10 College Basketball Sleepers to Watch in the 2013 NCAA Tournament
2013 NCAA tournament Sleepers
There is no need to rush the college basketball season. It is just beginning and true fans will savor every moment of it. However, it is never too soon to look forward to the NCAA tournament because, if you are like me, March Madness is your favorite time of the year.
You have probably heard plenty of pundits’ picks for the Final Four and national championship game by now and some sleepers who could join the list of title contenders. There is, however, one cluster of teams that typically gets overlooked until fans fill out their brackets. This group of teams is the sleepers who can make a run in the NCAA tournament, but are not among the blue blood national title contenders. Many of these teams may not grab headlines until it is tournament time. Other teams will establish themselves over the course of the regular season and become popular sleeper picks (I realize this is an oxymoron) when filling out brackets.
This is a list of those teams who have all the necessary components that successful tournament teams have.
Obviously, you do not need to know these sleepers now unless you belong to some crazy college basketball obsessed cult (nothing wrong with that). However, this list will give an idea of some teams you may want to watch over the course of the regular season. This way, when it is time to fill out your bracket, you will have a feel for the teams the rest of the people in your pool know nothing about.
So without further adieu, here is a list of the sleepers to watch in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
The Belmont Bruins do not get much publicity, but they have made the NCAA tournament five out of the last seven years. They are now in the Ohio Valley Conference, which means the entire Atlantic Sun Conference is sleeping much better. Belmont should compete for the Ohio Valley Conference title, but if they come up short, an at-large bid is very possible. Then the Bruins become dangerous because nearly every player in Head Coach Rick Byrd’s rotation has played in at least two NCAA tournament games.
Lehigh is the name on most people’s minds when they think about the Patriot League, but Bucknell is my pick to win the league. Everyone saw how C.J. McCollum showed out in last year’s tournament, but Bucknell nearly prevented that from happening by almost winning the conference. This season, look for 6-foot-11 center Mike Muscala. He is the kind of big and skilled player who can give teams fits in the tournament.
Scootie Randall. Yes, you read the correctly. Scootie did not play last season because of a knee injury, but the kid can play. In fact, he might be the best player in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Temple has not received much hype because there were many questions as to whether Randall would fully recover and become the explosive score he had the potential to be before his knee surgery. After 31 points in Temple’s opener, it seems Scootie will be just fine.
7. St. Joseph’s
Langston Galloway is a future pro and St. Joseph’s is the real deal. Notre Dame found that out already and the Hawks have the ability to make the tournament and make some noise. Lack of depth is a concern, but the five starters can compete with any team they will meet for the rest of the season.
6. Wichita State
Wichita State was a five seed in last season’s NCAA tournament and lost quite a bit from that team. However, a 4-0 start which included a win against VCU, who eliminated the Shockers last season, means Wichita State has a team ready to make another stab at the tournament. They were a trendy pick as a Cinderella a season ago and could be again this year.
5. Virginia Commonwealth
As long as Shaka Smart is the head coach then Virginia Commonwealth will continue to be on list like these. Juvonte Reddic is a possible breakout candidate and has looked the part so far in two blowout wins and a tight one against Wichita State. The Rams play Memphis Thursday in what should be a great game.
While we are mentioning great coaches at small schools, Butler and Brad Stevens might as well get a spot on this list as well. Butler’s big issue last season was that they could not shoot. This season, Stevens brought in one of the best shooters in the country, Rotnei Clarke, and one of the best freshman shooters in the country. Kellen Dunham. Problem solved.
3. New Mexico
New Mexico beat Connecticut last night and remains one of the best programs out west despite losing Drew Gordon to the NBA. The Lobos have become a perennial powerhouse in the Mountain West Conference. They have won a NCAA tournament game two out of the past three seasons and this could be the year they string some of them together.
Ohio won two games in the tournament last season and then brought North Carolina to overtime before getting knocked out. They bring almost everyone back and D.J. Cooper is one of the best players in the country. John Groce may have left, but he didn’t play in any games for the Bobcats last year either anyway.
1. San Diego State
I wrote an article before the season about how good I thought Jamaal Franklin was. I still believe that even though he did not do much against Syracuse in the Carrier Classic. Fortunately for him, most games are played on land and San Diego State has a very good team. They will be a top 25 team all season, but this sleeper actually has a shot to play for the Final Four.