There are teams to bet on during the season, and then there are March-ready teams. This is a list of sleeper teams who are made for some massive wins in the NCAA Tournament.
Connecticut (Big East)
UConn has had an up and down year, but they have the talent and the depth to make a run. They can go 9 guys deep, and all of those players can contribute on both ends. They have the star point guard in RJ Cole, an imposing big man in Adama Sanogo, and plenty of wing players who can fill up a stat sheet in Tyrese Martin, Tyler Polley, Isaiah Whaley, and Andre Jackson.
Jalen Gaffney fills the bench small-guard role well, and Jordan Hawkins is a fantastic shooter off the bench. Akok Akok comes off the bench and has had to play increased minutes this year when Sanogo was out an extended time with injury.
They’re a fantastic rebounding team, and even better on the offensive glass which gives them multiple possessions, which they need because they can go on cold shooting streaks. If they can stay away from desperate shot selection, UConn can make a return to glory.
Xavier (Big East)
Xavier is deep, one of the deepest teams that will certainly feature in March Madness. They preferably go eight guys deep, but pretty much all of those players play 20 minutes a game. In fact, one of their leading scorers, 7’ F Jack Nunge, doesn’t play more than about 25 minutes a game.
Nunge is long, very long, and he has one of the best shooting strokes in the entire NCAA. On top of his 3-pt shooting efforts, Adam Kunkel is a 3-point specialist off the bench, and Nate Johnson is a premier 3 and D guy. This team can really heat up from behind the arc, something many NCAA Tournament sleepers have in common.
Star guard Paul Scruggs can be inefficient, but when he’s on he’s one of the best guards in the country, meaning he can carry a legendary March performance. Colby Jones and Dwon Odom are defensive stalwarts and can drive to the bucket and score as well.
Former starter and top 6th man forward Zach Freemantle has been one of Xavier’s best players in the past and still is. He and Nunge provide a one-two punch second to only Purdue’s Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Fremantle can also shoot 3’s by the way.
And lastly, they have forward Jerome Hunter, a transfer from Indiana who is an energy provider in the paint and contributes to rebounding efforts. This team has no obvious weaknesses, so if they hit their shots, they’re going far.
Texas (Big 12)
Texas, with their new head coach, returning starters, and a bundle of top transfers were supposed to be one of the best teams all year long. That hasn’t been the case, but they still have the talent to make a deep run when now, nobody expects it.
First, head coach Chris Beard has a history in March, winning an upset with Little Rock and taking Texas Tech to the Final Four just a few years ago. They have 5 guys who can all put up 10 a game any given night: Returning guards Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey, former All-Big 10 guard Marcus Carr, Utah transfer and mid-range expert Timmy Allen, and UMass big-man transfer Tre Mitchell.
This team is so deep they have what seems like an infinite amount of possible starting lineups and they mix up their rotation which makes them hard to gameplan for. They are also in a great place to survive any possible injuries.
Athletic transfer forwards Christian Bishop and Dylan Disu can grab rebounds, and Kentucky transfer Devin Askew can knock down shots as a very solid shooter. Jase Febres and Brock Cunningham are some of the best glue guys in the country and both can play significant minutes. This team is deep and doesn’t require one player going off for 4 games to make a deep run.
Loyola (IL) (Missouri Valley)
This probably sounds familiar, but it’s no more true than it has been over the last few tournaments where Loyola has been a consistent threat. This year, Loyola traveled to the Bahamas to play a pre-season tournament where they lost a very tight game to Michigan State and a close game to Auburn where they held them to just 62 points.
Their defense is elite, and they are one of the best shooting teams from all distances. They play slow and interrupt momentum that some of the higher-paced offenses gain. They’re also very deep.
Star guard Lucas Williamson can fill it up and partner in the backcourt Braden Norris is another fantastic three-point shooter. Bench guard Ryan Schwieger plays a ton of minutes and is one of the best scorers on the Ramblers.
