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. Semifinal matchups for Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic announced

    Aug 1, 2015, 5:27 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    SMU will be the headliner for this event, with the semifinals scheduled for December 22 and the third place and title games the following night.

  2. Wichita State lands transfer guard from Texas A&M

    Aug 1, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Former Texas A&M guard Peyton Allen is now a Shocker.

  3. Iowa sophomore forward shows improvement in summer league

    Aug 1, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    (Brian Ray/Hawkeyesports.com) (Brian Ray/Hawkeyesports.com)

    Iowa is hoping for improvement from a sophomore forward who showed promise this summer.

  4. adidas Nations releases list of college counselors

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    There will be 39 college counselors playing at adidas Nations this weekend.

  5. Isaac Humphries is Kentucky’s insurance policy inside, but should that be concerning?

    Aug 1, 2015, 8:52 AM EDT

    FIBA FIBA

    Is this an addition for depth, or should Kentucky be concerned about another center?

  6. Source: Isaac Humphries expected to commit to Kentucky, enroll in 2015

    Aug 1, 2015, 8:44 AM EDT

    (Francois Nel/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Kentucky continues to add international pieces to its latest recruiting class.

  7. Summer mixtape of five-star guard Markelle Fultz (VIDEO)

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz was one of the best players during the July live evaluation period.

  8. Five-star Class of 2016 guard Frank Jackson cancels visit and sets official to Duke

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Duke gets a huge official visit in late August from a five-star guard.

  9. UCLA gets commitment from Class of 2019 guard and brother of five-star commitment

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    LaMelo Ball, a 13-year-old guard, committed to UCLA like his two older brothers.

  10. Michigan State guard returns from multiple foot injuries

    Jul 31, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    Maryland v Michigan State Getty Images

    Michigan State sophomore guard Javon Bess will try to stay healthy and in the rotation next season.

  11. Richmond lands its second 2016 commitment of the week

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Chris Mooney - UR AP

    Both are perimeter players, giving the Spiders additional depth moving forward.

  12. Four-star combo guard trims list to five schools

    Jul 31, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Rivals Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Rivals

    McLaughlin de-committed from Washington in mid-May, but the Huskies remain in the mix.

  13. Appeals court grants stay of injunction in O’Bannon lawsuit

    Jul 31, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    ed o'bannon Getty Images

    The injunction would have allowed current and future players to be compensated for the uses of their names, images and likenesses.

  14. Kentucky announces plans for alumni game against former North Carolina players

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT

    150731-UK-UNC Getty Images

    The two programs are ranked first and third, respectively, on the NCAA all-time wins list.

  15. Shooting guard Maverick Rowan’s junior season highlight video

    Jul 31, 2015, 11:07 AM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Louisville, NC State, St. John’s and West Virginia remain in the running for his pledge.

  16. Three-star guard Myles Powell trims list to eight

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images

    Powell’s recruiting profile has risen thanks to the way he’s played throughout the summer.

  17. Power forward becomes Iowa’s second 2016 commitment

    Jul 30, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT

    Fran McCaffery AP

    With Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury being seniors, having two front court commits in 2016 is good news for the Hawkeyes.

  18. Italy trip comes at good time for young Stanford team

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    Johnny Dawkins AP

    The Cardinal need to account for the loss of their top three scorers (and top two rebounders) from last season’s NIT champion team.

  19. Valparaiso star center receives extra year of eligibility

    Jul 30, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Crusaders are getting back the league’s defensive player of the year.