles. But Buzz has a group of versatile, combative athletes who shoot nearly 40 percent from 3. And if point guard Justin Robinson – out indefinitely with a foot injury since Jan. 30 – returns for the tourney? Virginia Tech will be a Final Four sleeper snoozing below the top-four seed lines.

The legit mid-major

Wofford | Projected seed: 7 | KenPom: 20

Time to get familiar with the 29-4 Terriers, who haven’t lost in 2019, and have the nation’s third-most efficient offense. Senior marksman Fletcher Magee is the closest thing college basketball has to J.J. Redick – and he’s not even the most accurate 3-point shooter on his own team. Nor the second-most accurate. Nor the third. In fact, the team’s long-range percentage (41.6) is higher than his (41.3).

Chasing Wofford’s three guards around the perimeter will be a hellish experience for even the most qualified of power-conference foes. And senior forward Cameron Jackson is a high-volume handful inside. This is anything but your typical mid-major. Heck, it’s anything but your typical 7-seed.

[Bushnell: 5 opponents to hope for on Selection Sunday]

The battle-tested ACC

Louisville | Projected seed: 7 | KenPom: 16

The Cardinals have played nine games against potential No. 1 seeds. They’ve only won two, but should have won three and could have won four. They’re probably not a Final Four contender, but will be significantly more talented than others on their seed line.

Syracuse | Projected seed: 10 | KenPom: 34

Jim Boeheim has – *whispers* – not been a very good regular-season coach lately. He hasn’t earned a single-digit seed since 2013-14. His teams have been shallow and inconsistent. But when March arrives?

Cuse hasn’t lost a first-round NCAA tournament game since 2006. It foiled Michigan State as an 11-seed en route to last year’s Sweet 16, and reached the Final Four as a 10 two seasons before that. And there are reasons. The zone befuddles unfamiliar opponents on short notice. Truncated postseason rotations play into Boeheim’s hands. And the Hall of Fame coach himself is college basketball’s second-best in close games.

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Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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