As we’ve come to another season of college basketball it seems that this year is one of the deepest fields we have ever seen. Although Duke is currently a cut above, there is no shortage of challengers. Below I give my dark horse teams that could shock the world come March.
Oregon made a huge splash by one of the most coveted recruits in the 2018 cycle in Bol Bol. Bol stands at towering 7’3 but has the agility and shooting capability of guard. Bol can stretch the floor and let rip from deep as well as the knack to take it to the cup. Bol combined with Paul White is an absolutely devastating front court with elite defense capabilities. Junior guard Payton Pritchard has been phenomenal so far averaging 16 points per game to go with nearly 6 assists per game. This Oregon team is strong both in the front court and the back court which can cause issues for any opposing team. If Bol Bol continues to live up to his billing and Pritchard continues to orchestrate this offense at a high level Oregon could be scary down the stretch.
While they have an incredibly high ranking the Volunteers are quietly one of the best teams in college basketball. Tennessee retains a core of last years unit which gives them an advantage over many of the younger teams across the country. The Volunteers were a defensive juggernaut last year and have seemed to improve on the offensive end through three games so far. Grant Williams is playing big boy basketball right now averaging nearly a double double, and shooting a whopping 64% from the field including 57% from beyond the arc. With a December 9th date with #3 Gonzaga looming the Volunteers have the opportunity to solidify themselves as one of the nation’s elite.
It looks like the “Revenge Tour” has rubbed off on the basketball squad. Originally I did not have the Wolverines on this list, but after watching their drubbing of defending champ Villanova Michigan is deserving of some love. Since 2013 John Beilein has had this team on an upward trajectory toward nearly blue blood status. While their offense is still a tad suspect, the Wolverines once again posses one of the best defenses in the country. Highly touted freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is already making a name for himself as he and Charles Matthews lead the team in scoring. Defensively the Wolverines are suffocating with Zavier Simpson and Isaiah Livers locking down the perimeter, and Jon Teske being a phenomenal paint presence averaging 3 blocks per game. As the season wears on we will learn more about this Wolverines team, but right now they look like one of the better teams in the country.
Despite a loss to UConn Syracuse still traditionally is one of the hardest teams to beat due to their vaunted 2-3 zone defense. Cracking a defense like this takes superior ball movement and elite shooting which are skills not many teams posses. On the offensive side of the ball Tyus Battle is one of the most interesting players in the nation. Averaging nearly 16 points per game Battle is not afraid to take it to the rack. While his 3 point shooting is suspect at best I expect Battle to have a monster year and shoot up the draft boards. To go with Battle is forward Oshae Brissett. Brissett is averaging a double double and has been a nightmare on the boards snatching almost 11 rebounds per game. If Cuse can shake a rocky start the sky is the limit for this team.
Kansas State Wildcats
K-State returns 3 key players off of a very talented Elite 8 squad. Barry Brown Jr, Xavier Sneed, and Dean Wade are all back and ready for a shot at a Big 12 Crown. Brown is already averging 20 points per game, and Wade and Sneed are chipping 14 and 12 respectively. K-State isn’t exactly a National Title threat due to their glaring lack of depth, but with this big 3 they are more than capable of putting together a run. The Wildcats will be a team that nobody will want to face in March…