We’re one day removed from Selection Sunday and the full 68-team field for the 2023 NCAA Tournament has been set. As you’re mulling over your bracket, you may be pondering which mid-major program could be make a serious run into the second weekend of the big dance.
Below, we’ll go over three mid-majors that have a serious shot at making the Sweet 16 in this year’s tourney.
2023 March Madness: Mid-majors who can make Sweet 16
No. 12 Drake
1st Round Opponent: Miami
2nd Round Opponent: Indiana or Kent State
Drake is in the big dance for the second time in three years, surviving ‘Arch Madness’ by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to punch its ticket. The Bulldogs are led by sophomore guard Tucker DeVries, who averaged 19 points and 5.6 rebounds to earn MVC Player of the Year honors this season. Along with his scoring, the team possessed a top 50 defense in adjusted efficiency and were particularly elite on the defensive glass.
That makes the Bulldogs a threat to trigger a classic 12-5 upset over Miami should they be able to keep ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong in check. An upset would put them into a second round matchup against either Indiana or Kent State, two opponents they could also potentially give fits. Do not be shocked if you see Drake in the Sweet 16 come next weekend.
No. 12 Oral Roberts
1st Round Opponent: Duke
2nd Round Opponent: Tennessee or Louisiana
If you remember, the Golden Eagles stunned Ohio State in a rare 15 over 2 upset in 2021 and eventually made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Max Abmas was the leader of that team and is still carving opposing defenses up, averaging 22.2 points heading into the tournament. The high tempo offense of Oral Roberts is one of the best units in the nation and its is carrying a nation-leading 17-game win streak into the big dance.
They get No. 5 Duke in the first round of the East Region and while the Blue Devils are riding high off an ACC Tournament title, there’s always the chance that their young squad could fold in the face of the Golden Eagles’ experience. If Oral Roberts is able to clear that hurdle right out the gate, watch out.
No. 13 Furman
1st Round Opponent: Virginia
2nd Round Opponent: San Diego State or Charleston
Furman is in the big dance for the first time since 1980 and punched its ticket by winning the SoCon Tournament Championship last week. Led by SoCon Player of the Year Jalen Slawson, the Paladins operated a quick tempo offense that leads the nation in two-point shooting percentage at 59.1%. Defensively, they were average, but still forced opponents to take their time to find adequate shots.
That combination is what makes them a trendy pick to take down No. 4 Virginia in the first round of the South Region. We’ve become accustomed to the glacial pace that Tony Bennett Cavalier teams operate at over the years but if Slawson and company can establish a little bit of offensive momentum in this one, they’ll be ripe for the upset. Afterwards, they would be matched up with a pair of fellow mid-majors in either San Diego State or Charleston in the second round, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Furman playing into the second weekend.