March Madness Sleepers
March 16, 2016
By John Fisher
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Listed below are teams listed at No. 5 or higher that I believe can make an impact in this year's NCAA Tournament.
8) Uconn...This team reminds of the 2011 UConn team that went through its conference tournament in five days to clinch a berth to the tournament. They then took that momentum and the incredible play of point guard Kemba Walker to take down the nets. This year Uconn had to win or go deep in conference tournament and did so with a spectacular 4OT performance and a 3/4 court shot at the buzzer to force the 4th OT. Center Amidah Brimah is a 7 footer who is finally healthy and looking like a tough obstacle to score on with his shot blocking. Then you have sophomore sensation forward Daniel Hamilton that is a tough cover. Top-seed Kansas better not look pass these Uconn Huskies or it will be out in the second round.
5) Maryland...I had this squad as a Final Four 4 contender as did other head coaches in the beginning of the year. However, PG Melo Trimble injured his hamstring halfway through the season and has not been the same. Add to that his confidence has suffered as well. If he some how comes out of his shell (no pun intended), then this team can easily advance to the Elite 8 or Final 4. Forward Jake Layman is the key to this team. He creates matchup problems and helps free up forward Robert Carter and center Diamond Stone in the paint to get easy baskets.
11) Wichita State...Head coach Gregg Marshall is one of the best in the nation that can give opponents fits with his defensive schemes. Plus, the backcourt of Fred VanFleet and Ron Baker will make this team a tough out. Wichita State is ranked first in the nation in defensive efficiency and holds opponents below 59 pts a game. The Shockers held Vanderbilt to 50 points in the "First Four" game on Tuesday and both Arizona and Miami, Fl. better not overlook this team in the South.
8) Saint Joseph's...The public finally got to see one of the best one two combos in G/Fs DeAndre' Bembry and Isaiah Miles for the Hawks. They are so difficult to guard because they can shoot, dribble, and drive to the basket. The tandem just made a very good VCU team look average in the Atlantic 10 Championship game. Bettors backing the No. 1 Ducks in this region should be weary of St. Joe's.
13) VCU....Speaking of teams that lost to the above Saint Joseph Hawks, these Rams won't be an easy out by any means. They play a deep bench and have a great inside outside combo in C Mo Alie-Cox and a guard tandem in Melvin Johnson and Jaquan Lewis. I expect the Rams to beat Oregon State in the first round and eventually meet No. 2 Oklahoma in the second round. This will be in a fight to the finish here and I won't be surprised if we see our first major upset with a #13 seed beating a #2 Seed.
11) Michigan....There always seems to be a team each year that people feel that doesn't deserve to be in the dance. Then they come out and win a couple of games to say we belong. Maybe it will be Michigan this year. A lot say Michigan was a surprise. Tulsa to me was a big mistake. Michigan has a style that can be an issue for a lot of teams that might have a difficult time going small. West Virginia, a No. 3 seed in the East, uses a press defense to throttle opponents into turnovers. This won't happen against this Michigan Wolverines team that has four ball handlers and ranks in the Top 10 in turnover efficiency on offense. Beware #3 West Virginia.
7) Wisconsin...The Badgers won't repeat their great run last year to the Championship but they will be a tough out. Their defense and style are perfect for tournament play. Much like a poor mans Virginia, if the opponent doesn't pay attention to details the Badgers can sneak up on you. The Badgers would meet No. 2 seed Xavier in the next round and the Musketeers better play their 'A' game to,escape an upset bid from these Badgers.
5) Purdue...The imposing front court lineup of AJ Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan can carry them deep into the tournament . If their guards of Vince Edwards, Raphael Davis, and PJ Thompson can contribute there is no reason why this team can't get pass No. 4 Iowa State (over seeded) and No. 1 Virginia.
6) Seton Hall...Led by the electric sophomore guard tandem of Khadeen Carrington and Isaiah Whitehead this team just defeated in my opinion two top 5 caliber teams in Villanova and Xavier to win the Big East tournament. What was impressive to me is that both coaches of Villanova (Jay Wright) and Xavier (Chris Mack) said that Seton Hall's defense was the best they have seen all year. If I'm No. 3 Utah, I'd be shaking In my boots right now.
10) Syracuse...Similar to Michigan, this team has been told they shouldn't be in the dance. With a 1-5 record to end the season you can't say that coach Jim Boeheim didn't have influence on the NCAA tournament committee . This will give them some added incentive as they play against Dayton and possibly Michigan State. F Tyler Roberson and G Michael Gbinije can carry this team. If the Spartans can't find their outside shot it could be a major upset for the Orange over No. 2 Michigan State.
I believe the South is the toughest regional by far.
I believe the committee was off this year on seeding and certain teams being left out. I'm not sure if they even watched more than a couple of games. Sometimes looking at analytics amd numbers doesn't tell a story. They seem to have missed on a lot of fronts.
Duke should be a No. 6 Seed
Kentucky should be a No. 3 Seed
Texas A&M should be a No. 4 Seed
Wichita State should be a No. 7 Seed
Saint Joseph's should be a No. 6 Seed
Oregon State should be No. 10 Seed and VCU a No. 7 Seed
Indiana and Purdue should be No. 4 Seeds
Iowa State should be a No. 6 Seed
Seton Hall should be a No. 4/5 Seed
Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Tulsa, Oregon State should be home and replaced by Monmouth, Saint Mary's, Valparaiso and San Diego State