Saturday, June 3 2023

The college basketball season is always exciting, but there’s nothing quite like the first week of March Madness. After months of intense competition, the NCAA tournament field has been announced, and 68 teams are preparing to take the court with hopes of being crowned national champions. From underdogs to powerhouses, every team has a shot at glory, and the coming weeks promise to be full of thrilling upsets, buzzer-beaters, and unforgettable moments.

The beautiful part of March is watching some of college basketball’s bluebloods and power five big guys square off against some cinderella hopefuls and mid-major goliath hunters. Let’s look at some of the biggest sleepers from the 2023 NCAA tournament.

The Best Sports Betting Sites for the 2023 NCAA Tournament

30-Win Mid-Major Teams

The 30-win benchmark is often seen as a significant achievement for college basketball teams, but how much does it truly matter regarding NCAA Tournament success? The numbers tell an interesting story when you look beyond the powerhouses of the major conferences and perennial contenders like Gonzaga.

Over the past decade, 12 teams with 30 or more wins have earned spots in the Big Dance, and those teams have combined for an impressive 10-2 record in the first round. Even more impressively, three teams – Stephen F. Austin in 2014, Middle Tennessee State in 2017, and UC-Irvine in 2019 – pulled off double-digit upsets to advance to the second round. While winning 30 games is no guarantee of tournament success, these statistics suggest that it can strongly indicate a team’s potential to make a run in March.

Florida Atlantic Owls

The Florida Atlantic Owls are heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly two decades as the No. 9 seed in their region. While their 31-3 record and Conference-USA championship are impressive accomplishments, they won’t be underestimated as a classic Cinderella team. Their opening game against No. 8 Memphis is set to be an absolute battle, and Memphis is certainly battled tested as they’ve had to go against Houston three times this since as the number one team in the nation. FAU can absolutely shoot it ranking in the top 30 in both 2P% and 3P%. If they get hot, they are dangerous. And if they get past Memphis, they could pose a serious problem for Purdue.

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

I absolutely love this ORU squad. Love them. But in my opinion, they got the toughest draw of any 5-seed as they will square off against the white-hot Duke Blue Devils. If they had St. Mary’s, San Diego State, or Miami, I’d be all over them in a first-round upset. And I still like them ATS. But beating Duke will be a tall task. Still, ORU is led by dynamic scorer Max Abmas, currently ranked third in the KenPom Major Contributor metric which measures players’ efficiency that is involved in 24-28% of all team’s possessions. The Golden Eagles also have Conner Vanover, the 7’5 rim protector that blocks nearly 3.5 shots per game. If ORU can somehow take down Duke, they may get back to the sweet 16 just like last year.

Charleston Cougars

There has been a lot of buzz around this Charleston squad, and with good reason. The Cougars come into the 2023 NCAA Tournament riding the nation’s fifth-longest win streak at 10 games. In just his second season at the helm, head coach Pat Kelsey has led the No. 12-seeded Charleston Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament.

Led by senior guard Dalton Bolton and a formidable inside-outside combination featuring 6-foot-10 Croatian sophomore Ante Brzovic, the Cougars have emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Their high-scoring offense, which averaged 80.8 points per game, combined with their impressive rebounding prowess (ranking fourth in the nation with 40.5 rebounds per game), makes them a formidable opponent for any team. In their previous five tournament appearances, the Cougars have advanced to the second round once, losing by 10 points or less each time.

Potential Sweet Sixteen Sleepers

Drake Bulldogs

As always, the Missouri Valley Conference champions are a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA Tournament, and this year’s representative, 12th-seeded Drake, is no exception. Winners of 14 of their last 15 games, the Bulldogs are led by head coach Darian DeVries and his son Tucker, the team’s leading scorer at 19.0 points per game. With fifth-year point guard Roman Penn dishing out 5.4 assists per game, the Bulldogs have the potential to make some noise in the right matchup. In the wake of Miami’s injury to forward Norchad Omier, many experts are picking Drake as a popular 5-12 upset pick. If Drake does get by Miami they are fully capable of beating Indiana or Kent State to reach the sweet sixteen.

Kent State Golden Flashes

After a four-year absence, the No. 13-seeded Kent State Golden Flashes are back in the NCAA Tournament under the guidance of head coach Rob Senderhoff. Winners of nine of their last ten games, the Golden Flashes have been on a hot streak of late, scoring at least 70 points in all of those contests. Their success can largely be attributed to the scoring prowess of Duquesne transfer Sincere Carry, who put up an impressive 23.7 points per game in the MAC tournament. As fate would have it, Kent State’s first-round opponent is Indiana, the same team that ended their Elite Eight run in 2002. If Kent State can beat Indiana, they’re in the exact same boat as Drake, and could even face Drake with a berth into the sweet sixteen on the line.

Source: Basketball Insider


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