The magic of the 2011 NCAA Tournament has not been forgotten. Seeing the VCU Rams come out of obscurity and take center stage last year was incredible.
Here we are now, one year later, and that means another billion articles predicting who is going to win the national title. Naturally, there's another article to be written about that later on—this article will dwell on teams with the potential to be this year's VCU or George Mason.
Lots of talent exists outside of the top seeds and there are plenty of teams who should be getting plenty of attention in the 2012 tournament. What teams are capable of shocking everyone again?
Okay, let’s just go ahead and get it out of the way. VCU is back in the Big Dance and have a very winnable first round matchup with the Witchita State Shockers. The Shockers are pretty good, but don’t sleep on the Rams—this team is just as good as last season.
Their defense is top 20 in the league and while the offense isn’t consistently powerful, it has the potential to breakout at anytime. Juvonte Reddic is their key player—he has to play well, or this team is really going to struggle. As I said, the offense isn’t great, but the defense is stellar.
I don’t personally have the Rams getting by the Shockers, but a run to the Sweet 16 isn’t impossible here—a road to the Elite 8, unfortunately for the Rams, would have to go through UK.
I think they're good, but to say they're that good would be ambitious, to say the least.
Let me be the first to say, I’ve got the Harvard Crimson in the Sweet 16—just sayin’. Offensively, no, they really aren’t that great—they aren’t even in the top 100 in the country. However, it’s on defense where they shine.
The team is 4th in the nation in opponents’ points per game, allowing 54.8 points. You may say, “Oh, but they’re in the stupid Ivy League, those aren’t real teams!” And you would have a point.
However, remember Cornell a couple years ago? Quite the same case, though the Big Red were slightly better on offense. They made the Sweet 16 before falling to John Wall and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Harvard will meet Vanderbilt in round one (technically round two, but you know what I mean). So, the Commodores are fresh off a fluke win over Kentucky for the SEC title—I’m not buying into them. They’ve lost in the first round in three consecutive tournaments.
If Harvard can dictate the tempo of the game with that defense of theirs, they’ll take the win because Vandy is an offensive team.
Watch for Harvard to get to at least the Sweet 16.
I understand the struggles that the Musketeers have gone through this year—that childish fight with Cincinnati on December 10 changed them.
Still, you can’t ignore what Xavier did prior to that. They beat Vanderbilt, Purdue, and of course, Cincinnati. Clearly, there’s talent on the team.
Their issue is consistency. They rank outside the top 50 on both offense and defense and have a so-so rebound game (at best). Six times they put up over 80 points, but scored under 60 four times—that’s the inconsistency.
Just look at Tu Holloway: the guy averages 17 points per game and shoots almost 42%. Those aren’t bad, but it’s hard to believe the guy was once considered a player of the year candidate.
The Muskies kick off the tournament against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who I think they will beat. Unfortunately for Xavier, a road further than that would have to (likely) go through a Duke team that is much better. If the Musketeers enter the tournament with top-notch motivation, however, watch out.
The Big West champions enter the Big Dance as a 12-seed, facing a tough first opponent in the New Mexico Lobos. The 49ers of Long Beach State, though, have quite a bit to offer.
They had two big victories over (then-ranked) Pittsburgh in November and (then-ranked) Xavier in December. While both of these teams were eventually going to fall apart, you have to applaud a mid-major like Long Beach State for contending.
They lost some tough games as well—in overtime to San Diego State, by two to fellow tournament-team Montana, by eight in Kansas, and by six in North Carolina. Yes, they are all losses in the end, but they played tough.
What this team does well is offense. They shoot just under 48% and average almost 75 points per game. It's true, their rebounding and defense could use some work, but if you can score, you can win.
The 49ers have a rough first round draw against the Lobos, and could wind up stunning them—and maybe even the Louisville Cardinals.
As a 14th-seeded team in the tournament, Belmont probably isn’t going to get much attention from most people. That shouldn’t be the case.
Coming out of the Atlantic Sun, the team was 27-7, which probably would have earned them the NIT had they not won the conference. However, this is the team who averages over 81 points per game and took Duke to the limit in the first game of the year.
Make no mistake, the Bruins are going to bring it to Georgetown on Friday.
The Hoyas, in recent years, have been victims to a couple upsets over the last few tournaments, including a loss in 2010 to 14th-seeded Ohio—sounds a lot like this season.
The team passes well, shoots well, and scores loads of points—no matter when they lose, they won’t be an easy out. I see them defeating Georgetown and then taking down San Diego State before falling to Kansas in the Sweet 16. Keep your eye on the Bruins, as they definitely have the best potential in dance.