Tournament Pools Sleeper Teams
A "sleeper" team is a team whose performance exceeds expectations. The following teams, listed in order by team name, are the teams we expect to outplay their seeding.
Total Wins By 2013 Sleeper Teams: 4 (6 Wins Expected Based On Seeds)
Experienced, senior-dominated team with over 4,000 points between a trio of Ian Clark, Kerron Johnson and Trevor Noack. Thirteen players have seen consistent playing time for the Bruins, but all have one requirement: you must shoot the three-ball. Everyone does and therefore this team is capable of amazing shooting nights and blow-out wins. However, this trait can lead to the opposite on bad nights and in this format, it makes it tough to think much more than one win for the champs from the Ohio Valley.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Clark was awarded with the “green light” the minute he walked onto campus as a freshman. He gets up a lot of long-range shots but for someone that averages 18 per night, he is not a volume shooter. He is efficient for a 6-3 shooting guard, but has the ability to heat up quickly and put up 20 points before halftime.
KEY WINS: Aside from their “hometown” run through the OVC Conference tournament, Belmont played four neutral site games losing to two quality opponents from Northeastern and VCU while also defeating Boston U. and Oral Roberts. They made the journey out to Northern California and got an impressive win at Stanford. On the other hand, they got the experience, but nothing more than a pounding on a December trip to play Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. In conference, best win was at Eastern Kentucky, a 24-win team.
Actual Wins: 0 (0 Wins Expected Based On Seed)
8. Colorado St
Quite possibly the best team to ever come out of Fort Collins, new boss Larry Eustachy has one of the most experienced teams in the nation. Starting five seniors, the Rams have been battle-tested in the ultra-competitive Mountain West and have great balance, to boot. Minnesota-transfer Colton Iverson has been the anchor in the middle working perfectly alongside the undersized Pierce Hornung. Throw in wing Greg Smith and the Rams frontcourt is one of the more formidable in the nation. Senior guard Dorian Green has been great during his four year, but is a bit dinged up coming in the tournament. If Green is healthy, this team has all the pieces to make a nice long run, but a tough draw.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Plenty to talk about here, but Iowa State-transfer, Wes Eikmeyer is the x-factor on this team. When this sharp-shooter gets going, this team is really tough to beat. If Wes has a big first weekend, there will be another for the Rams.
KEY WINS: Another great home team that has struggled a bit away from the friendly confines of Moby Gym. They did, however, play New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV to tough road games in hostile environs. In additions, the Rams did get road wins at Washington, Denver and a thrilling win over a very competitive team from the Air Force Academy.
Actual Wins: 1 (1 Wins Expected Based On Seed)
Quite possibly the most up-and-down team in the nation hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. They got off to an incredible start to the year, but have not been all that consistent since the first of the year. They won just five of their last 16 games which doesn’t look too promising. But, there is talent and athleticism up and down this line-up and I feel that they got a really good seed drawing a depleted UCLA in the first-round. Tubby Smith has four guys that average double-figures including Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams inside and Andre and Austin Hollins in the backcourt (Both Hollins are actually from Memphis, TN, but are NOT related!) The Gophers are one of my surprises to make the Sweet 16.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Both Hollins can score, rebound and distribute and Williams can do amazing things above the rim, but Mbakwe is an intriguing mix of size, grit and athleticism. The oft-injured sixth-year senior has seen his total production fall off a bit this year, but he is still a monster and can have a huge impact in that first-round game with UCLA
KEY WINS: Minny played in that loaded tourney in the Bahamas and beat Stanford and Memphis while losing to Duke. They won on the road at Florida State and USC while also pounding South Dakota State at home. In conference, it was tough for the Gophers. Only quality win was at Illinois, but also got nice home wins over Wisconsin and Indiana. See, they have beaten four tournament teams, a run is in them!
