|“I’m really smart,” he’s saying.|
Anyway, in more recent years, we’ve seen an increase in thenumber of mid-major and low-seed teams traveling further in the tournament. VCUlast year, and Butler the last two years are just examples. There’s others evenlast year you forget about. Remember Morgan St. over Louisville? Richmond overVandy? Over recent years you’re hearing more about Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, etc. Alot of mid-major sleeper teams have a good amount in common when it comes toupsetting the big schools. And that is: ball movement, three point shooting, and foulshooting. Athletically, the majority of the time, these mid-major teams can’tcompete based on size and physicality. So they have to use something on more ofan even playing field like teamwork and shooting as an advantage. Butler’s headcoach Brad Stevens, for example, has always said when he recruits someone outof high school he doesn’t go crazy with high school stats, other than three point percentage and foul shooting percentage. From there, he finds undervalued guys and fitsthem into his system.
Let’s be honest, no one will ever get this perfect,and the tournament is impossible to fully predict correctly, but it helps ifyou know a little info beforehand about possible sleeper teams. Here are somepossible mid-major sleeper teams coming into the 2011-2012 season that maysurprise you come March.
|An angry Keith Wright, and a scared white boy.|
Harvard: Don’tlaugh. These guys may be really smart, but they can also play basketball. Thedefending Ivy league co-champions are looking to bounce back from their heartbreaking loss in theone-game playoff against Princeton last year that decided who made it into thetournament. They have their leading scorer and Ivy League player of the yearKeith Wright returning for another season. The 6’8″ Wright is on theNaismith top 50 watch list for this year as well. Kyle Kasey is anotherathletic big man who can rebound and block shots. From what we’ve learned outof the Ivy League in recent years with Cornell and Penn’s success, and evenlast year with Princeton nearly upsetting Kentucky first round, is to notunderestimate these teams.
|Scott Machado, Iona Gaels|
Iona/Fairfield: I’llput these two together since they are both MAAC teams. This may be a biasedselection as I am a Fairfield University and MAAC fan in general, but couldthis be the year the MAAC actually gets two teams in the tournament since I wasin 3rd grade? Possibly. Siena and Manhattan have certainly given theMAAC a better reputation in recent years with tournament wins. The league istop heavy this year, but the top teams are legit. I’ll start with Iona. Most preseason predictions giveIona the very slight edge over Fairfield, and that is mainly because of thelate acquisition of transfer Lamont “MoMo” Jones, who was recently cleared bythe NCAA to play. If the name sounds familiar, you might remember him onArizona last year as a key contributor in their Elite 8 run. Senior Mike Gloveris one of the MAAC’s top picks for conference player of the year. Scott Machadoshowed last year he’s one of the conference’s premier point guards. The bar ishigh for this team, and they are talented enough to upset someone. Fairfield is another team right upthere with Iona. The league’s regular season champions last year come in with anew coach in Sydney Johnson after Ed Cooley departed for Providence. Johnsonarrived at Fairfield from Princeton. I already mentioned before howPrinceton almost upset Kentucky in the first round last year, but Johnson as a player himself is familiarwith upsets. (One of my favorite tournament upsets ever, Gus Johnsonalert!!!) The Stags also have very high expectations. They are returning one ofthe league’s best players in Derek Needham. Ryan Olander and Maurice Barrowwill help on the front court. Houston transfer Desmond Wade will be a niceaddition as well. But the key for Fairfield is Boston College transfer RakimSanders. Easily could be league’s best player by year’s end. They have key OOCgames that they can win like Providence, Minnesota, Old Dominion and ArizonaSt. These wins could help them a lot at a chance for an at large bid. It wouldbe tough to get two MAAC teams in the tourney, but not impossible. If theColonial League can get three in last year, MAAC can get two.
- The A-10 will be deep this year. Xavier is apotential final 4 team. Tu Hollaway is one of nation’s best point guards
- Iowa St, Virginia, St. John’s and Indiana arepower conference teams that could surprise people this year
- Comeback Player of Year vote: Robbie Hummel(Purdue)
- Major Conference Player of Year predictions:
- Big East– Ashton Gibbs (Pitt)/JeremyLamb (UConn),
- Big Ten– Jared Sullinger (Ohio St)/Jordan Taylor(Wisconsin),
- ACC– Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)/Tyler Zeller (NorthCarolina),
- SEC– Terrence Jones (Kentucky),
- Big 12– Perry JonesIII (Baylor),
- Pac-10– Terrence Ross (Washington)/Jared Cunningham(Oregon State)