NCAA Basketball

March Madness: Sleepers of 2011 NCAA Tournament

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Here is some insight on a couple lower seeds, who could cause some ruckus.

Utah State Aggies

The main reason this squad is a threat to make a run in the tournament is it’s senior leadership. The Aggies ball club has six seniors filling out it’s roster. They managed to win 30 games this year and although they lack a signature win against a top flight team they could do some damage come tournament time. The added bonus is that they are playing a Kansas State team that is wildly inconsistent. Utah State has the talent and the senior leadership that could lead them dancing into the sweet sixteen.

Belmont Bruins

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Belmont is a tournament ready team. Their roster is packed full of shooters and they have a deep enough bench to keep teams on their toes. Belmont runs a frenetic style on the offensive end, that relies on getting up and down the court and shooting a ton of threes. The Bruins have faced tournament competition in regular season play, going to Vandy and Tennessee, so they shouldn’t be awestruck. They also are facing a squad in Wisconsin that is struggling to score points. The Badgers have been limited to 65 and 33 points in their last two games. With Belmont being the 11th best scoring offense in the nation, you can better believe they will be able to put up a lot of points. But, will they get enough stops? Either way, they will be a tough out in the tourney.

Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Oakland is a team that was on my radar early to possibly win a few games. Then they get matched up in a 4-13 contest against a Texas team that was number one in the country just three weeks ago. Still, Texas should not overlook the Grizz. Oakland faced a loaded non-conference schedule which was laid out to prepare them for exactly this tournament. They have faced West Virginia, Purdue, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan State, and Ohio State this season. Oakland is another mid major with a high powered offense, ranked 2nd in the nation in points per game. Led by two scores, Keith Benson their beast in the inside and Reggie Hamilton their star guard is depth, this team has top tier talent. Benson in particular should create a fair amount of matchup problems for Texas. If Oakland just manages to play a little bit of defense, you could see them advance.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

You can never count out the Zags. Whether they are a No. 3, a No. 6 or an 11 as they are this year, you don’t want to see your team open up the tournament against Gonzaga. And despite getting the 11-seed, it looks like the path may be there for them to once again make a run. Over the last couple years Gonzaga has made it a point of emphasis to play a full schedule of tournament quality teams both in pre-season and during their conference schedule. This team’s strength is it’s overall consistently across the board. This teams ranks 10th in Field Goal %, 32nd in Assist per a game, 55th in Rebounds, and 24th in points per game. By picking Gonzaga you will be picking a efficient high scoring squad, that has the ability to adept to any style of play opposing teams throw at them.

Missouri Tigers

Missouri was a pre-season top 15 squad going into the year. Despite that preseason hype, they have failed to really put everything together. Mizzou is led by Mike Anderson, a protege of Norm Richardson. Like Norm Richardson, Anderson’s squad plays a similar style of 40 minutes of Hell game plan. Missouri tries to speed up the pace of the game and force opposing offensives into miscues. But, they aren’t just going to throw the ball up offensively to push the pace or stop playing defense in half court. Their tenacity on defense does not relinquish in half-court sets. They also get a Cincinnati team that looks to be a bit overrated with many of their wins coming against a soft pre-season schedule and the lower rungs of the Big East. Missouri’s style of play makes them one of those teams that can beat any opponent on any given night.