College basketball teams throughout the country have their dancing shoes polished. Each day another few teams from smaller leagues punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Come Selection Sunday, fans will be frantically filling out their brackets, and scrambling to find out any bit they can on the little guys.
So who will be the fashionable 12 vs. 5 upset pick? Here’s a look at some of the teams to watch.
Four Teams That Could Bust Your Bracket
Gregg Marshall might be the best coach in the country not at a Power 5 school. He won seven Big South titles at Winthrop, including a first round upset of Notre Dame in 2007, before departing to Wichita. With the Shockers, Marshall has had an undefeated regular season, a Final Four run, and four 30 win campaigns.
While the Shockers lost two NBA guards in Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker, and sputtered in pre-season battles with Louisville and Michigan State, it’s all a distant memory. Wichita beat Colorado State and Oklahoma in December, went 17-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play, and avenged their only loss by beating the Redbird in their next two meetings. The Shockers are top five in the country in field goal defense, three point defense, and rebound margin.
East Tennessee State
ETSU has been a winning program for a long time, but their 10th bid to the NCAA Tournament is the first since 2010. Steve Forbes, a former Gregg Marshall assistant, won 24 games in his first season, but lost in the Southern Conference Title game. This year, the Buccaneers got back to the Championship Game, and beat top seed UNC Greensboro.
ETSU can really score, and they shoot better than 49-percent as a team, which is in the top 15 in the country. They are good from two and three point range, but what they do at an elite level is get to the free throw line. Defensively they are aggressive; the Bucs rank among the nation’s leaders in steals and blocks.
No low major coach is more in demand than UNCW’s Kevin Keatts. The Seahawks had to win essentially on the road against the College of Charleston in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game, and got it done, playing COC’s defensive style.
Keatts has improved Wilmington in each of his three seasons with the team. Like Keatts learned under Rick Pitino when he was an assistant at Louisville, the Seahawks can score, primarily from the three point arc, are tough on defensive, and rarely turn the ball over. They are top 10 in the country in assist to turnover ratio and turnover margin. Devontae Cacok leads the country in field goal percentage at nearly 80-percent while grabbing 9.6 rebound a contest, and blocking over a shot a game.
After three straight losses in the Big South Title game, the Eagles are dancing for a 10th time. Winthrop went to the NCAA Tournament seven times in Marshall’s nine years. Coach Pat Kelsey is the second coach in league history, after Marshall, to take his team to the title game in four straight seasons.
Senior guard Keon Johnson is the all-time leading scorer in school history. Junior Xavier Cooks is a point-forward from Australia who creates match-up nightmares for opponents. Winthrop hasn’t lost a game in regulation since December; they win with strong defense, an ability to hit three pointers, and a bench that scores nearly 30 points a game.
Photo Credit: By TonyTheTiger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons