The 2017 NCAA tournament is almost here, which means college basketball fans everywhere are likely filling out March Madness brackets at an alarming pace.
While fans are filling out said brackets, there is so much to keep in mind. For example, while a team might have “advance” written all over it because of its record and solid seed, it’s important to look at the matchups. This is a tournament of matchups, after all, and that is a big reason why so many top teams fail to reach the Sweet 16 on a yearly basis.
Filling out the perfect bracket is near impossible. Not only is there an unlimited amount of scenarios that could take place, but no one knows who the Cinderellas are going to be. In hopes of helping college hoops fans fill out their brackets for the 2017 NCAA tournament, let’s unleash four dark-horse teams that could end up making deep runs during March Madness. Call them sleepers, if you would like, but just make sure to keep an eye on them.
No. 11 Seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons barely got into the dance (they have to partake in a play-in game, after all), but they are dancing — and that’s all that matters.
Why should March Madness fans keep an eye on this squad? Well, because they are lethal in the scoring department, and they are averaging 82.7 points per game to prove it. If the Demon Deacons can find a way to contain opposing teams (the Kansas State Wildcats will be the first test), then Wake Forest could pull off an upset or two.
With that said, and despite the fact that this team is no stranger to putting the ball in the hoop at a high rate, it is allowing 77.9 points per game, which doesn’t exactly scream national championship contender.
Nonetheless, watch out for leading scorer John Collins (18.9 points per game) and the rest of the Demon Deacons.
No. 4 Seed Butler Bulldogs
The Butler Bulldogs are dancing yet again, and unlike during the Brad Stevens era, there is nothing underdog about this team.
Not only does Butler hold a No. 4 seed, but it is capable of knocking off any team in the tournament. The Bulldogs knocked off the Arizona Wildcats (ranked No. 8 at the time), Cincinnati Bearcats (ranked No. 22 at the time), and Indiana Hoosiers (ranked No. 9 at the time) in 2016-17, and that was just during non-conference play.
During Big East play, Butler took down the Villanova Wildcats, a team that won the title last season and is the overall No. 1 seed in the 2017 NCAA tournament, not once but twice! Villanova only has three losses on the season — just in case fans were wondering.
The Bulldogs might be riding a two-game losing streak into the dance, but do not take them lightly. Ever.
No. 6 Seed Maryland Terrapins
Thanks to their up-and-down ways, the Maryland Terrapins are a tough turtle to crack. However, if bracket-makers need any reason to believe in the Terps, then they should look no further than Melo Trimble. The talented junior is putting up 17 points per contest.
While Trimble’s college career has been just as inconsistent as Maryland has been in 2016-17, when he is on the court, the Terrapins have a chance to knock off any team in the country. Trimble is that talented, and he has the goods to carry his team to — believe it or not — a Final Four appearance.
If you believe in a one-man wrecking crew (Maryland has talent outside of Trimble, of course, but he is the key to a deep run), then don’t be afraid to take the Terrapins far in those dance brackets.
No. 10 Seed Wichita State Shockers
As a result of the 30-4 Wichita State Shockers receiving a No. 10 seed in the 2017 NCAA tournament, they seem to be the talk of the bracket. None of that will matter if they can’t get past the Dayton Flyers, a fellow mid-major that is more than capable of making it to the second weekend of the tournament.
Why should fans believe in the Shockers despite the fact that their resume is lacking quality wins against big-name teams? Here are three reasons: (1) Wichita State has rattled off 15 wins in a row, making this team one of the hottest in the tournament, (2) they are currently ranked No. 19 in both major polls, and (3) ESPN‘s Eamonn Brennan, who is a college hoops guru, believes the Shockers are the 13th-best team in the field.
On top of that, Wichita State has been here many times before, especially in recent memory. If the Shockers can’t, at the very least, get by Dayton in the first round, then that No. 10 seed will look more appropriate.
Until then, don’t count out a run from Wichita State, or any other team featured in this article.
[Featured Image by Michael Reaves/Getty Images]