There are going to be upsets everywhere this March. I’ve talked throughout the year about how nobody has emerged as a dominant team and that still holds true today. Usually we have about three or four shoe-ins to make the Elite Eight (Kansas may be the only one), but the reality is that the ceilings for teams are far lower. The actuality of this makes for a real possibility of not just one, but multiple cinderellas. We’re going to have to find more glass slippers.
After last week’s upset of Gonzaga it’ll be difficult to say that BYU is under the radar, but I’ll still sneak them in here. I called it an upset, but it was not all that surprising that BYU beat Gonzaga; maybe that they won by double digits was though. The Cougs have scattered only seven losses over the course of the season, most of them being without their big man and best player Yoeli Childs. Three of those losses are against teams currently in the top 10 (Kansas, Gonzaga and SDSU). BYU’s managed 91 in their drubbing of Gonzaga, which highlights their offense that ranks third in the country in efficiency. A senior backcourt of TJ Haws (14.5 points, 5.6 assists) and Jake Toolson (15.5 points, 46.2% from three) is easily one of the best in the country. Childs has missed 13 games this season – if he is healthy, BYU can beat anyone in March.
— BYU Basketball (@BYUbasketball) February 24, 2020
Utah State Aggies
Utah State hasn’t got the national plaudits due to San Diego State earning all the attention in the Mountain West. The Aggies are not the 27-1, however they’ve shown in spurts that they will be very dangerous if the committee grants them an at large bid. They’re led by one of the best scorers in the country, Sam Merrill. Merrill puts up a shade under 19 points a game on over 40% from three and 89% from the line. A guy who can put up 30 in a hurry is a near necessity for a double digit seed to make a Cinderella run and Utah State has just that in Merrill. Justin Bean and Neemias Queta are one of the best mid major frontcourt tandems, combining to average 25 points and 18 rebounds. The Aggies already have wins against Florida and LSU earlier in the year. Don’t be surprised when Sam Merill is dropping 35 against Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.
East Tennessee State Buccaneers
Hey @SportsCenter, check out this #SCTop10 dunk by @ball_bo as ETSU clinched a share of the SoCon regular season crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a 60-54 win at Wofford@ETSUBucsVoice with the call on the @BucSportsRadio #ETSUTough @ESPNAssignDesk pic.twitter.com/R9AeBlW05H
— ETSU Mens Basketball (@ETSU_MBB) February 27, 2020
The 25-4 ETSU Buccaneers are fighting with Furman and UNC Greensboro for the SoCon automatic bid, but they could very well earn an at large, barring an upset. The Bucs beat LSU on the road (who mid majors seem to beat up on), and had Kansas on the ropes at Fog Allen. ETSU does not have a scorer like Merill or a dominant post like Childs, however they are incredibly balanced on both sides of the ball. A roster littered with seniors, ETSU has everything it takes to make a run in March (if they raise their 68.7% from the line).
Rhode Island Rams
I already wrote about Rhode Island and why they will eventually be “in” come Selection Sunday. The second best team in the A-10 has all but solidified their name being called (probably as a 9 seed) and a win vs. Dayton on their senior night will lock that in. Fatts Russell struggled in a recent loss at Davidson, but is capable of lighting up any team (19.7 points per game) and disrupting the opposing offense (2.9 steals per). Russell’s steals are just part of the 21st best defense in the country (per Kenpom), that is anchored by senior forward Cyril Langevine. Langevine is undersized for his position at only 6-foot-8, but he is one of the most physical bigs in the country, grinding out 10.4 rebounds a contest. This Rams team lacks depth, but they make up for that in talent and experience. Jeff Dowtin (14.3 ppg) can take over first fiddle from Russell when need be. An 8/9 seed would make for a difficult second round game against a 1 seed, but the Rams starting 5 matches up well with anybody in the country.
Honorable Mentions: Stephen F. Austin, Saint Mary’s, New Mexico State, Hofstra
Tamir March is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.