With the NCAA tournament less than a month away, it's never to early to take a look at the field of 65. Although it's not even close to set in, it's always fun look and see who the next Valpo might be, or maybe even the next Hampton.
I've picked the teams I feel to be the best at each lower seed based on ESPN.com's Bracketology. Seedings from Bracketology will change and are by no means set as final.
I'll start with the 16th seed and work down to number nine.
Best 16 seed: Portland State
Portland State is currently 17-8 overall and 10-2 in Big Sky Conference play. The reason Portland State poses any kind of threat is due to their early season scheduling. While the Vikings took poundings from No. 2 UCLA, No. 6 Washington State, and Washington, these losses will only benefit them come tournament time.
Since their loss on Jan. 10 to Webert State, Portland State has rattled off eight straight wins. If they make the tournament they might be able to give the number one seed a run for their money due to experience against big time programs.
If you put confidence together with a long winning streak anything could happen!
Best 15 seed: UMBC
The University Of Maryland Baltimore County is currently 19-7 overall with an 11-2 record in the American East Conference. UMBC has never made the NCAA tournament but is showing great potential for a run this year. If the Retrievers make the tournament they could be dangerous for a few reasons.
UMBC is currently on a roll having won seven in a row and eight of their last nine. They have four losses that were by five points or less. Besides a the current seven game win streak, UMBC has proven they can hang with big time teams this year.
On Dec. 29 the Retrievers went to Ohio State and lost a tough nine point game in Columbus. Again, with a nice win streak and tons of confidence, the balanced scoring attack of UMBC could pose a threat for the two seed in store.
Best 14 seed: Winthrop
While some people might like Boise State at the 14 seed, I am going to have to say Winthrop is a bigger threat. With the combination of a tough schedule and experience Winthrop won't be scared.
Although the Eagles aren't as good as years past, Winthrop still has 18 wins, nine of which are conference. Winthrop tried to make a case early by scheduling teams such as Baylor, Missouri State, and Mississippi. Although the Eagles lost all three games they were able to hang in each and prove that they can play with some pretty good major conference teams.
On Friday Withrop has a big game against Davidson that will prove whether or not they are ready for a tournament run.
Best 13 seed: Virginia Commonwealth
The Rams were one of the big stories of last year's tournament after a huge opening round victory over college powerhouse Duke. The Rams will go for a repeat trip this year boasting a 20-6 record and plenty of returning talent.
While VCU has tough losses against Arkansas and Miami, they also have big wins against Maryland and at Bradley to cancel them out. Virginia Commonwealth also has a chance this weekend to solidify a tournament bid by beating Akron on the road and winning out after that.
The one thing that could plague the Rams down the stretch is a lack of depth and scoring off the bench.
Best 12 seed: Davidson
Davidson is currently 20-6 overall, 18-0 in the SOCON. While Bracketology currently has them as a 12 seed along with Syracuse and Oregon, I still feel Davidson has the best chance at winning an NCAA tournament game.
Currently the Wildcats are two-stepping through conference play and building momentum as they go. Four of the Wildcats' six losses are against major conference teams, three of which were ranked in the top eight in the country.
Some may argue the coulda should woulda when it comes to Davidson saying they should have beat UCLA, Duke, and North Carolina. Despite that, they lost all three games but have plenty of potential to show for it. With a long winning streak and one of the best scorers in the nation (Curry 25.8 ppg) the Wildcats have all the tools to make a possible sweet 16 run.
Best 11 seed: West Virginia
While the Mountaineers had a very poor showing tonight, West Virginia is still my favorite 11 seed. Under coach Bob Huggins, WVU has won 18 games and seems to be heading for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
With the exception of blowouts against Cincy (23) and Nova (22) West Virginia has played well against teams such as Tennessee and Oklahoma. Besides those losses, WVU has big wins against Marquette and Syracuse (20 point win). If West Virginia can get over their inconsistent ways they too could possibly win a game or two in the tournament.
Best 10 seed: Arizona State
The Sun Devils won my vote for the 10 seed due to the fact that they have done what none of the other 10 seeds have done—won a big game.
Arizona State has three wins vs. the top 25 and has played very well against several other top 25 teams (one point loss to No. 6 Wash. St, three point loss to Cal). While Arizona State has also been plagued by inconsistency, they have tremendous athletes who can go off at any time in any game.
After looking at the 10 seeds I don't see much potential for any wins in this years tournament.
Best 9 Seed: Maryland
While Maryland has embarrassing losses to Ohio and American at home, the Terps have a huge win at UNC to help their cause. The Terps, who struggled with inconsistency early have been playing much better basketball lately. While they may be looking for another big win to solidify a tournament birth, the Terps are getting better with every game they play.
The only negative thing that could hurt the Terps is the fact that, despite the improvement, they have not been able to string together a long winning streak. A loss at home against Virginia Tech tonight could have the Terps down.
It will be interesting to see how they bounce back with three of their last four ACC games on the road. If Maryland plays consistently with confidence and poise the Terps might also have a shot at a win or two in the tournament.
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