Actual Wins: 1 (0 Wins Expected Based On Seed)
3. New Mexico
A threat to make it all the way to the Final Four, the Lobos are experienced, balanced and loaded for a long tournament run. Playing in a competitive conference like the Mountain West has this team battle-tested. There is no discernable stars, but several guys that can have big nights and will this team to a win (isn’t that right, Colorado State?). Not only is there balance on this team, but their players are also very versatile. Tony Snell is a streaky-scoring wing with length that can shut down an opposition’s scorer. Kendall Williams is a solid combo guard that showed his scoring ability with 46 against CSU in an impressive late-season win in Fort Collins. After the past week in Vegas and seeing the brackets, I think New Mexico will be one of the last four teams standing, period. Their entire team is rolling right now.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Alex Kirk gives the Lobos size and an interior presence. The 7-foot junior took huge strides this year and became one of the most dominant big men in the west. Paired up with Aussie banger, Cameron Bairstow gives the Lobos one of the more intimidating frontlines, this side of Gonzaga.
KEY WINS: Lobos had an impressive start to their season getting three quality wins in the Virgin Islands, punctuated by the final win over UConn. Couple solid road wins in there as well, at Colorado State, Boise State, Cincinnati, Indiana State and a sweep of the season series over New Mexico State. The MWC tourney sweep in Vegas put an exclamation on one of the best seasons ever out of Albuquerque.
Actual Wins: 0 (2 Wins Expected Based On Seed)
4. St Louis
This is a balanced team with proven wins over quality teams. Getting 14 wins and strolling to the conference tourney in the competitive Atlantic-10 is impressive. Eight guys contribute on a regular basis, all five starters score at least nine points each game and their leading scorer averages just under 13 points. With a rugged frontcourt and experience up and down their lineup, the Billikens just be that team to make a major push deep into the tournament. Throw in the emotional rollercoaster this team has gone through with the passing of Head Coach Rick Majerus and you have the makings of a motivated team. I think they have a tough draw but should still make the Sweet 16.
PLAYER TO WATCH: With a balanced team like SLU, it is sometimes a challenge to pick out that one guy. Dwayne Evans is one of those throwback players that is a little undersized for the interior damage he can inflict. The 6-5 junior is a monster in the paint getting almost 13 a night, but has been one of the conference’s best rebounders since he started three years ago.
KEY WINS:SLU had an impressive 20-point neutral site win over Texas A&M in KC, before losing in that holiday tournament to the “hosts” from Kansas. They also have nice home wins over New Mexico, Valparaiso, VCU and Butler and an impressive road win over Butler.
Actual Wins: 1 (2 Wins Expected Based On Seed)
5. Virginia Commonwealth
This team will bring the HAVOC ball for 40 minutes and can press and run any team out of the gym. (Ask Butler about that early March blowout in Richmond). They play with a lot of energy, athleticism and rely on a core of five guys to do most of their damage. Treveon Graham, Juvonte Reddic and Troy Daniels pace this team in scoring, while Darius Theus runs the offense. This is another year where the Rams have proven their worth in the national discussion and could very easily play into the second weekend and beyond. VCU-Cinderella alert, again! I do like their draw and would suggest putting the Rams through to the Sweet 16 with a possible win over Michigan.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Daniels is one of the nation’s most lethal long-range shooters, getting up over eight 3-balls per game and hitting at a 40% rate. However, Reddic is the muscle, grit and does all the dirty work that can get unnoticed in the mayhem that is HAVOC ball. The 6-9 235-pound Reddic shoots almost 58% getting a lot of his buckets off turnovers.
KEY WINS: VCU has faced a ton of elite teams this year from the start of the season through the conference tournament. Played in the loaded Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas, beating Memphis, before falling to Duke and Missouri. The Rams got quality home wins over Alabama, Dayton and Belmont. On the road, really just one victory of note, beating Xavier in Cincinnati.
Actual Wins: 1 (1 Wins Expected Based On Seed)