3 Sleeper Teams
Arizona – A top 5 team early in the season that fell into the middle of the Pac12 pack. But Sean Miller consistently took his Xavier teams on deep tourney runs; no reason to think he can’t win a few games this year with a talented Wildcats squad. (Matt Sherman)
VCU – The Rams’ Havoc defense is extremely tough to prepare for on short notice, something Michigan would potentially have to deal with in the Round of 32. Shaka Smart will have his team ready and they won’t be in awe of anybody in this tournament. (Matt Sherman)
Iowa State – Fred Hoiberg’s team had a nice year in the Big 12. If not for a buzzer beater and a blown call, the Cyclones would have beaten Kansas twice this season. I think they’ll get by Notre Dame, and if they can spring the upset over Ohio State, anything is possible. (Matt Sherman)
Oregon – The Pac 12 champions were snubbed a bit by the committee and will be looking to send a statement to the Cowboys in the second round. The Ducks have three guys that average double figures and E.J. Singler is a threat from all over the court.
Belmont – The Bruins won the Ohio Valley and have experience against VCU and Kansas this season. Ian Clark is a handful averaging 18 points a game and is a 46 percent three point shooter. Belmont will give Arizona all they can handle and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are playing New Mexico this weekend.
Davidson – The Wildcats may have their best team since Steph Curry led them to the Sweet 16. Davidson has played Duke and New Mexico so they have faced tough competition along the way. Marquette is a solid squad but they will have a battle on their hands with an experienced Davidson squad.
3 Upset Alert Teams
Marquette (vs. Davidson)– While the Golden Eagles had a great year, they often won ugly. They’ll get a swift test in a 3 vs 14 game against Davidson, a well coached team who played a handful of Power 6 teams this season and has an NCAA tournament pedigree. (Matt Sherman)
Michigan (vs. South Dakota State) – At one point this season Michigan looked like a Final Four team. At the end of the season they lost at Penn State (yuck) and choked away a chance to beat Indiana in the last regular season game. If South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters heats up, Michigan could suffer a disappointing early exit to a once promising season. (Matt Sherman)
Butler (vs. Bucknell)– Butler righted the ship a bit late in the year, but never quite got their top 10 form back. Bucknell might play in the lowly Patriot League, but make no mistake, the Bison can compete – as evidenced by their win over Lasalle and two-point loss at Missouri. (Matt Sherman)
3 Intriguing Matchups
5 Oklahoma State vs. 12 Oregon – Oregon was clearly the most underseeded team in the field. Oklahoma State had a strong year, staying in the rankings most of the year. Talent-wise, these teams are not separated by seven seed lines. Top NBA prospect Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State could be the difference in this one. (Matt Sherman)
5 UNLV vs. 12 California – Much like the Oklahoma State-Oregon game, this game feels much more competitive than the seeding would suggest. While UNLV is clearly the more talented group here, expect the Bears to have some support in San Jose, an easy drive (Bay Area traffic aside) from campus. (Matt Sherman)
8 North Carolina vs. 9 Villanova – The only 8/9 game featuring two Power 6 schools, UNC-Nova is a matchup of traditional college basketball powers. Neither team was even close to being in the field before conference play began. Jay Wright in particular did an outstanding job guiding his team through the rugged Big East to land in the tourney. Roy Williams has the Tar Heels peaking just at the right time. The winner will have to deal with Kansas. (Matt Sherman)