Watch out for these four sleeper teams in the NCAA tournament

Pranav Iyer

The George Mason Patriots. The Butler Bulldogs. The VCU Rams. All are teams that have played Cinderella in the mayhem known as March Madness. Each year, one or two teams come out of nowhere and make a deep run in the tournament. It’s impossible to predict exactly what teams those will be, but there are always  few teams whose resumes make them seem fit for the job.

Stephen F. Austin University Lumberjacks

This name may sound eerily familiar to you. You might have heard of SFA after Desmond Haymond converted on a four-point play against VCU to send the game into overtime during the twelfth-seeded Lumberjacks victory in the the first round of the tournament. This year hasn’t been much different for them, as they currently boast a 26-4 record and are again projected to be a 12 seed according to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. Early on in the season, they pushed the Northern Iowa Panthers, currently the eleventh ranked team in the country, to overtime. They rank in the top ten in points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage. A team that can get hot quickly and can hit the three at almost forty percent like the Lumberjacks can, is always a threat to pull off an upset. Don’t be surprised if you see them get past the first weekend.

No one predicted that the Terrapins would be more than a mediocre team before the season started.

University of Maryland Terrapins

No one predicted that the Terrapins would be more than a mediocre team before the season started. They had five players transferring, including starting point guard Seth Allen.Over the summer, I talked to Maryland guard Varun Ram about his team’s then upcoming season and he told me that although they lost many key players, they had a strong incoming freshmen class and veteran core. And boy, was he right. Melo Trimble has been absolutely electrifying, averaging sixteen points per game. His partner in crime senior Dez Wells dominates both inside the paint and the perimeter. He is able to utilize his 215 pound body to out-size smaller guards and still be able to shoot over 50 percent from beyond the arc. Another veteran that has led the way for the Terrapins is junior Jake Layman who dictates the post and puts up very solid numbers. The Terrapins started off the season 17-1 and after a little bit of a slide, they are back to their winning ways. They have won their last six, including a win against Wisconsin, a possible number one seed come tournament time. This is a very scrappy team that doesn’t put up a huge number of points but is a very tenacious defensive team. They also have a knack for coming up in the clutch, pulling off close wins against many tournament level and ranked teams. This team was projected to have little success but turned into one of the nation’s hottest programs, making it a team to fear by even the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats.

University of California, Davis Aggies

They Aggies may not seem like a team that sticks out from the rest of the mid-major teams, even those in their own conference. They have no wins against RPI top 50 teams and only one against RPI top 100 teams. They have several bad losses, including three to teams outside the RPI top 150. However, they do have two very important factors that makes them a threat. The first is senior guard Corey Hawkins. Hawkins averages 20.2 PPG and shoots over fifty percent from beyond the three point arc. He can create his own shot, catch and shoot and dish out assists. He has the ability to take on some of the nation’s best perimeter defenders and The second factor is the Aggie’s efficiency. As a team, they are forth in the country in field goal percentage, converting on 49.6 percent of the shots. During the tournament, teams tend to slow the games down and play tactically, limiting the number of possessions. This goes to the Aggies favor because they will be able to maximize each of their limited possessions if they continue to shoot with such high efficiency. This will allow them to stop opponents from gaining momentum and instead give themselves the opportunity to dictate the pace of the game.

In March Madness, anything can happen.

Davidson College Wildcats

The Wildcats has had just two tournament appearances in the past seven years. This season, they moved from the Southern Conference to the king of the mid-majors, the Atlantic 10. This was expected to be a difficult jump for them and many predicted that they would end up near the bottom of the conference standings. However, they were able to defy odds, winning the A-10 regular season title. You may remember when Stephen Curry led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2008. This year’s team may be even better because of their balance (five players average double-digit PPG). As a team, they are fourth in the country in three point makes and eighth in scoring. They have a convincing 17 point win over the University of Dayton Flyers and a 27 point win over VCU, both top 30 RPI teams. The Wildcats also have arguably the most underrated backcourt duo in the country. Guards Senior Tyler Kalinoski and sophomore Jack Gibbs lead the team in scoring and assisting and are both dynamite shooters. They have what it takes to lead the Wildcats to a deep run just like Curry did years ago. Just like SFA, if the Wildcats can get hot, they’re unstoppable and a formidable opponent for whomever they face.

In March Madness, anything can happen. I’m not trying to be cliché. That is just what happens in single elimination games when there is so much adrenaline flowing. This means that all my predictions may end up being absolutely false and that all these teams could end up losing early on in the tournament. It also means that I might be correct and that these teams could pull off upsets and make deep runs. So many things can happen in a 68-team tournament and that is why we it is called March Madness.