Aher Uguak is an athletic and energetic big grabbing rebounds beside strong big-man Jacob Hutson. They have other glue guy guards in Marquise Kennedy and Keith Clemons, and plenty of supporting big men for foul trouble issues in Tate Hall, Chris Knight, and Tom Welch. If they can slow these high-powered teams down, and they shoot well, Loyola is poised for another deep run.
Every year a Pac-12 team surprises everyone, and that’s likely because their games are often so late at night most people don’t ever see a full Pac-12 game. Last year it was UCLA and Oregon State, and this year it could be Oregon, who started the year in terrible fashion but are getting better as the season progresses.
They shoot it well from behind the arc and if they can overcome their free-throw problems they can compete with just about anyone. The Ducks aren’t as deep as some of these other teams from a bench standpoint but their starters are incredible and any one of them can dominate a game.
Returning guard Will Richardson scores about 15 a game on absolutely incredible efficiency. Rutgers transfer Jacob Young is a pitbull coming down the court, driving to the rim, and drawing fouls. Oklahoma transfer De’Vion Harmon is a very good shooter as well who can get hot.
Syracuse transfer Quincy Guerrier has some size and athleticism in the frontcourt to partner alongside 6’11” scary N’Faly Dante.
They also have Eric Williams off the bench, a forward and occasional small-ball center, and a fantastic rebounder. They have more depth at the center position in Franck Kepnang, also 6’11”. This team filled with big-name transfers had to figure it out, but head coach Dana Altman has them in position for another surprising run.
Arkansas is similar to Oregon in that they started off on the wrong foot, but have since figured it out. They have a main 7 guys, with a mix of another 3 or 4 guys they can bring off the bench in any game dependent on their need.
JD Notae is their best player, an athletic guard and a solid but streaky shooter, and one of the SEC’s best players. Pitt transfer, 6’6” guard Au’Diese Toney entered the transfer portal before last season concluded and is another weapon at the basket.
Two more guards, Stanley Umude and Devonte Davis provide supporting scoring options and can go off any given game. On top of that, former Miami Hurricane Chris Lykes plays significant minutes providing energy, hustle, and bench scoring.
6’10” forward Jaylin Williams is one of the best big men in the SEC and he’s extremely efficient from the floor, combined with great athleticism and defense. They have a few other players who are mainly out on the court for defense to provide breaks for some of the more offensive-minded stars, namely usual starter Trey Wade.
If the guards produce and Williams stays out of foul trouble, this Razorbacks team could come out of absolutely nowhere to haunt some of the country’s top teams.
Indiana (Big Ten)
New coach Mike Woodson has inspired this year’s Hoosiers to one of their best years in a very long time. Indiana, believe it or not, can actually go 12 men deep if they need to, and they won’t skip a beat.
12th man and second-year guard Anthony Leal is a great glue guy and can play meaningful minutes down the stretch. Khristian Lander, despite being disappointing as a high recruit, can come onto the court and play big minutes in an attempt to prove everyone wrong about him. Backup big man Michael Durr is their greatest physical presence and even played Wooden Award candidate Kofi Cockburn very well, virtually shutting him down defensively and grabbing rebounds over him on both ends.
Freshman Tamar Bates is raw, but he’s very athletic and he has size at the guard position at 6’5”. And all of that is just their bottom 4 guys in the rotation.
Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson has been their most consistent guard this year scoring-wise, while longtime Hoosier Rob Phinisee, now coming off the bench can provide some made shots. Northwestern transfer, 6’7” Miller Kopp is a fantastic shooter to plant in the corner to spread the defense.
Mid-major transfer Parker Stewart has been great thus far, especially as a 6’5” three-point shooter. Trey Galloway provides more shooting and hustle off the bench and Jordan Geronimo is the second unit’s most talented rebounder.
And then, of course, the team’s best two and most important players, frontcourt duo Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Both of them score plenty and rebound plenty, and Jackson-Davis is a premier paint defender. This Hoosier team has it all, and it’s likely going to come down to if they can hit their free throws or not.