College Basketball's Biggest Surprises
Every college basketball season, there are teams that overachieve and do the unexpected.
The teams come into the season predicted to finish in the middle of the pack suddenly find themselves near the top of the conference pushing hard to get a bid to play in the NCAA Tournament.
This is what makes college basketball so much fun to watch. Teams you would never expect to be successful are suddenly defeating teams they should not be able to beat.
Six teams have surprised this season, and they all could end up finding themselves dancing when the brackets are announced on Selection Sunday.
Here are the six teams that have exceeded expectations and could be that Cinderella team come tournament time.
6. Indiana State Sycamores
Indiana State Sycamores (14-8, 7-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference)
Key Wins: Ole Miss, Miami (FL), Wichita State
RPI: 53 SOS: 55
The Indiana State Sycamores lost in overtime at Drake on Saturday, but they have been a surprise this season. They are currently contending for the Missouri Valley Conference, as well as a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
A big game for the Sycamores will be this Wednesday when they host No. 16 Creighton. They are currently two games behind Creighton in the standings and could benefit from an upset win.
Justin Gant has also played well by averaging 5.1 rebounds per game.
Indiana State will be in good shape if it can go 6-2 in its last eight regular season games. Wins over Creighton and Wichita State would boost the Sycamores' resumé and help them get into the NCAA Tournament. A regular season or tournament title wouldn't hurt either.
The Sycamores could make some noise come Selection Sunday, especially if they are on the bubble and become a bracket buster.
It may be a cool story seeing them make the NCAA Tournament, but I don't see this squad making it past its first game.
Prediction: Second Round
5. La Salle Explorers
La Salle Explorers (15-6, 5-3 in the A-10)
Key Wins: Butler, Virginia Commonwealth
RPI: 30 SOS: 38
Senior guard Ramon Galloway has been the team leader by scoring an average 17.0 points per game. Junior guards Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland, along with sophomore forward Jerrell Wright, are averaging over 10 points a game as well.
The Explorers need to make sure they continue to win, and going 6-2 in their last eight games with wins over Temple and Saint Louis would put them in good shape. They will also have to make sure they win a few games in the Atlantic-10 Tournament in Brooklyn.
The Atlantic-10 is becoming tougher and tougher every year, and the Explorers are going to have their work cut out for them.
Prediction: Second Round
4. Arizona State Sun Devils
Freshman guard Jahii Carson against Arizona on January 19.
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Arizona State Sun Devils (17-5, 6-3 in the Pac-12)
Key Wins: Colorado, UCLA
RPI: 65 SOS: 112
The Sun Devils finished 10-21 just one season ago and have already exceeded expectations this season.
In my opinion, Carson has been one of the best freshman players in the country. Carson scored 25 points at Washington State this past Thursday and dropped 32 points on Saturday at Washington. He has taken this Sun Devil team to a new level by averaging an impressive 18.3 points and 5.3 assists per game.
Felix has been second in command to this Sun Devil team by averaging 14.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Bachynski and Gilling have both been putting points up and rebounding. Bachynski is averaging 10.2 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game. Gilling is right up there with 9.7 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game.
Gordon has averaged 10.9 points per game.
The Sun Devils will need to go 6-3 in their last nine conference games to be in good shape for the NCAA Tournament. Arizona State's big games will take place at the very end of the season when it travels to UCLA on February 27 and to in-state rival Arizona on March 9.
If the Sun Devils make the NCAA tournament, it will be first time they have done so since 2009. Making the NCAA Tournament would be a huge accomplishment for head coach Herb Sendek's team, even if it doesn't make it past its first matchup.
Prediction: Second Round
3. Ole Miss Rebels
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Ole Miss Rebels (17-4, 6-2 in the SEC)
Key Win: Missouri
RPI: 44 SOS: 110
The Rebels have finished the past two seasons with 20-14 records and have lost in the first round of the NIT Tournament. This team is on track to win at least 24 games this season.
Ole Miss could be in its first NCAA Tournament since the 2001-02 season.
Henderson has been the vocal leader of this team and has averaged an astounding 19.5 points per game. Holloway has been great as well, averaging 14.6 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Senior forward Reginald Buckner has contributed as well, averaging 9.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Ole Miss has already had its only meetings with Florida and Kentucky this season, which means all 10 games it has remaining in SEC play will be winnable. The Rebels' biggest challenge will be at Missouri on Saturday.
This team will most likely find itself in the NCAA Tournament. It just depends if it finishes the season off strong and what seed it receives.
The Rebels will continue to surprise as the season goes on, but I'm not sure what damage they're capable of doing in the NCAA Tournament.
Prediction: Third Round
2. Oregon Ducks
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Oregon Ducks (18-4, 7-2 in the Pac-12)
Key Wins: UNLV, Arizona, UCLA
RPI: 27 SOS: 90
The Oregon Ducks may have been swept in the Bay Area by Stanford and California this past week, but they are still considered one of the biggest surprises this season. The Ducks still hold their destiny in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Ducks made it all the way up to No. 10 in the AP Poll last week before dropping their past two games. They had not been ranked that high since the 2006-07 season.
Singler has averaged 10.8 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game. Kazemi, who transferred from Rice, has averaged 8.8 points per game and has been a threat on the boards, averaging 9.4 rebounds per game.
The freshman guards consisting of Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis have played a major role in the Ducks success as well. Dotson averages 11.4 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. Artis has averaged 10.2 points per game and 3.8 assists per game.
Artis is still out with a foot injury he suffered prior to the Washington game on January 26. He will be needed when tournament time comes around.
If Oregon can get control of itself and not turn the ball over more than 15 to 20 times a game, it will be fine moving forward in conference play. The Ducks have nine games remaining and will likely need to win eight or all nine of them to win the Pac-12 regular season title.
For making the NCAA Tournament, the Ducks simply need to win five more games and finish with a 23-8 record to guarantee themselves a spot. If the Ducks get their problems figured out and get Artis back from an injury, this team could have a chance to make a run in the tournament.
Prediction: Sweet 16
1. Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Senior center Reggie Johnson after defeating NC State on Saturday.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Miami (FL) Hurricanes (17-3, 8-0 in the ACC)
Key Wins: Michigan State, La Salle, North Carolina, Duke, NC State
RPI: 2 SOS: 1
This season, the Hurricanes have players that can put points on the scoreboard. After finishing 9-7 in ACC Conference play last season, this team has definitely found a way to turn things around.
Senior guard Trey McKinney Jones and senior center Reggie Johnson have also played a role in taking this team to the next level.
Scott averages 14.0 points per game, while Kadji averages 13.3 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. Larkin has averaged 13.0 points per game and Jones has put up 9.9 points per game.
Johnson, who has come off the bench the past four games after returning from a left thumb fracture suffered in mid-December, has played exceptional this season by averaging 10.4 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game.
The Hurricanes have a two-game lead in the ACC Standings, but need to keep the wins coming. They still have 10 games remaining, including a key game at Duke on March 2.
The Hurricanes appear to be in good position to make the NCAA Tournament and could be a very dangerous team once tournament time comes around.
Prediction: Sweet 16