NCAA Tournament 2014: 15 Dark Horses That Could Make the Final Four
15 Dark Horses That Could Make the Final Four
As I am sure many people know, Selection Sunday has not taken place which means the field of 68 is not set in stone yet. Regardless, we will be looking at 15 dark horses that could make the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Although every team listed in this article has a great chance of making the dance, there is no guarantee that every single one will. As of right now, some of these teams seem like they have a pretty secure spot in the tourney and others are still on the bubble.
Moving on, teams like Florida, Syracuse, Duke, Michigan State, Arizona and many others are expected to do well in the upcoming tournament. All of those teams came into the season with high expectations and all of them will enter the tourney the same way.
Some teams on this list may surprise some people for the simple fact that they play in mid-major conferences. Other fans may be surprised to see some powerhouse teams. Whether the case, all 15 teams are dark horses.
That may have not been the case entering the season, but it definitely is now.
Selection Sunday really cannot come soon enough, but in the meantime you can read articles such as this one to get hyped up for the dance.
Without further ado, read on to see 15 dark horses that could make the Final Four. Keep in mind that all 15 teams clearly cannot pull off that feat since only four teams can make the Final Four.
Connecticut’s biggest win on the season came against Florida. The Gators only have two losses on the year and are ranked No. 2 in the nation.
However, the team has also beaten the likes of Memphis (twice) and Harvard. The Huskies also beat Maryland and Indiana when both teams were still considered quality opponents.
As long as Shabazz Napier is on the court this team can beat anyone they face. Clutch is one way to describe him and Florida would know all about that--hit the game-winner against the Gators.
The VCU Rams are more than likely not going to win the Atlantic 10 title this season, but they still could win the conference tournament.
Six losses on the season already or not, VCU is a team that earned a No. 5 seed in last year’s dance. It may have lost in the round of 32, but it did play the Michigan Wolverines--made the championship game.
The Rams returned a bunch of talent from that team and aren’t actually having that bad of a season. However, a lack of quality wins has this team way under-the-radar.
North Carolina Tar Heels
By the time the Big Dance starts North Carolina may not be a dark horse anymore. The team is on a seven-game win streak and could do some serious damage in the ACC tournament.
The Tar Heels have had a crazy season, but no one can forget the fact that it has beaten Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky. Those were the top three teams entering the season. Plus, Roy Williams is the head coach.
Harvard is naturally going to go way under-the-radar. It does play in the Ivy League which isn’t exactly as talented as the Big Ten. Still, this is a team that only lost to Colorado--when it had leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie--by eight points and it also only lost to Connecticut by five. Both games were played on the road for the Crimson.
They made the tournament last year and managed to upset the No. 3 New Mexico Lobos right off of the bat. This team brought back a lot of talent from last season.
Although the Crimson will be labeled a Cinderella if they make it far in the dance, they have been good all season long (currently 20-4) and are more than worthy of a top 25 ranking.
New Mexico Lobos
Yes, I just got done saying that the Lobos were upset by the Crimson in last year’s dance, but New Mexico did not lose much over the offseason.
San Diego State may be the only team getting national attention in the Mountain West Conference, but the Lobos are just one game behind it in the conference standings and still have to play the Aztecs twice.
New Mexico has two players averaging 17 or more points per game and I am sure the team will enter the tournament with a lot of momentum thanks to last year’s early exit.
Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are two of the most underrated players in college hoops. Both average 15+ points per game and could lead the Bruins to a national championship this season.
Them two and the rest of the Bruins have not been getting that much national attention because the team does not have the most impressive resume when it comes to quality wins, but UCLA is still 20-5 on the season.
It’s hard to believe that the Kentucky Wildcats could be considered a dark horse. They entered the season by being ranked No. 1 and arguably the most talented recruiting class of all time joined the team.
Still, the Wildcats lost three games in their non-conference schedule and they currently have three losses in the SEC.
Kentucky is definitely not going to enter the tournament as one of the favorites to win it all, but it still has arguably the most talent in the country and maybe that talent will translate to some wins.
St. John’s Red Storm
I still think St. John’s is one of the most talented teams in the Big East and it has been proving me right as of late. The Red Storm are on a five-game win streak which includes a victory over Creighton.
D’Angelo Harrison has the talent to carry this team into the Sweet 16 by himself. The rest of the team will have to show up as well if the Red Storm are going to make an improvable run to the Final Four.
Memphis arguably has the best backcourt in college hoops. That alone could carry this team far into the dance. Playing teams such as Oklahoma State (twice, and when it wasn’t losing every single game), Florida, Louisville (will eventually play it twice), Connecticut (twice) and others will have the Tigers more than ready for the tourney.
This could finally be the year that head coach Josh Pastner coaches his team on a deep run.
Iowa State Cyclones
This is probably the most questionable team on this list. Not because Iowa State is not capable of making it to the Final Four, but because it could easily be ranked in the top 10 entering the dance.
The Cyclones have Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane. Sure, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue probably deserve more credit, but Kane and Ejim are still in the running for player of the year.
Regardless, the Cyclones have three players averaging 15 or more points per game, they have been challenged all season long and a deep run in the dance is very possible.
Arizona State Sun Devils
There is one Arizona team that is expected to make it to the Final Four and that team is not Arizona State. However, the Sun Devils did just knock off the Wildcats and they have one of the best players in the nation in Jahii Carson.
Carson may not be the tallest player in the tournament (5-foot-10), but his 18.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game are very impressive.
Tennessee could be left out of the tournament once again this year, but let’s say that it makes it.
Jordan McRae is one of the best scorers in college basketball (19.6 PPG) and players like Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are rebounding machines. They combine for 18.4 rebounds per game.
The Volunteers have struggled in an underrated SEC, but they have more than enough talent to make some noise.
Yet another SEC team.
Earnest Ross is averaging 14.2 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game, Jordan Clarkson is averaging 18.7 points per game and four rebounds per game and Jabari Brown is averaging 20.5 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game.
All three of these players are very dangerous and the Missouri Tigers could be unstoppable if they are all on at the same time.
Saint Louis Billikens
Saint Louis may be ranked No. 10 in both major polls, but I am sure no one is expecting it to make the Final Four. Well, it has only lost two games all season long and is a perfect 10-0 in the Atlantic 10.
Those two losses came against No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 12 Wichita State (at the time). The A 10 could get six teams into the dance this year.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked in the top five at one point this season. They also started off the year by winning their first 15 games.
Well, the Big Ten can be brutal to even the best teams and basically everyone in the conference has been encountering that this season.
Ohio State made the Elite Eight last year. I am sure the team will be doing everything in its power to help get senior Aaron Craft into the national championship game. Although I am not sure if that will happen, Craft will be one of the most exciting players to watch in the 2014 NCAA tournament.