Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Major Conference Sleepers


Although people sometimes overlook this category, identifying the teams from the power leagues that are apt to making a run is also crucial. These teams are usually seeded 6-11 and have the potential to take down one of the top-seeded teams in a region. Last year's surprise teams were UNLV, a 7 seed that went to the Sweet Sixteen, and Vanderbilt, a 6 seed that was within a missed travel call of the Elite Eight. Here are the teams most likely to spring a few "upsets" in the tournament:

USC: This is my sleeper this season (although it seems like many of the “experts” jumped on this bandwagon too). The Trojans have plenty of talent, starting with star guard O.J. Mayo. Taj Gibson is tough down low, while Daniel Hackett and Davon Jefferson are also very good.

Indiana: The Hoosiers were a disappointment down the stretch, but any team with the inside-outside combo of Eric Gordon and D.J. White is going to be a nightmare to play. When they are hitting their outside shots, look out.

Baylor: The Bears were one of the last teams in the NCAA Tournament, but they will make the most of it. They have an outstanding perimeter group, led by Curtis Jerrells, and also get production inside from forward Kevin Rogers.

Oregon: Sure, I don’t think the Ducks should have been in the Big Dance, but don’t overlook them. They have weapons all over the roster, and have experience from their Elite Eight run last season. Memphis better not look past this team.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are coming off of a great run in the Big East Tournament, and showed their potential. Joe Alexander is playing some of the best basketball in the country, and he can be enough to carry them to a couple of wins.

Yes, the Wildcats are playing the West Virginia team I just talked about. Still, they have a ton of talent, and one of the best perimeter duos in Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger. Throw in Jordan Hill inside, and this team is a tough out.

Marquette: If guards win in March, the Golden Eagles are going to be dangerous. Dominic James is fearless and Jerel McNeal is outstanding at both ends. Lazar Hayward provides an inside presence. If they can shut down big men, they can win.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs started off slow this season, but bounced back in SEC play. They play outstanding defense and have one of the best inside-outside combos in the region in physical guard Jamont Gordon and big man Charles Rhodes.

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