Five surprisingly good college basketball teams poised to make runs in March Madness
Expecting the unexpected is a common theme for March Madness. Here in February we can look back on the preseason Top 25 and see how some of the predictions were way off (ahem, Kentucky…ahem, Duke…ahem, Kansas).
There's always a handful of teams that far exceed expectations and arise as a dark horse heading into the pivotal home stretch of the season. Here's a look at those teams below.
Ohio State. Starting the season at No. 24, the Buckeyes (16-4) were expected to be decent but hardly a top five team – where they find themselves in this week's Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll. Ohio State has won five in a row in arguably the country's toughest conference, the Big Ten. The team's defeat of Iowa last week poses the argument for OSU to be worthy of a possible No. 1 seed should the currently projected top seeds falter.
Ohio State guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) looks on after shooting a three-point shot during the first half against Maryland at Xfinity Center. (Photo: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports)
Alabama. Nate Oats is in the running for national coach of the year for the job he's done with the Crimson Tide (16-5) this season. Alabama was ranked No. 25 in the preseason poll, but the program has exceeded expectations in the SEC with an 11-1 league record and is in line to earn a No. 2 seed in the tournament. One thing this squad does well is shoot well from beyond the arc, ranking 10th nationally with 10.6 made three-pointers per game.
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Missouri. Coach Cuonzo Martin's team has been a major surprise with key defeats of Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee and, most recently, Alabama. The Tigers (13-3) are positioned to secure a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the NCAAs based on that profile. Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith make up one of the most lethal backcourts in the country.
Oklahoma. Texas' exceptional start overshadowed just how good Lon Kruger's team has been in the Big 12. The Sooners (12-5) own wins over West Virginia, Texas, Kansas and Alabama. Veteran guard Austin Reaves leads the team in points, rebounds and assists.
Virginia Tech. The Hokies (14-4) have significant wins over Villanova, Virginia and Clemson while staying in the ACC title race. They weren't considered to be contenders (picked to finish 11th in the league) in November but have used a sound defense (ranking in the top-40 of KenPom efficiency) and balanced offense (six players averaging nine points or mor to be positioned for a top-four seed in the NCAAs.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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