College basketball is back, meaning it’s never too early to start thinking about March Madness.
Every Power 5 conference has a clear-cut prohibitive favorite going into the season but a sleeper team in their conference could really turn heads over the course of the college basketball season.
Duke is widely regarded as the best team in the nation, but, for our sleeper, we’ll head to Blacksburg, VA where the Virginia Tech Hokies look poised for a return to the NCAA Tournament. Buzz Williams is in year 4 as head coach and has aspirations of moving Tech into the upper echelon of the ACC.
The Hokies will be led by the talented inside-out duo of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear Jr. Blackshear missed all of the ’16-’17 season with a nagging shin and ankle injury. VT is as deep as they are talented and will look to really surprise some of the national pundits who pegged them as the 6th best team in the conference.
The Northwestern Wildcats were able to punch their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament last season. Senior guard Bryant McIntosh will look to build off of his 2nd team All-Big 10 selection, and carry the Wildcats to a second straight tournament appearance.
With Scottie Lindsey playing as the off-ball guard and Vic Law manning the interior, it gives Northwestern a variety of ways to beat teams on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Collins has his rebuild going in the right direction as he looks to cement the Wildcats as a perennial contender in the Big 10.
— NU Men’s Basketball (@NUMensBball) November 15, 2017
When Jamie Dixon made the move from the University of Pittsburgh to his alma mater TCU many shook their heads. In his first season he had the Horned Frogs in uncharted territory competing for an NCAA bid late into the season. If not for a brutal 7 game losing streak in February, they likely would’ve gone dancing. They capped off the season with an NIT Championship and will look to carry that momentum into this season.
Senior big man Vladimir Brodziansky who averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds last season leads the Horned Frogs. Sophomore guard Jaylen Fisher is anticipated to build off his impressive rookie campaign and leave any injury concerns in the rear view mirror. Kansas has reigned supreme over the conference for the last 13 seasons, but if there is a dangerous team that could knock them from their perch its these TCU Horned Frogs.
Oregon State suffered through a painful 5-27 college basketball season just one year after they were able to make the NCAA tournament. Now that do-everything forward Tres Tinkle is back from an injury riddled season that saw him play in only 6 games.
The Beavers look poised to prove last season was an aberration, with Tinkle back and junior guard Stevie Thompson Jr. they form a dynamic offensive duo that will give even the Pac-12’s best defenses matchup nightmares. Arizona is the favorite but the Beavers have the potential to wreak havoc with their diverse lineups.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) November 15, 2017
Alabama is most notably known for their stellar football team but this might be the year the hardwood version of the Crimson Tide rises to prominence. The Crimson Tide feature an incredibly young and surprisingly talented squad led by McDonald’s All-American Collin Sexton.
Fellow freshman John Petty and sophomore guard Dazon Ingram anchor a starting lineup that has as much talent and potential as just about any team in the conference. The SEC is somewhat of a free for all this season after Kentucky and Florida, it feels like the perfect storm for a sleeper like Alabama to stake their claim as top dog.
In college basketball just about anything is possible so don’t be surprised when one of these teams is making some noise deep into March.