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10 Dark Horse College Basketball National Championship Contenders

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College Basketball: 10 Dark Horse National Championship Contenders

10 Dark Horse National Championship Contenders
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The only thing better than college basketball is college basketball come the month of March. Everyone filling out their brackets, looking for the not-so-elusive upset in the first round, and your jerk boss going chalk. We both know you're a college hoops die-hard and you already know what teams you will be keeping a close eye out for all season long. And while you can certainly impress your significant other with the obvious 12 beating a 2 seed come tourney time, he or she will be even more impressed when you tell them which 10 teams are top secretly contenders for the National Title.

Now "sleeper" teams(or dark horses) aren't a team you've never heard of but are ranked in the top fifteen in the country. Nor are they a big time program that's ranked 19th. No, they are teams nobody is taking the time to take a harder look at. Or in many cases, teams that get no pub on your local picture-box sports network. The key factor in being one of these sleeper teams is going widely unnoticed. While a team like the Kentucky Wildcats are now un-ranked, they don't qualify as a sleeper team because certain yahoos thought they were going to be good as the fifth ranked team in all the land. They have gone plenty noticed by everyone who follows college hoops.

The criteria are simple. If they're not getting major TV time but are continuously showing the "It" factor, you're favorite college hoops program has a chance to make our list of "Top 1o Dark Horse National Championship Contenders". These teams are in no particular order, I mean they are horses in the dark so they can't be in any specific order.

Joe covers the Big East(HERE) for Rant Sports and as well as some NBA(HERE). Follow Joe on that fancy Twitter device @JosephNardone

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Saint Mary's Gaels

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

You east coast biased fans, you haven't realized the Saint Mary's Gaels has been a pretty solid program for a while now. The Gaels are currently rocking a 5-2 overall record but have shown the yearly habit of getting stronger late in the season. While all big-time conference teams lineup their non-conference schedule with cupcakes the entire schedule of the Gaels has assorted flavors of yum-yums. Giving them plenty of time to get their act together and be ready to go dancing deep in March.

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Temple Owls

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when the Temple Owls were a lock for a run in the tournament? Well start to get excited, not to overly excited, the Owls have looked impressive in the start of their regular season and has a few telling games coming up. Temple has scheduled a couple games against elite competition in the hopes of benefiting from the experience come March.

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Maryland Terrapins

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While the Maryland Terrapins are making news for switching conferences people are missing out on a really solid start to their season. So far the Terps have compiled a 6-1 overall record with their only loss coming in their opener against, the then third ranked team in the country, Kentucky. Buy in the Terrapins hype now, because thanks to a slew of easy games, they will be ranked pretty high in about a month and every "expert" will be telling you how they saw it coming.

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Colorado State Rams

Ram Tough
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

These aren't your Bradly Van Pelt Colorado State Rams. No sir, instead they are a team being carried on the back of senior big man Colton Iverson. The Rams aren't known as any kind of collegiate sports powerhouse, and getting an invitation to go dancing would be enough to satisfy most alum, however don't only expect them to put their slippers on but expect them to smash them against opponents faces all year-long.

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New Mexico Lobos

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

I don't know if we can still classify the New Mexico Lobos as a dark horse. As of this week they've been ranked in the top 25 for the first time since the last time. The Lobos haven't looked great in every game they have played but they have won them, so there's that. While their non-conference schedule wasn't loaded with BCS type schools they have played Tournament quality teams. Out west some other more "viable" teams have been getting a lot more pub than the Lobos but don't expect that to last much longer.

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Alabama Crimson Tide

Roll Tide
Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Did you know the Alabama Crimson Tide had a basketball program, probably not. The Tide's only loss came against the Cincinnati Bearcats in what can actually be considered a moral victory. This is a 20 win team this season and has one of the more underrated players in the SEC on their roster in Rodney Cooper. Alabama also has room to improve as team, so for a program that's already 6-1 for the season, that scares the pudding cats out of other SEC schools.

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Oregon Ducks

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks are a program that gets a lot of nice funding thanks to its ties to Nike. Now both the football(for a few years now) and basketball programs are befitting from the extra cash. What seems to be a growing trend in this list, the Ducks only loss came at the hands of Cincinnati but has seven wins otherwise. They also have a super-freshman in Damyean Dotson who is playing some of the best basketball of any freshman in the country. Keep an eye out for both the Ducks and Dotson as the season continues.

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The Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Commonwealth Rams are only 5-3 to start their season. But that's not because they're not good, it's because they loaded up their non-conference schedule in the hopes it provides a preparation for success come March. Also they have Shaka Smart. Don't EVER count out Smart.....EVER.

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St. John's Red Storm

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The St. John's Red Storm were picked by many to finish near the bottom of the Big East. Chalk-full of players not old enough to go to a gentlemen's club, the Red Storm are going to get better every time they step foot on the hardwood. They're also led by possibly the most underrated player in the country, D'Angelo Harrison, who has the ability to put this team on his back and carry it to the promise land.

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Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Lehigh Mountain Hawks shouldn't be considered a dark horse if folks had their brains remotely in the vicinity of their skull. Lehigh is led by, the now heavily, hyped C.J. McCollum. McCollum is a legit NBA Lottery pick who can put the bucket in the basket, a lot. He's also a sleeper pick for being the nation's best player. That's how good he is and how good he makes the team. Also, the team is nicknamed the Mountain Hawks. Are you betting against a Mountain Hawk? I know I'm not.