As conference play in the NCAA is beginning shortly it is important to not only look at the teams that seem to be favorites heading into March Madness. It is also important to take a closer look at three sleeper teams that could potentially compete for the NCAA title.
Texas Tech Red Raiders:
Texas Tech, coached by Chris Beard, is one of the most underrated teams in the entire country. They have terrific veterans that are capable of winning big games. One of the best players Texas tech has is star transfer, Mac McClung. Mac has been Texas Tech’s most reliable scorer while also displaying his crazy athleticism. He has averaged 15.1 points and has scored 21 points against good teams like Kansas and Oklahoma state. Mac is a great leader for Chris Beard’s squad and can potentially lead them to a deep tournament run.
Another leader on the Red Raiders is sophomore guard, Terrence Shannon Jr. He has been terrific so far and has shown flashes of his sky-high potential. In a big conference game against Kansas, Shannon Jr. had 20 points and 9 rebounds. What makes Shannon a great prospect is that he is a guard standing at 6-6 with a capability to grab rebounds when needed. Shannon has been phenomenal so far and can certainly help Mac McClung and the Red Raiders get to the NCAA title game.
The big men on Texas Tech like the transfer from VCU, Marcus Santos-Silva is another reason why they are having a lot of success. Santos-Silva is averaging 8.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. These numbers may not jump off the stat sheet but Santos-Silva does what is asked of him when he is called upon. When Texas Tech played Oklahoma, Santos-Silva was a major part of the game plan and he produced scoring 18 points and 7 rebounds. When called upon Santos-Silva can make the big plays down-low something that will become crucial in tough March Madness games.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders will be a team to look out for in this year’s NCAA tournament.
The Virginia Cavaliers have a real chance to make noise in this year’s NCAA tournament. They are well-coached, great at defense, and if they improve on offense they can be a matchup nightmare for any of the top teams. Tony Bennett is one of the best coaches in college basketball and it is well known that his game plan is always defense first. Virginia is always among the top defensive teams in the country.
This defense all stems from the inside with forward, Jay Huff. Huff is a do it all forward for the Cavaliers this season. He is averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds, and a spectacular 2.4 blocks per game. Huff is an established veteran and is the anchor to Tony Bennett’s defensive-minded game plan.
Sam Hauser is another player who will make a significant impact on the Virginia Cavaliers season. He is a transfer from Marquette and is a solid score something that Virginia lacked last season. Hauser has scored 12.4 points per game and grabbing 6.4 rebounds through the first seven games of the Cavaliers season. Hauser will be a big impact player and will help provide massive offensive sparks for a defensive-oriented team.
The real leader of this Virginia team that can help them compete for the NCAA title is Kihei Clark. Clark is scoring 10.6 points per game and knows what it takes to win a national title. He was on Tony Bennett’s last championship team so why can’t Kihei Clark try to lead Virginia to the championship. The only massive flaw Virginia has is their inconsistent offense.
Through seven games Virginia has only scored over 80 one time which doesn’t seem like a title-winning offense. If the offense can improve greatly the Virginia Cavaliers could make a deep tournament run.
Deep Sleeper: Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils, Coached by Bobby Hurley have gotten off to a horrific start for a team with such high expectations coming into the season. I, however, feel that Arizona State can turn it around, make the NCAA tournament, and even win a few tournament games in the process. Arizona State is led by star senior Remy Martin. Martin was viewed as a preseason All American and someone who could lead Arizona State far in the tournament. Martin has been solid so far averaging 16.9 points but head coach Bobby Hurley knows that Martin can take on a greater role to push the Sun Devils into the NCAA tournament
Arizona State also has two-star freshmen in Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley. Josh Christopher was highly recruited out of high school and has looked comfortable in his transition to the NCAA. He is averaging 17.5 points and five rebounds playing some of his best basketball for this Sun Devils team. Marcus Bagley has also been great averaging about 13 points and seven rebounds.
Overall, this team has the potential to turn this sinking ship around and make a deep run. It is not a question of if this team has the potential, it is a question of can the team can build more chemistry to make that tournament run.