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NCAA Tournament Cinderella candidates include Loyola-Chicago, Marshall

Selecting one team at each seed, between 11-16, who could advance to the Round of 32.

Zach Lofton and New Mexico State have a

Zach Lofton and New Mexico State have a solid chance to upset No. 6 Clemson on Friday. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Sam Wasson

America soon will be in the throes of March Madness, with all the devastation that comes along with one’s NCAA Tournament bracket being busted by some unheralded mid-major school.

Sure, the smart bet is to play it safe and go mostly chalk — picking top teams to win — but there are always a few double-digit seeds who pull off surprises. Generally, the lower seeds are less likely to win, but here’s a look at seeds 11-16 and one team from each group with the best chance to win either Thursday or Friday over the favorites.

11. Loyola-Chicago

Believe it or not, the Ramblers won the 1963 NCAA title. They also have just one tournament appearance, in 1985, over the last 50 years.

But the Missouri Valley Conference champs are no fluke, with a December win over then fifth-ranked Florida. Loyola is fifth in the nation in scoring defense and makes 39.8 percent of their 3-point tries. Thursday’s opponent, Miami (Fla.), was battle-tested in the ACC but may be the most vulnerable No. 6 seed in the field.

12. New Mexico State

Everyone loves to pick a 5-12 upset, and the Aggies are the strongest candidates to reach the weekend.

Led by senior guard Zach Lofton (19.8 ppg), the WAC’s finest topped Miami in late December and will face another ACC also-ran in Clemson on Friday. They rank fifth nationally in rebound margin and 10th in scoring defense, so controlling the boards will be key.

13. Marshall

The No. 4 seeds in the field don’t look very vulnerable on the whole, and that includes the Thundering Herd’s Friday opponent, Wichita State.

Still, the Conference USA tournament winners won’t be intimidated by this stage. Marshall’s tight December loss to Xavier, the top seed in the West Regional, points to a team that won’t fear the Shockers. Both teams are top 20 in scoring, and a shootout could go either way.

14. Bucknell

The Bison shouldn’t be expected to beat No. 3 Michigan State on Friday, but the Patriot League winners are no pushovers.

Seniors Zach Thomas (20.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and Nana Foulland (15.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) will be counted upon to do the heavy lifting from the frontcourt. The Spartans, however, lead the country by holding opponents to 36.6 percent from the field and blocking 243 shots.

15. Georgia State

A popular long-shot pick from pundits, the Panthers will the Sun Belt’s lone representative when they face No. 2 Cincinnati on Friday. Sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds (21.1 ppg) can do it all, and he’ll become a household name if he can lead these underdogs past the Bearcats.

16. Pennsylvania

Never put any serious faith in a No. 16 seed. That said, the Ivy League champion Quakers are as good a pick as any to be the first bottom seed to reach the Round of 32.

Penn ranks 43rd in field goal percentage defense, but No. 1 Kansas is ninth in shooting accuracy. Hey, maybe it’ll be close for a half on Thursday.

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