With 2 of my sleepers falling early in day 1 of the NCAA Tournament, I am here to give you the remaining sleepers that have the talent and the favorable draw to make a Cinderella like run through the NCAA Tournament with a shot to go to the Final Four.
1. Oregon Ducks (12 seed in the Midwest Region)
The Ducks are a scary team when they can play their style of basketball. With a team that loves to run the floor and spread you out, the Ducks can be a tough out for anyone especially when they hit their shots and can D you up in the back court. Playing with a chip on their shoulder after getting a slap-in-the-face 12 seed after winning the PAC-12 tournament and defeating 6-seed UCLA twice, once in that championship game, the Ducks have all the more reason to prove critics wrong. Oregon draws a struggling and streaky Oregon St team led by standout freshman Marcus Smart in the first round and then draw an unknown St. Louis team, a streaky Louisville team and then Duke who is always bound to fall to an inferior opponent come tournament time. Look for Oregon to breeze past Oregon St and if they pull out the win against St. Louis do not be surprised if they make a run to the Elite 8.
2. Minnesota Gophers (11 seed in the South Region)
Even though the Gophers have limped their way into the tournament losing 3 straight, Minnesota is sure to be a favorite “upset” pick in the first round of the tournament. They draw aforementioned UCLA who just dropped the PAC-12 final to Oregon which should be a barn burner. Then they draw maybe their hardest roadblock to a Final 4 appearance in the Florida Gators. If the Gophers pull it off and beat Florida, look for them to challenge Georgetown and a Kansas Jayhawk team that plays right into Minnesota’s strengths. The Big 10 is strong this year, don’t sleep on the Gophers.
3. Wichita State Shockers (9 seed in the West Region)
The Shockers are a dangerous team and are sure to shock (sorry for the terrible pun) many bracket predictors who year in and year out seem to be blinded by Big East bias. The Shockers should easily handle the Pitt Panthers in the first round, their run-and-gun style will simply be too much for Pitt to handle. This is when it gets dicey, as the 9 seed, in the second round the Shockers have to fact the 1 seed in the West. Luckily for Wichita, its Gonzaga, who I do not respect as a 1 seed. Yes, they went undefeated in their conference and yes they were a 1 seed in the regular season, I just don’t see it. Take Kelly Olynyk out of the game physically and mentally and the Zags will fall. Then, the Shockers draw either Wisconsin or Kansas St, both of which have trouble playing in March and match up well with Wichita State. Look for the Shockers to make it to at least the Sweet 16, and possibly further.
4. Villanova Wildcats (9 seed in the South Region)
And now, everyone’s favorite Cinderella the Villanova Wildcats. Villanova has been an enigma most of the season, with losses to Columbia (by 18 at home), Providence x2 and Seton Hall late in the season it seems as if the Wildcats should not even be dancing in March, but they managed 3 Top 5 wins at home over Louisville, Georgetown and Syracuse. Villanova certainly has the talent and ability to play up to their competition and win some ball games. I see this post-season run resting on the shoulders of freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono has the ability to drain 3’s all day if left open, the only problem? He will chuck 3’s when triple-teamed. The Wildcats draw UNC in the first round which will surely put them to the test. If they manage to win against UNC, they draw a favorable match-up with Kansas who is vulnerable to the Wildcats’ style of play. Then Villanova will draw either VCU or Michigan which is when most figure the magic run will end. The road seems to be just a little too difficult for the Wildcats to get to the Final Four but you never know with this team. If they manage to get to a rematch with Georgetown in the Elite 8 all bets are off given the teams history. This team could get blown out by 40 in the first round or win the title and neither would truly shock me.
Well, there you go, brackets are locked so no stealing my sleeper teams but keep a look out for Oregon, Wichita St, Minnesota and Villanova to turn some heads this tournament and make some noise.