By: Nate Gatter, KCOU Sports
Merely ten days remain until Selection Sunday, and KCOU’s unparalleled coverage of every conference tournament is well underway. But let us not forget that the Big Dance will follow immediately after.
As terrific as conference tournaments are, they are only the appetizers to college basketball’s entrée: The NCAA Basketball Tournament. That means filling out brackets. Never fear; this year you’ll be prepared for the sleepers, ready to pick out the ultimate Cinderella.
All team seedings are from Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology” on ESPN and are current as of March 5, 2015.
These teams are the darlings of March, destined for future highlights and 30 for 30’s. Of course, it’s quite easy to look back on the upset stories, but much harder to predict them. Here are my prospective Cinderella candidates:
(11) Brigham Young
The Cougars had a terrific regular season, and they should easily qualify to go dancin’ with even a win or two in the West Coast Conference tournament after knocking of No. 3 Gonzaga in Spokane last week. Senior guards Tyler Haws (21.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Kyle Collinsworth (13.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 5.8 apg) team with sharpshooting junior guard Chase Fischer (13.0 ppg, 41.4% 3FG) to form a three-pronged backcourt as fearsome as any in the nation. Experience and shooting are big assets for Cinderella teams, and BYU fits the mold.
Seeing the prestigious Indiana Hoosiers seeded twelfth and mentioned as a “sleeper” feels comical, but it’s been a difficult year for Tom Crean and the Bloomington boys. Unfortunately for higher seeded teams, however, IU has the great equalizer, terrific three-point shooting, and a lot of it. Junior guard Yogi Ferrell (15.8 ppg, 5.0 apg, 42.4% 3FG) leads the way, while freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. (15.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 39.0% 3FG) adds more range and sophomore forward Troy Williams (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) patrols the paint. Indiana makes 9.4 3-point field goals per game, tied for eighth-best in Division I, while shooting 41.1% as a team from beyond the arc, which ranks fourth in Division I. Those numbers could add up to big trouble for a favored team in March.
(11) Boise State
Typically known more for its football than basketball, Boise State is bringing some hoops to Idaho this season and will be looking to make a statement on the national stage in March. Senior guard Derrick Marks (19.8 ppg, 3.0 apg, 47.4% 3FG) is All-World, shooting over 47 percent from 3-point range even while shooting almost five 3-pointers per game. Marks has help from fellow senior guard Anthony Drmic (15.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 37.2% 3FG). But the Broncos’ 3-point abilities are not limited to their seasoned backcourt. The team makes 8.7 3-pointers per game, 16th in Division I, while converting 39.6% of its 3-point attempts, good for 17th in Division I. Add Boise State’s historic flair for the dramatic, at least on the gridiron, and the Broncos are a Cinderella story waiting to happen.
If you’re sensing a theme among the sleepers, it’s that 3-point shooting and experience will often give talent a run for its money, especially in March. Look for teams that have good shooters, capable and seasoned ball handlers, experienced coaching staffs, and toughness. Those are your upset specials.
Let the madness begin!