5 Overachieving Teams to Watch in March

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Well, we are getting to the juicy part of the college basketball season, where every game becomes a must-win for teams that want to be part of March Madness. If you have not been following the season, now is the time to start doing your homework so that March can become an enjoyable (and potentially profitable) month. Without further ado, here are five under-the-radar teams that are positioning themselves for potential tournament success.

-#14 Miami (15-3, 6-0 ACC) Are your eyes deceiving you? No, they are not. The Miami Hurricanes have stormed into the driver’s seat in the daunting ACC conference after huge wins at North Carolina and versus Duke. The team entered conference play with an unassuming 9-3 mark, and appeared destined for another season on the tournament bubble. This proved different, however, as seniors Trey Jones and Kenny Kadji really stepped up for the Hurricanes in the ACC, complementing the team’s unusual chemistry. While this level of excellence cannot be sustained for the entire year, the ‘Canes look like a legitimate Sweet 16 team.

-#10 Oregon (18-2, 7-0 Pac-12) People generally think of Oregon for its lightning-fast football team, but this quick basketball team is overwhelming its opponents by averaging 76.2 points per game. The team has gotten balanced scoring from a solid nucleus of returning players, led by Duke star Kyle Singler’s younger brother Eric. The Ducks have won close games and blowouts, and their home court is consistently regarded as one of the toughest places for opponents to visit. Incredibly, Oregon has already beaten UCLA and Arizona, so the improving Pac-12 conference is theirs to lose. This team could either make a strong push for the Final Four or fall in the First Round. Only time will tell, but they will definitely be an entertaining squad to watch in March.

-#16 Ole Miss (17-2, 6-0 SEC) The Rebels have an excellent record and are killing it in SEC competition, but they still remain a mystery to most college basketball fans. The next four games should give people a better sense of this team’s potential, as the Rebels play Kentucky, Florida and Missouri. In a down year for the SEC, Ole Miss will assuredly make the NCAA Tournament. But can junior Marshall Henderson and the Rebels make basketball a priority in football country? That remains to be seen.

-#9 Butler (17-3, 4-1 A-10) After the Bulldogs’ surprising down year in 2012, few people expected a smooth year for Coach Stevens in his first Atlantic-10 season. However, his team has proven the doubters wrong by playing a challenging schedule and faring quite well for itself. The Bulldogs have notched two wins against top 10 opponents, knocking down Indiana and Gonzaga in thrilling fashion. If not for a one-point loss at LaSalle, Butler would have a nice cushion atop the conference. This team looks really dangerous, and I would be bitterly disappointed if the Bulldogs did not make the Sweet 16 this year. They are definitely a sleeper Final Four team, and you can see them at Fordham on Saturday Feb. 16th.

-#1 Michigan (19-1, 6-1 Big 10) How can the top-ranked team in America be a sleeper? Well, the Wolverines have not been nationally relevant since the Fab Five roamed the streets of Ann Arbor, and many college fans will remember last year’s embarrassing first-round loss as a No. four seed. For those who have not watched college hoops this season, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are the real deal. The Wolverines have played a tough schedule, dispatching NC State, Kansas State, West Virginia, Minnesota and Purdue. However, they will definitely be tested against the likes of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan State in coming weeks. If the Wolverines falter in March, it will be due to their lack of size (they are only 97th in America in rebounds per game). Fans do not know if the grueling Big Ten campaign will help or hurt the Wolverines in the long run, but we should all expect to hear plenty about Michigan for the rest of the season.

My other teams to watch are Kansas, Florida, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Wichita State, New Mexico and Louisville

If you are looking forward to March as much as I am, the next two months will be turbulent. I leave you with my very speculative and gut-based Final Four: Kansas, Florida, Louisville, Butler.