Every year before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins, we always hear about a few lower seeded teams that could potentially make a deep run in March. These Cinderella stories seem to happen every year so picking the right sleeper is crucial for your bracket and its success. Here are a few teams worth keeping an eye on when play starts Thursday morning.
Coming into the tournament as many expert’s bracket-buster, Southern Methodist University is in the middle of its best season in school history. Arriving at the big dance with an RPI of 15, SMU got hosed with a six seed. Sporting a 16 game win streak and having won 26 of their last 27, the Mustangs have not lost a game since January 12th when they lost to then #11 Cincinnati. SMU is very tough to guard at every position as all five starters average double figures for points led by star forward Semi Ojeleye. The Mustangs have used the unique skillset and size of Ojeleye perfectly. At 6’7, Ojeleye plays a small ball type power forward position for the Mustangs. Averaging 19 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting 43% from 3, Semi Ojeleye presents a matchup nightmare for opponents as he is too quick for forwards trying to defend him around the perimeter and is too big for guards to handle him down in the post.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Coming into the tournament winning eight of their last ten, Notre Dame is playing just as good as anyone in the field. With an RPI of 23 and receiving a 5 seed, this team is poised to do some damage this March once again after going to the Elite 8 the past couple years. The guy to keep an eye on for the Irish is power forward Bonzie Colson. Colson is a very unconventional Division I power forward because he is only 6’5. Teams nowadays love size when it comes to their forwards so it is a bit rare to get a guy doing the type of damage Colson is doing at the Division I level. Averaging a double-double (18 points/10 rebounds), Colson has been one of the ACC’s most feared players for good reason.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
Every year we seem to have one double-digit seed get to the Sweet 16. This year that potential team is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys come in sporting one of the deepest rosters in college basketball playing nine guys 15 minutes or more per game. As they say, guard play wins in March, and if this year is no different watch out for #1 Jawun Evans. Possibly the best point guard in the country, Evans has been compared to Chris Paul because of his passing ability and his success in pick-n-roll type situations. Evans has averaged 19 points and 6 assists per game making him a feared scorer as well as assist man.
NCAA tournament play starts Thursday at 11 A.M.