Teams Who Can Make Unexpected Run In March
It’s March and you know what that means…time to talk brackets. One of the hardest things about filling out a bracket is picking what I like to call your “Snoozer.” It’s the team that’s more realistic than your mid major who may pull a first round upset, and more risky than the powerhouses that are the One and Two seeds. It’s extremely tricky to try to identify which team that finished towards the middle of their conference, will catch fire in March. The conference tournaments are the last look at teams before March, and I’m going to give you some teams I have my eye on that could possibly hit their stride at the right time.
This team has been through it all, from a last place finish at Battle 4 Atlantis, to having your best scorer suspended for a trace amount of a banned substance. And finally, having your Coach and best player listed in a major FBI probe. This team is surely on the hot seat, but they have kept fighting, and they have kept winning. They have arguably the most dominant player in the country in Freshman Deandre Ayton who is averaging 20 points per game and 11 rebounds per game with ease. The Wildcats also have an experienced backcourt with Senior Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Junior Allonzo Trier. Trier has been one of the most efficient scorers in the country as he averaged 20 points per game, on 50% from the field, 40% from three and 90% from the line. This Arizona team has a lot to play for, and I think this could be the year Sean Miller finally breaks through to the Final Four.
The Hurricanes hit their peak a little too early. A team that once reached as high as six in the AP Poll, went through an ugly stretch where some questioned their post season fate. Since Bruce Brown’s injury, Freshman guards Lonnie Walker and Chris Lykes (DMV native) have really stepped up and helped their team come away with some signature wins down the stretch, most notably in Chapel Hill. Lykes has scored in double figures in eight of the last ten games, and after a slow start, Walker has reached the same mark all but two times since January 13th. These young guards, along with Sophomore center Dewan Huell, the teams leading scorer, are helping the Canes play their best brand of basketball again. I would advise against counting out Miami in this years tournament.
Those of you that have been following me for a while know that I have been high on Seton Hall for a very long time. Their big three of Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado have one last shot and I think they will make the most of it. After being bounced from the tournament in the first round two years in a row, I think this team is back and better than ever. Not only do they bring back their core for another year, but they get a huge boost in production from Myles Powell who went from scoring 10 points per game as a Freshman to 16 as a Sophomore. The backcourt of Powell and Carrington is one of the most reliable ones in the country and not many people can keep the double-double machine Angel Delgado off the boards. But, Desi Rodriguez is their X-Factor. When he is feeling it he can be one of the best scorers in the country, but when he’s off, the team feels lost without him. I believe this Pirates team will go as far as Desi can take them.
Despite their loss to Georgia Thursday, and a rather rusty (completely expected) showing from Michael Porter Jr. I still have faith in the Tigers. At the end of the day, Mizzou finished fourth in the SEC and just brought back, in my opinion, the most talented player in the country. I’m not saying I think MPJ is the best player in the country, but sometimes in March, talent prevails. If Porter can get normal production from Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett who average 30 points and six made threes combined per game and a consistent contribution from his brother Jontay, the Tigers can be a scary sight a week from now. In the loss against Georgia, Robertson and Barnett combined for just 10 points on 4-18 from the field and 2-10 from three. If those two can snap back and Porter can shake off the rust in time, we could see this team late in March. But, if one of those two things doesn’t happen, it’ll be an early exit for Mizzou.
As we approach the best time of the year, you can expect a ton of content. Stay tuned for this Sunday night where I will be doing my first ever podcast episode. It will be a Selection Sunday/ Tournament Preview and my boy Nick Patton, a huge college basketball fan, will be joining me. Follow @Jakeinthepaint on Twitter to keep up with my articles, podcasts and analysis.