Tournament Sleepers To Keep An Eye On
When filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket, the average fan may not have had the chance to see all of the teams in the tournament play. Having watched nearly every team in this year's tournament there are a few that everyone should keep an eye on when it comes to sleepers.
Wichita State: Midwest Region, #7 seed, vs. #10 Indiana on 3/20 at 2:45 p.m.
Although they are a team that does lack some scoring, they are sound defensively. The Shockers rank 7th in the NCAA in points allowed. If this team has anything on its side it's experience as they return the main nucleus of the team that went undefeated in the regular season last year before losing to eventual runner-up Kentucky in the round of 32.
Ball movement is key for Wichita State as their offense relies on a number of picks and cuts to get open shots since they are not a lengthy team. Point guard Fred Van Vleet is one to keep an eye on as this team really revolves around him and his consistency to facilitate the ball to the open man. The one knock on the Shockers is their height. Wichita State's tallest starter is forward Darius Carter at 6'7".
Indiana is a weak team that barely made the tournament and a team like Wichita state can really give them a problem. Should the Shockers move on past Indiana, they are most likely to face Kansas who is a much bigger and faster team, but don't count out the Shockers. Should they hang around long enough, they can easily pull off the upset.
Stephen F. Austin: South Region, #12 seed, vs. #5 Utah on 3/19 at 7:27 p.m.
Stephen F. Austin is a team that relies on its offense. Their lackluster defense can be awful at times and get them in trouble, but this team knows how to react on the opposite end and score the ball.
The Lumberjacks rank 9th in Division I in points per game and forward Thomas Walkup is no joke when it comes to their offense. Walkup averages 15.7 points per game and leads the team in rebounds and is the leader of this team. The Lumberjacks rank first in the NCAA in assists per game and 5th in field goal percentage, so needless to say this team relies on their offense to carry their team. The one key that may be holding this team back from making a deep run is that they rely on their defense to cause turnovers, in which case, teams have shot 44% from the field against the Lumberjacks, so they will give up points as well.
In the first round they play a Utah team that is strong on defense. This may be their toughest matchup as the Utes are a much larger team and rebound the ball extremely well on defense, taking away second chance points. Should the Lumberjacks pull off the upset they would most likely play Georgetown who is mediocre both offensively and defensively.
LSU: East Region, #9 seed, vs. #8 NC State on 3/19 at 9:20 p.m.
The LSU Tigers are a team that is definitely under the radar. Back in February, this team nearly upset undefeated Kentucky, losing in the final minutes 71-69.
LSU is a team that is sound on both sides of the ball. The third place finishing team in the SEC relies on their two sophomores carrying the load. Forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey are great low post threats to any team that lacks size and both big men play on both ends of the court. Not many teams can match up to LSU; Kentucky being the only one they've played that does. Martin averages 16.9 points per game and 9.2 rebounds, while his playing partner Mickey averages 15.5 points per game and 9.8 rebounds. This team will go as far as this duo takes them and boy are they fun to watch.
The only knock on LSU is their depth. Should martin and Mickey get in foul trouble this team will have a tough time advancing.
In the first round they have a very challenging task as they go up against North Carolina State. As well as being good rebounders, the Wolfpack struggle at times to put a full game together and can have defensive lapses. Should LSU move on, they would most likely play Villanova barring monumental upset. LSU has a chance to be the first team to knock off a #1 seed.
Michigan State: East Region, #7 seed, vs. #10 Georgia on 3/20 at 12:40 p.m.
You can never count out a Tom Izzo team come tournament time. This year's case is a classic example. A team with high praise entering the beginning of the year, stumbled through most of their season only to have everything come together for the squad at the right time.
Right now, the Spartans are playing their best basketball; no surprise. They are a team that can score, get in transition, and are steady on the defensive end. Guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine have been fantastic this year and are the type of players that show up in key situations. The one knock on this team is their ability to shoot from three and the free throw line; both are vital in the tournament.
Georgia will be a tough test in the round of 64 and if they should win, Virginia looks to be waiting in the wings.
Providence: East Region, #6 seed, vs. #11 BSU/DAY on 3/20 at 9:57 p.m.
Providence may be one of the best teams you haven't seen play this year. They are gritty and if you let them hang around enough they will beat you late. This team has a number of quality wins heading into the tournament with victories over Notre Dame, Butler, Xavier, and Georgetown who they beat twice.
This team is another that knows how to score the ball and have a slew of weapons to go to on the offensive end. LeDontae Henton is their premier scorer and teamed up with guard Kris Dunn, they can be nearly unstoppable.
The only way to really beat them is to make another player outside of their big two beat you. If the game should come down to free throws, providence lacks the ability from the line as well. Playing the play-in game winner should give the friars the extra jolt of confidence they need to win that game and perhaps upset Oklahoma in the next round should they meet.