Tuesday, January 22, 2019 5:02 PM | CBN
The date is January 21st, a Monday following an insane week of college basketball, we have a new #1 ranked team, Tennessee, and all I can think about are bracket busters come March. The mid-majors you want to pick in your bracket, the underrated teams from top conferences, so let me name a few potential bracket busters.
I won’t begin this list with a mid-major, I’ll roll with Marquette out of the Big East. I don’t see anybody talking Marquette up as a team that’ll make a deep run in March and that’s crazy to me. You have a elite 3-point shooting team with a handful of weapons on offense led by arguably the best scorer in the nation (Markus Howard) and Marquette is playing defense at a much higher level than they have in the past. I’ve been keeping track of these defensive numbers all year long and it’s really interesting to look at. Marquette has played 13 home games and is allowing 61.3 PPG at home. On a neutral floor they are giving up 75.5 PPG, those two games played were in Brooklyn against Kansas and Louisville. However, on the road Marquette is allowing 90.0 PPG in four games. The defense has not been able to travel on the road and that’s so unfortunate. Their record on the road is 2-2 with blowout losses to Indiana and St. John’s. They got wins over Creighton and Georgetown. So when we get to Selection Sunday I’m going to have my eye on where Marquette will be playing their games as well as how far their opponent(s) will have to travel. They can get a fortunate draw and play the first weekend in Des Moines, Columbus, or Tulsa. All three sites are fairly easy trips for the Marquette fan base. The four Sweet 16/Elite 8 sites are as follows: Louisville, Kansas City, Washington D.C., and Anaheim. Getting to play in the South or Midwest region would help Marquette a ton as they’d get to stay closer to home by playing in Louisville or Kansas City. The Final Four is being played in Minneapolis, a four hour drive from Marquette and the closest arena they can play at in this tournament, crazy. They have the offense and the leader to make a run, that improved defense needs to travel in order for them to make a Final Four run. Nobody should want to see Marquette in March. I’ll say it right now I think that many people will pick Marquette to be upset in the round of 64, disrespect this bunch. Right now I have Marquette in the Final Four.
How about Murray State of the OVC. I wrote about Ja Morant back in May, I told y’all about the star he was before anybody really knew who he was. How far can the Fightin’ Morants go in the tourney? I see Murray State finishing the regular season 27-3 or 26-4, either record is an amazing accomplishment. They are currently 15-2 with losses at Alabama and at Auburn. They held a 2nd half lead in both games before losing by 6 and 5. This team is good because of Morant. Without Morant this is a decent team that doesn’t win the OVC and is probably 10-7 right now. Ja is unreal, he’s averaging 24.3 PPG, 10.6 APG, 5.9 RPG and don’t forget the 1.8 SPG he’s snatching. Morant ranks 6th in the country in scoring and 1st in assists. That’s silly. He’s nearly 3 assists per game up on Alex Robinson of TCU who ranks 2nd with 7.9 assists per game. The ideal scenario for Murray State is to get an 11 or 12 seed. I really believe it’ll be an 11 seed as long as they take care of business here on out. That’d pair them with a 6 seed and a win would see them playing a 3 or 14 seed. I worry about the lack of talent around Ja, I saw what they did early this year. Basically cost them wins over Bama and Auburn, missing point blank layups, open jumpers, just simple things done wrong. They’ve started to play better as of late and maybe that’s a product of the bright lights and the national attention Ja is receiving, motivating them to all play better. I think this team wins a tournament game but I just don’t think they make the Sweet 16, of course I’ll need to see their draw and who they play. For Murray State to make the Sweet 16, Ja Morant is going to have to carry them big time, big time. Right now i’ll say it’s a Round of 32 exit for Murray State.
The Southern conference is stacked this year, remember when Furman won at Loyola-Chicago and at Villanova, they got ranked before losing at LSU. Furman isn’t even the best team in this conference. But the thing is I don’t know who the best team in this conference is… Wofford? UNCG? ETSU? Furman? Those four could all win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament, yes each of these SoCon teams has Sweet 16 potential and the sad thing is only one team makes it. Which I think is wrong, my bracket predictions will feature two SoCon teams, respect this conference. Wofford has played games against North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kansas, and Mississippi State. Heck of a non conference schedule, those five games and still have a 15-4 record. Did I forget to mention they won at South Carolina by 20… A game at Stanford was cancelled, a game they probably would have won. Those tough tests prepare a team for the NCAA Tournament, the Terriers have the experience to win a game or two because of the tough games they played in November and December, the lessons learned, the adjustments made. Wofford is 7-0 in conference with a 17 point win over ETSU and an absolute thrashing of UNCG, 72-43, and a 5 point win over Furman. I retract my previous statement, Wofford is the best team in the SoCon right now, I’d dub them a 12 seed right now, a dangerous 12 seed. Fletcher Magee leads Wofford, he’s a senior and the reigning Southern Player of the Year. Magee averages 17.8 PPG, is a 91.9% free throw shooter, hits 36.9% of his threes which is actually a career low… and is shooting 39.5% from the field another career low... Wait til the shots start falling for Fletcher, oh man. Then we have UNCG, coached by Wes Miller who is going to be a star coach one day. UNCG lost at LSU by 6 and lost at Kentucky by 17. Good fights that’ll benefit them down the road. In SoCon play they have taken down Furman and ETSU. February 14-16 will be a daunting test for UNCG, road games against Furman and Wofford. Got to win at least one of those, would be a huge conference win, if they complete the road sweep I’ll be so impressed and really advocate the need for two SoCon teams in the NCAA Tournament. Last year UNCG made it and fell to Gonzaga by four… they can hang with the best. Francis Alonso a senior and Isaiah Miller a sophomore are what makes this team go. Alonso averages 17.7 PPG and Miller averages 14.2 PPG. Miller is a high energy guy, great dunker who gets the crowd into games. He’s also averaging 2.8 Steals a game… Are you kidding me? That’s absurd! UNCG is a 12 seed, another dangerous 12 seed. Now we have ETSU, they lost to Creighton and Illinois. In conference they beat Furman, they lost games to UNCG and Wofford. On February 7th they take on Wofford, two days later they play at Furman. ETSU needs to sweep Furman badly. Jeromy Rodriguez leads ETSU, he averages 11.6 PPG and 12.0 RPG and has helped them obtain a 16-5 record. I’d say ETSU is a 14 seed right now who can win a game or two in March. And then we have Furman who has the two best wins this conference holds. You beat a Final Four team and the National Champion, both on the road, amazing. Fell to LSU 75-57 for your first loss all season, but it looks like it set the Paladins back. From 12-0 to 15-4 and an ugly 4-3 in conference with losses to ETSU, UNCG, and Wofford. But have they regressed? I don’t think so. They got an unfortunate draw having to play those three all on the road, they will play all three at home in February. The non-conference track record that Furman worked hard for can pay off big time, if they run the table to close the regular season, an at-large bid is very doable. Matt Rafferty averaging 17.7 PPG and 9.0 RPG is a stud, Jordan Lyons is a scoring threat, he’s averaging 16.7 PPG and tied the record for most 3-pointers made in a game as he drained 15 early this year! Furman is really good, like 12 seed good, dangerous 12 seed. The three best teams in this conference are Wofford, UNCG, and Furman. I beg the NCAA to let these three in the tourney, create some chaos please! Send one of them to the First Four, give the conference tournament winner an 11 seed, and another gets an at-large 12. Please. It’s unfortunate that we might only see one of these bracket busters in the NCAA Tournament…
There are plenty more bracket busters to talk about, who are your favorite sleepers?