March Madness: Sleep Teams
It’s that time of year, when bets are made, break rooms get rowdier, and everyone turns into an expert, Bracket time. March after March we hear of the infamous March Madness tournament that leads to predictions of teams that will become winners, early losers, sleepers or Cinderella’s. As a basketball guy, I feel it’s my duty to form my opinions before the first barbershop trip in March and hold onto them steadfast throughout the rest of this month, win lose or draw. This year I find myself at yet again another NCAA crossroads. I personally don’t see any Cinderella teams, as in a very low double-digit seeded team making it to the Elite 8 or further but to be fair most people never recognize them beforehand. All of the one seeds in my opinion will make it pretty easily through the first two rounds but I do believe there are three legit sleepers. Let me share.
First up, Middle Tennessee State: I believe that their first round game against Minnesota could prove to be problematic for the Golden Gophers. MTSU has a lot of scoring available through Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams, although neither are necessarily considered a three-point specialist, but they’re older players with good experience. MTSU has the ability to play a high level of defense in spurts with their use of athleticism and they have 7-8 players at their disposal. Perhaps MTSU’s most meaningful win of the season was a 23-point victory over Vanderbilt at home. We also have to remember that this is the same Vanderbilt team who beat Florida three times and earned a 9-seed in this tournament of 68.
Secondly, USC: Now let me be clear this “sleeper” title that I’m giving the Trojans depends on which version of USC shows up. The good version has shown you the capability to win over UCLA and SMU, which speaks volumes. The bad version of this team has shown you a horrific defensive team that tries to block every shot rather than play actual defense. This team has the ability to score and if they can start off hot that only helps. They start off with a play in game against Providence, which is extremely winnable, look out for USC to advance and play SMU again. Not only a team that they have confidence playing and beating but also a team that only plays 6 players.
Lastly, probably the best team out of all of my “sleepers”, the Iowa State. The Cyclones SHOULD be on a mission to regain some dignity with their history of early-round losses as a high seed in the tournament. Opening up against Nevada, with a chance to play the winner of Vermont/Purdue afterwards, the Cyclones have a real chance to see the third round. Iowa State is playing its best basketball at the best time. Winning nine out of their last 10 games including a win Saturday over West Virginia the cyclones are experienced, athletic, and armed with excellent point guard play. Don’t forget this is the same team that beat Kansas, which is far from an easy task.
At the end of the day March Madness brings all of us to guess, analyze, and predict. In reality there’s a higher chance that one of the teams I didn't mention actually ends up being the true tournament sleeper and the aforementioned teams all lose in the first round. However that is a risk I’m willing to take as I write out my predictions. Regardless it’ll always be fun to watch how it plays out.