The NCAA tournament picture has finally come into focus after the results of Wednesday night's games.
The Big Dance officially kicked off on Tuesday night, but casual fans don't pay much attention to the play-in games. Now business will start to pick up.
With an 80-71 win over the Boise State Broncos, the La Salle Explorers earned a spot in the field of 64. The Explorers are a dangerous team as a 13 seed. They played in an extremely tough conference—the Atlantic 10—that sent five teams to the tournament.
It's relatively unknown ground for the team, as it last appeared in the NCAA tournament back in 1992. Regardless, the Explorers don't play a flashy brand of basketball. That suits a matchup with the similarly defensively inclined Kansas State Wildcats and Wisconsin Badgers in the early rounds of the tourney.
Aside from La Salle, here are three potential sleepers.
NC State Wolfpack
It feels like a lifetime ago that the NC State Wolfpack started 14-2, a run that culminated with a home upset of the Duke Blue Devils. The team then turned around and finished 10-8 in its next 18 games.
The Wolfpack have enough talent to make a deep run.
C.J. Leslie has perhaps been the biggest culprit to help explain why NC State has underwhelmed this year. He's gone ice cold at times this season, resulting in an NC State loss. Should he play up to his potential, Leslie has a chance of really taking over in this tournament. There's also Richard Howell, who's averaging a double-double a game this year.
Defense could be a major issue, though. NC State is giving up 70.1 points a game. Considering the team would be facing the Indiana Hoosiers in the next round, that's a major concern.
Should the Wolfpack find their early season form, an upset of Indiana could definitely be on the cards and from there, who knows how far NC State could go.
California Golden Bears
The selection committee was generally pretty harsh to the Pac-12. One team that seems to be exempted, though, was the California Golden Bears. Cal only lost by a point at home to the UNLV Rebels back in December. Playing in San Jose, Calif., the Golden Bears get what is essentially a second crack at home against UNLV.
This is a Cal squad that will not only be smarting from its earlier loss to the Rebels, but also the two straight losses coming into the tournament. The Golden Bears weren't great this season, but there's enough there to make you think that they can actually make a deep run.
Having the first two games in San Jose would be a great launching pad for Cal. It could give them enough confidence to take on the Indiana Hoosiers or possibly the Wolfpack in the Sweet 16.
Mike Montgomery is no stranger to the NCAA tournament, and with a scorer like Allen Crabbe, the Golden Bears could make some noise this year.
At this point, the Creighton Bluejays might have moved past being labeled with a sleeper tag. As a No. 7 seed, though, Greg McDermott is going to get a major test in Creighton's second game in the form of the Duke Blue Devils.
Doug McDermott has been getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. He's the second-leading scorer in the country with 23.1 points a game. He's got the ability to almost single-handedly propel the Bluejays to a deep run, much like Adam Morrison did in 2006.
That's not to diminish Creighton's supporting cast, however. As a team, the Bluejays are shooting .508 from the field. That efficiency is going to be vital when coming up against a top team in Duke. You don't want your players to shoot you out of a game.
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