By: Steve DeAngelo
The NCAA Tournament, to me, is easily the best sporting event we have. Nothing matches the entertainment and excitement value provided from it. I got hooked on this tournament from a very young age and have been obsessed ever since. Three straight weeks of thrilling games, launched by48 games from Thurs-Sunday. For the next four days, following some light work Thursday morning, I will be doing absolutely nothing but watching, thinking and dreaming about College Basketball.
Below are some quick thoughts on sleeper teams, potential upsets, the Final Four, and some players to keep an eye on. If you have any questions about certain matchups or players, hit me up on twitter @FantasySavvy, email me at SteveDeAngelo@gmail.com or comment below.
Sleeper Teams & Potential Upsets
Davidson: Led by Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks, this combo has what it takes to take out Marquette. They play very fluidly and Brooks is a serious force inside. Marquette is a tough team and Buzz Williams is a very solid coach, which makes them hard to pick against, but this game is going to be very close. Davidson could easily play themselves into the Sweet 16.
Belmont: As we know, Belmont is no stranger to the Tournament, but they are a stranger to winning in the Tournament. But, I believe this season they are due for a win and Arizona is ripe for the picking. The Pac-12 was once again a poor conference and Arizona just doesn’t impress me. Look for Belmont’s two Senior Guards Ian Clark (18 ppg) and Kerrom Johnson to give Zona all they can handle. Like Davidson, this is another fluid, cohesive squad that can make a nice run.
Minnesota: This team has size, is battle tested and has the athleticism to make a run to the Sweet 16. UCLA lost arguably their most important player in Jordan Adams for the Tournament, so they, like fellow Pac-12 team Arizona, are also prone to go down in the first round. Expect the Gophers to control the boards and shut down UCLA on offense.
Northwestern State: This team can’t really play D and that’s not good when you match up with Florida, but they can score and rebound. In fact, Northwestern State leads the nation in scoring and is 12th in rebounding. I don’t trust Florida, Kenny Boynton hasn’t made a big shot his whole career, they have a weak inside game and I am going to take a shot with NW State here, despite them being 20-point dogs. Even if Florida does win this game, I don’t seem them making much noise at all in this tournament, the SEC like the PAC-12 has just been turrible this year.
Players to Watch:
Khalif Wyatt (G)-Temple: This kid can flat-out play and can carry Temple deep into the Tournament. Temple Head Coach Fran Dunphy has a horrible record in the Tournament at 1-5 but he is due for a deep run and this could be the year. Wyatt and Temple will need to get by C.J. Leslie and N.C. State which won’t be easy, but if they do, they could go on and beat Indiana and from there anything is possible. Wyatt reminds me of current Boston Celtic Jordan Crawford or maybe a James Harden lite. He has great range from three and gets to the hoop with consistency. When he gets to the line, he makes his FT’s shooting 83%. Temple has beaten Villanova, St. Louis, Syracuse and VCU this season, this team is legit and it all starts with Wyatt. Khalif has five games where he has scored at least 30 points and 11 games where he has scored 20.
C.J. Leslie (F) -N.C. State: N.C State has underachieved all season, but this team has the potential to go all the way to the Final 4. Leslie is a 6’9 Forward who reminds me a little bit of Kevin Garnett. He is crafty inside and has started to generate a mid-range game. I really am interested to see how he plays in this tournament because I think he has the potential to be a nice pro.
Doug McDermott (F)- Creighton: McDermott has the potential to pull a Stephen Curry and take this Creighton team to the Elite 8 or further, that’s how good he is. He can easily go off for 40 points like when he put up 41 against Wichita State two weeks ago. He can shoot the three, play with his back to the basket and is just such a refined and fundamentally sound player. Most of the country has seen him, but if you haven’t make sure you check him out.
And of course: Shane Larkin-Miami, Ben Mclemore-Kansas, Kelly Olynk-Zags, Marcus Smart-Ok State, Trey Burke-Michigan, DeShaun Thomas-Ohio St, Otto Porter-G’town, Cody Zeller-Indiana.
St. Louis: Just had a feeling about this team all year after I watched them win @ Butler. They have three guards in Mitchell, Jett and Mcall Jr. who all play excellent defense and can get to the rack. Dwayne Evans plays inside and although he’s only 6’5 he plays much bigger than that and is one of the most skilled post players in the country. They won an extremely tough A10, winning both the regular season and the conference tournament and they are beyond ready for a deep run. This team always plays cool, calm and collected and they are playing with a purpose, to win for the their former coach, the late Rick Majerus. Do not sleep on this team.
Ohio State: I’m taking Ohio State to come out of the west. I expect them to take out New Mexico everybody’s darling team this year and get past the Zags or Wisconsin in the Elite 8. The Buckeyes aren’t a great scoring team, but they are excellent defensively and are led by arguably the best leader in College Basketball in Aaron Craft. DeShaun Thomas is one of the best players in the country and with him they have a go to guy at the end of the game, not many teams can say that.
Georgetown: Bit of a homer pick here and I will admit it will be tough for G’town to beat either Kansas, Michigan or VCU, but their road to the Elite 8 might be the easiest of all the tournament teams. I think they are a lock to make it to the regionals. Otto Porter brings that Jeff Green skillset when Green led the Hoyas to the Final Four and Markel Starks reminds me of former Hoya Jonathan Wallace. Both make big shots and G’town plays a suffocating defense.
Miami: I think the player I’ve been most impressed with has been Shane Larkin. He is probably the best PG in the country and arguably the quickest and most explosive. He has great range from three, makes great decisions with the ball and is truly a masterful floor general. Kenny Kadji can also shoot the three as well as play inside. Jim Larranaga has been here before with George Mason and I believe he returns to the final weekend, but this time with a more talented team.
Again this is the best time of the year, all these matchups from teams that have never seen each other makes this tournament so interesting. You saw it tonight with the boys from Philly in LaSalle taking out the Boise State Broncos, showing that East Coast Basketball owns the West Coast! Enjoy the tournament everyone!