March is almost here which means warmer weather and the greatest sporting event of the year, March Madness. This year there is no clear No.1 and the tournament will be as wild as ever. The field of 68 is far from set ,but here are five (of several) teams nobody wants to play as the year winds down.
Virginia Cavaliers– Virginia is coming off a huge win at home against UNC and is gearing up for another late season surge. UVA has won 9 out of their last 11 games. The Wahoos are one of the stingiest defensive teams in the nation this year. They allow 60.2 points per game which is 3rd best in Division I. The big three of London Perrantes, Anthony Gill, and Malcolm Brogdon are as good as any three in the country. They have been playing a rigorous ACC schedule all year and have everything necessary to make a deep tourney run.
St. Joe’s Hawks- Can somebody please explain how this team isn’t ranked ? They’re 24-5 and they are leaders of the A-10 conference. The Hawks 5 losses were against Florida, Villanova, VCU, St. Bonaventure, and Davidson. Those are nothing to be ashamed of. St. Joe’s has all of the characteristics of a March Madness sleeper. They play solid defense, score well, and do a good job pulling down rebounds. Coach Phil Martelli is no stranger to playing late in March and knows how to get the job done. Led by forwards Isaiah Miles and DeAndre Bembry ,St.Joe’s has the chance to takedown anyone the bracket pits them against.
California Golden Bears– Cal started out sluggish and not performing at a high level. They lost two games early in the year to San Diego State and Richmond, but since then they have found their mojo on the offensive end. Top 10 NBA Draft pick Jaylen Brown is averaging 16 ppg and is pulling down 6 rpg. He is the feature player for Cal on both sides of the ball. Brown’s supporting cast of Tyrone Wallace, Ivan Rabb, Jordan Mathews, and Jabari Bird are all averaging double-digits in scoring. Cal has lots of ways to hurt you offensively. Since their lackluster non-conference games, the Golden Bears have not lost a conference game by more than 9 points and are riding a 7 game win streak. Cal is heating up at the perfect time and they have enough young talent to do some major damage in March.
Miami Hurricanes– There really aren’t too many teams that have a list of big wins like Miami. Utah, Butler, Syracuse, Louisville, Virginia, and a victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor are part of an impressive resume for the Canes. They are 10-2 in their last 12 games. Miami plays a tough brand of defense that is holding opponents to less than 70 points per game. Miami is an athletic team that can create difficult matchups. There are only two players under 6’5 and they are both two of Miami’s top scoring options. Ja’Quan Newton (6’2) and Angel Rodriguez (5’11) are a lethal backcourt duo. Sheldon McClellan could be a lottery pick this upcoming draft and will look to go out with a bang. Miami’s athleticism and gritty defense could be their ticket to making a Final Four push.
Michigan State Spartans- January, February, Izzo, April. Michigan State thrives in March. Tom Izzo always seems to get his team in peak condition to make noise in the tourney. Remember last year when everyone thought they were hopeless? They turned that into a Final Four run. They have won 8 out of their last 9 and look to be rounding into form. Sparty’s high powered offense is putting up nearly 80 ppg. It’s harder to find a deeper team than MSU. They regularly play at least 10 players and have plenty of experience to go with it. Denzel Valentine’s career is coming to a close and it will take an army to stop him and the rest of the Michigan State Spartans.