Deep Sleepers for March

It’s the Gold Glove syndrome.  Once a player is given a gold glove, he is grandfathered in for years to come.

In college basketball, it’s a similar formula for top 25 teams.  Once anointed in the preseason top 25, teams have to bobble the ball to cease receiving votes.

Here are 5 teams that could jump on our radar in March:

  1. Seton Hall

They beat both SEC bubble teams, Georgia and Ole Miss, that they faced.  They shocked Wichita State.  Most recently, the Pirates ransacked Marquette in their building.  This Seton Hall bunch was ranked this time last season, as then-freshman Isaiah Whitehead was making his presence known.  Now their cast of super-sophomores (Carrington, Sanogo, Rodriguez and others) are only getting better.  Add a splash of senior leadership from UMASS transfer, and defensive stopper, Derrick Gordon.  This team is city tough and doesn’t rely on one or two guys to lead in the box score.  If Big East counterparts such as Butler and Providence are consistently ranked in the top 15, it’s time that Seton Hall starts receiving ballots.  The Pirates currently sit atop the standings in the Big East, although four teams are ranked nationally above them in the AP poll.

2. High Point

The Panthers have one of the best players no one knows about.  Forward John Brown is scoring 18 per game, shooting 57% and grabbing 7 rebounds.  Brown is undersized, yet slippery in the post.  His game reminds you of  Kenneth Faried in terms of his high motor.  The Panthers have a 1,000 point scorer at guard in Adam Weary.  Lorenzo Cugini is a guy who can both bang down low but stretch the floor at the 4-spot.  High Point has four losses on the season, none by more than four points.  They almost won a game in Georgia despite Brown being in foul trouble throughout.

3. Valpairaso

The Crusaders are another team without a bad loss and a bad-ass defense.  Valpairaso ranks third in kenpom.com’s defensive ranking nationwide.  And, when you watch the games, you’ll see the strong defense begins with rim-protector Vashil Fernandez.  Alec Peters has been emerging in the last year, averaging 17 and 7 per game.  The 6-9 junior could have a Wally Szczerbiak type of splash on the national scene if opposing defenses sleep on his versatility.

4.  Wichita State

Here’s a not-so-bold-prediction.  Wichita State will win the Missouri Valley and head into the tournament pissed off with their #11 seed.  They’ll end out rolling over a West Virginia or South Carolina.  Teams with full or aggressive ball pressure won’t scare Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker.  The Shockers sit at 7-5 in no small measure because of a November injury to Van Vleet in where the Shockers were competing in holiday tournaments.  They also added Connor Frankamp, the Kansas transfer guard, since Van Vleet’s return.  The Shockers are younger and more inexperienced in the post, but Greg Marshall is finding his rotation inside as he always does.  They did beat Utah this season.  As you know, the Utes have one of the best true offensive post players in the nation with Jacob Poeltl.  A major development for Wichita is that, while playing short-handed, 6-8 freshman from Jersey City Markis McDuffie has been inserted into a regular rotation.  This team will be tournament ready with depth on the wings.  The Shockers are another team that have stopped receiving AP votes.

5.  Hawaii

It’s almost as if this team plays on an island.  They’re 10-2 in the non-conference and no one is talking about them.  The “Rainbow Warriors” are normally the team that gets crushed as their happy to host a holiday tournament that draws real talent.  This year it was a role reversal.  Hawaii dominated Northern Iowa and Auburn.  Hawaii’s only losses include losing by 3 to third-ranked Oklahoma and also losing at Texas Tech.  Hawaii is a team that wants to get into a track meet.  They are undersized but very quick and ready to shoot on the spot.  6-11 power forward Stefan Jankovic is also finally playing up to his talent level in his junior season.  He began his collegiate career at Missouri.  Jankovic is averaging 14 points and 6 boards.

 

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