NCAA Sleeper Picks: 2011 Tournament Bracket Busters
The NCAA Basketball brackets are out and before you can even pick your final four, you have to know who the college basketball sleeper picks are for the 2011 tournament. Well, look no further! We have four teams that you should pencil in for a couple of extra wins in the 2011 bracket.
Not Much of a Sleeper Pick (a team seeded 1 through 4):
Louisville Cardinals – #4 Seed
It’s pretty damn hard to pick a team seeded #1 through #4 and come up with a sleeper pick. From the very nature of their seed, all teams seeded 1 to 4 are among the top 16 teams in the nation and should have a shot at the NCAA Tournament championship. However, for NCAA basketball fans that have not watched a lot of basketball this season, the Louisville Cardinals are probably not among the favorites to win the championship. Well, they should be. This team was not in the Big East Tournament Championship game for no reason, which is why their eventual loss to red-hot UCONN came down to the final shot of the game. Besides, Louisville has all the makings of sleeper pick destined to perform better than their seed suggests. As a Rick Pitino team, they love to press and they love to shoot the three. Each of those attributes make even the best of teams susceptible to a loss, which is why I like Louisville and three-point ace Preston Knowles to go a lot further than most people have them going and busting a few NCAA brackets in the process.
Getting Stretchy (a team seeded 5 through 8):
Kansas State Wildcats – #5 Seed
While I would love to go with George Mason (ranked 8), they were ranked way too high and have to face Ohio State in the second round—assuming they advance in the first place. Thus, our nod goes to Kansas State, a team with plenty of NCAA Tournament experience after putting up a strong run last season. But in the 2011 Bracket, they have an even better draw, getting the likes Utah State, Belmont and possibly Pittsburgh in the Sweet 16. I smell an upset of Pittsburgh in a potential Sweet 16 game against Pitt, who has been exposed by superstar guards in the past (e.g. Kemba Walker—ouch!). Jacob Pullen has a whole lot of Kemba Walker in him, and given what he was able to do to Pittsburgh in Madison Square Garden, I like Kansas State’s chances in this part of the bracket. In fact, the way it’s looking, Kansas State could be in the 2011 NCAA Tournament Final Four when it’s all said and done.
The Home Stretch Sleeper Pick (a team seeded 9 through 12):
Gonzaga Bulldogs – #11 Seed
Here is where the fun with the NCAA sleeper picks begins! Our favorite among the #9 through #11 seeds is Gonzaga, a team that has been playing some of its best basketball as of late, and will prove to be a tough out for whomever they face in the NCAA Tournament. For starters, an opening game with #6 St. Johns in the second round is very favorable for Gonzaga, who with Marquise Carter and company should be too athletic and big for a smallish St. John’s team that may have overachieved during the regular season. Expect Gonzaga to go pretty deep into the tournament. We have them, at the very least, in the Sweet 16, with potential wins over a depleted #3 BYU and possibly an overrated #2 seed in Florida.
The “Stretchiest” of Sleeper Picks (a team seeded 13 through 16):
Oakland Golden Grizzlies – #13 Seed
It’s pretty hard picking a #13 seed or higher, because we’re past the point of the at-large bids, meaning all of the other teams are not really among the nation’s best squads. That being said, if ever there were a mid-major that only got in the tournament because of an automatic bid that could advance in the NCAA Tournament, it’s definitely Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies have big man Keith Benson in the middle, and he is a force. The #4 Texas Longhorns, who Oakland faces in the second round, do not have anyone with Benson’s talents. If he gets loose and Texas decides not to play defense, as they have been want to do, this game could venture into upset territory. To be honest, we still have Texas winning this game, but among the lowest seeds in the tournament, Oakland enters the tourney with the best chance of winning. And if they do, they may be the best sleeper pick of the 2011 NCAA Tournament with that lone win.