Skip to content

Five sleepers and five upset specials to keep an eye on

Feb 4, 2013, 10:00 PM EDT

Nerlens Noel Reginald Buckner

A hearty welcome to those of you just now joining the rest of us in following college basketball now that football season has ended. We’ll be running a series of posts to get all you football fans caught up on the season at-large. To read through them all, click here.

It’s never to early to start thinking about the NCAA tournament bracket and your office pool. In fact, I’d say that’s the reason that 75% of the people that watch college basketball on any given night are doing it. Scouting.

I get it.

Trust me.

It’s been four years since I haven’t finished in the money in a tournament pool. So book mark this page, and consider it my gift to you: a guide of who to focus on while you “scout”.

Five lower seeds that can make a tournament run:

Kentucky Wildcats: Kentucky’s on pace to end up getting somewhere around an eight or a nine seed. If I’m John Calipari, I’m hoping for a seven or a ten seed. Or lower. I don’t know if the Wildcats have the horses to knock off one of the top four teams in the country, but I think they certainly will be good enough to make the Sweet 16, regardless of seeding. They are starting to show some signs of growth, and with (at least) four lottery picks on the roster, I’m not ready to write this group off yet.

VCU Rams: The Rams play such a unique and tough-to-prepare-for style, they can spring an upset on a team with a back court that’s uncomfortable going against their pressure. The key for VCU is and always will be turnovers in the full court; given their lack of size, half court defense is not a strength for Shaka Smart’s club.

Pitt Panthers: The Panthers are almost certainly going to be underseeded as a result of their embarrassing non-conference schedule. And trust me when I tell you this is a good basketball team. They can defend, they are excellent at getting to the offensive glass, they pass the ball well and they have an underrated back court. You don’t want to see the Panthers in the second round of the tournament.

St. Louis Billikens: Tough, physical, half court defense. That’s how St. Louis wins game. And that’s out a team with less athleticism and less talent can win a basketball game. And, like Pitt, thanks to a couple of questionable losses this year, the Billikens are probably going to be seeded lower than they should be.

Long Beach State 49ers: LBSU isn’t going to be getting a seeding much better than 14 or 15, but this is a group with high-major talent and athleticism. James Ennis is legit, and he’s got a slew of talent — Michael Caffey, former top 25 recruit Keala King, DePaul transfer Tony Freeland, West Virginia transfer Dan Jennings — around him.

Five higher seeds that may bow out early:

NC State Wolfpack: NC State doesn’t defend at all, their star point guard has a bum ankle and has been up-and-down all season long, and their most talented player struggles when trying to take a game over and has been ineffective down the stretch. There’s so much to like about NC State this season, which is why it’s frustrating to see them struggle.

Minnesota Golden Gophers: I just don’t trust Minnesota offensively. So much of what they do relies on their ability to get to the offensive glass. Good teams are going to be able to keep them from getting there; it’s going to depend on the matchup. I don’t trust Minnesota to be consistent. They lost four in a row at the end of last month, and needed an impressive choke-job from Iowa to avoid losing to the Hawkeyes.

Creighton Bluejays: The Bluejays are a much-improved defensive team this season, yet they still rank 81st in the country in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. Throw in the fact that this is a team that survives because of their ability to shoot the basketball, and they are a risky play. On the nights those threes go down, they’re going to be tough to beat. On the nights they don’t, the Bluejays can be beaten.

Oregon Ducks: How healthy is Dominic Artis? That’s the biggest concern for Oregon right now, because without him, the Ducks simply cannot protect the ball. Already in the bottom third of the country when it comes to turnover percentage, Oregon has seen that number dip to 29.8% — literally the worst in the country — in the last three games without him.

Butler Bulldogs: I realize that it’s sacrilegious to say that Butler might get knocked out of the tournament early. I’m not happy about doing it. But here’s my thought process: Butler is good, but they don’t play the kind of defense that we expect out of Butler teams. They can struggle against teams that defend them physically (ahem, St. Louis) and I don’t love Butler’s point guard situation. But thanks to wins over Indiana, Gonzaga, Marquette and North Carolina, Butler looks like they could be in line for a three or a four seed, depending on how the A-10 plays out.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Austin Rivers plays pick-up against LSU freshman Antonio Blakeney, Rutgers freshman Corey Sanders (VIDEO)

    May 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Getty Images Kelly Kline/Getty Images

    Austin Rivers played against some exciting rising freshmen in Antonio Blakeney and Corey Sanders.

  2. Charlotte transfer down to four schools

    May 25, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    dorn

    Conference USA Freshman of the Year winner Torin Dorn is focusing on four schools.

  3. Auburn forward will transfer

    May 25, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    purchase

    Auburn is losing a reserve forward.

  4. Report: Five-star Class of 2016 guard Jamal Murray has timeline to decide future

    May 25, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Jamal Murray is one of the major pieces still in question for the 2015-16 college basketball season.

  5. 50 Shades of … Brey? (VIDEO)

    May 25, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    This is actually kind of creepy.

  6. Top 30 recruit cuts list to five

    May 25, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    2014 Nike EYBL. Session #2. Dallas. 2014 Nike EYBL. Session #2. Dallas.

    Bridges is considering hometown schools as well as a pair of blue-bloods.

  7. The latest on Thon Maker’s recruitment

    May 25, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Will Maker ever make it to college?

  8. Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley throws out first pitch at Diamondbacks game (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 7:29 PM EDT

    Bobby Hurley Bobby Hurley

    Arizona State’s “Curtain of Distraction” made an appearance as well.

  9. Donovan family thanks Florida fan base in full-page ad

    May 24, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    150524_Donovan Getty Images

    The last two decades were a special time for the Donovan family, who thanked the supporters who helped make it all possible.

  10. Pitt lands graduate transfer big man from Richmond

    May 24, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    alonzo nelson-ododa Getty Images

    Pitt added a big man who can play right away next season.

  11. Class of 2016 No. 1 Josh Jackson faces five-star guard Seventh Woods at UAA (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    2014 Under Armour Association Finals

    Two of the best in the 2016 class battle in the Under Armour Association.

  12. Academic issues expected to sideline St. John’s point guard for fall semester, maybe longer

    May 24, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    150524_Jordan_Rysheed Getty Images

    Already thin at the point, the situation becomes even tougher for first-year head coach Chris Mullin if this turns out to be the case.

  13. Former Providence center planning visits

    May 23, 2015, 9:51 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    A Big 12 and a Big Ten program are among those due who have reached out to the 7-foot-2 Fairfield Prep (Connecticut) product.

  14. Monitoring physicality as important as the shot clock in increasing offensive production

    May 23, 2015, 7:32 PM EDT

    Tad Boyle AP

    Colorado’s Tad Boyle doesn’t like the proposed shot clock change, and he made a good point about the physical nature of college basketball today.

  15. UC Davis, head coach Jim Les agree to contract extension through 2021

    May 23, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    Jim Les Jim Les

    Les led the Aggies to a school-record (Division I era) 25 wins and their first Big West regular season title last season.

  16. Four-star 2015 power forward to visit Cal, Texas and Washington

    May 23, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Scott Phillips/NBC Sports Scott Phillips/NBC Sports

    Noah Dickerson had previously committed to Georgetown and Florida.

  17. Max Bielfeldt down to three

    May 23, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Wolverine could remain in the Big Ten.

  18. Frank Kaminsky writes a farewell letter to Wisconsin fans

    May 23, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    150523_Kaminsky Getty Images

    The Wisconsin big man averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his last two seasons.