The brackets are out and every year a handful of teams are anointed “sleepers” by fans and media. In sports, a “sleeper” is loosely defined as a team or player that you may not have heard of but they come out of nowhere to exceed expectations.
The Butler team from two years ago would’ve been classified as a “sleeper” by most observers. There is a real art to picking sleepers, but there also is a little luck involved.
As a general rule, I don’t like to pick sleepers, but I like to write down a list of teams that you need to be aware of and keep an eye on.
The Bears could be peaking at the right time. Beating Kansas in the Big XII Tournament should be a sign that this team could cause some damage in the big tournament. Even though Baylor checks in as a No. 3 seed, I think they are a team that could make a run to the Final Four. The Bears will face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in round one out west. Baylor hasn’t had a bad loss all season long as all seven of their defeats are to teams that are also in the NCAA Tournament. Perry Jones III leads the team in scoring and rebounding and is the key to this team advancing.
Connecticut showed signs of life in the Big East Tournament, but face a tough Iowa State team in the opening round. As the defending NCAA champs, everyone is keeping one eye on the Huskies, as they should. Top-seeded Kentucky awaits Connecticut should they defeat the Cyclones. A tough draw for both teams.
Florida State (24-9)
Even before Florida State won the ACC Tournament, I liked them. Leonard Hamilton has done a masterful job making this team overachieve. A favorable draw awaits them this week as they open with a No. 14 seed in St. Bonaventure, with Cincinnati or Texas waiting in round two.
The SEC champs have a team that can compete with anyone. Beating Kentucky should give the Commodores a big confidence boost heading into their upcoming game with Harvard. Vanderbilt features a balanced scoring attack and good perimeter defense. Vanderbilt always has a good game plan as they demonstrated against Kentucky. “We really wanted to be physical with them because we saw the success that LSU had and Florida had,” Vanderbilt forward Steve Tchiengang said. If the Commodores hit their outside shots, look out!
No team wants to look across the court and see the Memphis Tigers warming up. This team is dangerous and many think they should be seeded higher than a No. 8. They destroyed the competition in the Conference USA Tournament and have won seven consecutive games. A Michigan State vs. Memphis second round game would be the showcase game of the weekend.
North Carolina State (22-12)
North Carolina State earned their trip to the big dance with their performance at the ACC Tournament in Atlanta. They pushed rival North Carolina to the limit in the semis before some strange calls by the officials ended their run. The open with a good San Diego State game, but if they get through that one, I could see them facing North Carolina again in the elite eight.
Get those brackets out and start filling them out.
Rick Limpert covers sports, technology and events in and around Atlanta. He attended the ACC Tournament and will be following the NCAA Tournament.