BY MATTY D.
Cinderella can reside in the Power 5. In 2021, Georgetown surged in unlikely fashion after a horrible regular season. The Hoyas went dancing in March Madness as the Big East Tournament winner. The team had only gone 7-9 in the conference regular season and had an overall record of .500 (13-13).
Similarly, Oregon State went from an expected pre-season bottom feeder in the Pac-12, to The Elite 8.
Here are seven teams that could burst a bubble team’s dreams. It shouldn’t shock anyone who is watching college basketball to see these teams in a conference tournament championship game.
Maryland Terps 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Big Ten Conference
In an era of global turmoil, it’s safe to say that Maryland still had a rocky season. They brought in two highly touted transfers in Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab. However, the Terps season got off to a slow turtle crawl. They lost to in-state non-rival George Mason. And Head Coach Mark Turgeon and the administration, reportedly, agreed to part ways mid-season.
Danny Manning took over as head coach. As you watch the team play, they are slowly rounding into form. A game against Nebraska in mid-February showed off their ceiling. Yes, it’s a lousy Nebraska team, but you saw freshman forward Julian Reese show off his stuff.
The roster is still beefed up with veteran players who have been in plenty of March Madness battles. Eric Ayala and Donta Scott come to mind. It was Danny Manning and the Miracles which made one of college basketball’s most magical runs ever. If some Big Ten teams get complacent during their conference tournament, it could be the Terps that go on a miraculous run.
Florida Atlantic Owls 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Conference USA
By NCAA Tournament standards, Conference USA is a major conference. Just in the last decade, look at what Middle Tennessee and North Texas have done to wreak havoc on the bracket. UAB, North Texas and even Louisiana Tech have been on the radar for modest at-large chances this season. However, the Florida Atlantic Owls are staying up late into February with relevant play in its league. In a seven game stretch over January to February, they won 6 of 7 games in conference. That includes the Owls’ dominating win against Louisiana Tech where the Owls shot 52% from the field, 45% from 3 point territory, and led by as many as 20 points.
Like many deep sleepers, this team features some sizable international talent. Its front-court features size and versatility with players from Kosovo, Russia, Senegal and Kongo all contributing.
Arizona State Sun Devils 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Pac 12 Conference
This one is simple. You cannot watch the Arizona State Sun Devils inspired play against Final 4 favorite UCLA and not be inspired to think they can go on a magical run. After an era of Arizona State pumping guards into the NBA, its powerful forwards forced the action against UCLA late. They beat the Bruins and the Oregon Ducks in February. They also scored a win against Colorado and were very competitive against an AP Top 5 team in Arizona.
Forwards like Jalen Graham are dropping double digits with regularity late in the season.
Bobby Hurley is one of the sports all-time great point guards. Perhaps he can be the floor general as head coach of the Sun Devils and lead them to a conference crown.
Utah State 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Mountain West Conference
Google the phrase college basketball elder statesman, and Brock Miller’s mug shot might pop up. This team is as aged as the sandy ledge of a mountain boarding the small town of Sandy, Utah. And they can shoot. Sure, big man Neemias Queta moved on to bigger and better things. But there’s still plenty of residue remaining to roll up a run. You could look at their record and say they’re toast. Or, you could look at their record and give props to just how good the Mountain West has been this year. Wyoming, Colorado State, and San Diego State are likely tournament teams regardless of what happens in the Mountain West Tournament. The Aggies are only middle of the pack in terms of college basketball’s best three point shooting team. On February 24th they ranked 159th in the nation with a pedestrian 34% from 3PT. However, that’s not indicative of the shooting stroke you could see from senior leaders Miller and Justin Bean. So why not let loose in Vegas and roll the dice with a bunch of bombs from downtown during Champ Week?
George Mason 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Atlantic 10
The Atlantic 10 is filled with teams that are capable of “stealing a bid.” In fact, it will likely happen. Davidson has enjoyed a lead atop the league for most of the season. However, they face stiff competition with St. Louis, VCU, Dayton, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and George Mason, to name a few. George Mason is coached by former Mizzou baller Kim English Jr. They are a bit of a mystery, with a lots of bad losses on their record. However, they have one of the conference’s purest shooters in Colorado transfer D’Shawn Schwartz. 6-9 forward Josh Oduro is having a solid season. He averages 18 points and 7 rebounds on the season. Their wins over St. Bonaventure, Dayton and Richmond should be noted as proof this team could compete for the conference championship.