Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sleepers from Outside the Major Conferences


In addition to identifying the teams ripe for an upset in the first weekend, one must find the smaller conference clubs that have the potential to make a run into the second week. Every NCAA Tournament has them; you just have to figure out which ones. Don’t mistake this for a “Who is this year’s George Mason?” column, though—that’s simply not going to happen again. Here are the top sleepers from the mid-majors seeded 11 and below:

Note: Davidson, South Alabama, Butler, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s all have a great shot at winning their respective first-round games (if most of them weren’t playing each other), but are too high of a seed to be considered a deep sleeper.

George Mason: Well, look who it is. The Patriots have plenty of experience after their Final Four run two years ago, and Will Thomas is very tough to stop down low. They have the personnel to hang with Notre Dame in the first-round.

Siena: The Gaels might be the lowest-seeded team to win this year. They have a lot of scorers, namely guard Kenny Hasbrouck and wing Edwin Ubiles, and have already defeated Stanford this season. Vanderbilt, look out.

Western Kentucky: Every bracket needs a 12-over-5 upset pick, right? Well, this one certainly fits the ball. WKU has the shooters to hang with Drake, and Courtney Lee is one of the best players in the country. This team is very good.

Temple: Although the Owls are in the Atlantic-10 (not a mid-major), they will make a run at Michigan State in the first-round. Temple is very hot, while MSU struggles away from home. Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale can fill it up.

Saint Joseph’s: Like Temple, the Hawks aren’t really a mid-major, but look out for them. They have an outstanding frontcourt, and can create match-up problems all over the court, starting with 6-10 shooter Pat Calathes at forward.

Oral Roberts: The Crusaders are not as good as they have been in recent years, but they still have some solid weapons. Robert Jarvis is an outstanding scorer on the perimeter, and ORU has a lot of NCAA Tournament experience.

San Diego:
The third West Coast Conference team in the field, the Toreros will put a scare into UConn in the first-round. The Huskies are inconsistent, while San Diego is hot. Brandon Johnson is a tremendous player in the backcourt.

CS-Fullerton/Boise State: One of these two No. 14 seeds from out West will make noise in their first-round game. CS Fullerton can really fill it up with its stable of guards, while Boise State has one of the best frontcourts in the country.

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