5 Teams to Watch During March Madness
It is already mid-February so many of you know what that means. Conference tournament season is rapidly approaching and with that, March Madness.
As people fill out their potential brackets and try to think of which 12-seed will beat which 5-seed, the tournament field this year is a lot closer than many seem to think. With the Big Ten not having a strong showing of teams while the PAC-12 has a deep conference this year, March Madness is shaping up to be another great time of year.
Here are five teams to watch out for come March.
Heading into the fourth week of February, the Wildcats of Northwestern sit at 4th in the Big Ten with a record of 20-7. After just sneaking by Rutgers with a 69-65 victory, the Wildcats look to remain healthy the rest of the year and into March.
While not currently ranked, Northwestern has a deep team to make some noise. Led by juniors Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh, the Wildcats are poised to make the team’s first-ever berth in the NCAA tournament. What do they need to do to make a deep run? Keep leading scorer Lindsey healthy and keep avoiding turnovers.2. Oregon
Seventh-ranked Oregon will be a force to be reckoned with to whomever they get drawn against. After making the tournament each of their last four years, they look to go even further than their regional final loss last year against Oklahoma. With Dillon Brooks leading their electric offense, they seem poised to do so.
Five players on the team average in double figures when it comes to scoring. What does that translate to? An average of 79 points per game. Yeah, they’re pretty good. However, it is not only their red-hot offense that has to be contested with, it is their defense as well. They allow a 33rd ranked 64 points per game.
While it may be a tall task to compete in the conference tournament with the likes of UCLA and Arizona to deal with, look for the Ducks to be a force come March.
3. Saint Mary’s
Although a 24-3 team currently, the Gaels still need a strong finish to their season to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. However, they have many reasons to be confident, namely, the rest of their season should be a cakewalk and their two leading scorers Jock Landale and Calvin Hermanson combine for an average of almost 30 points per game.
In addition to that, they have two rotation players, Hermanson and Emmett Naar, who shoot over 42 percent from beyond the arc. The Gaels are a high percentage shooting team, something that could catch an unsuspecting opponent off guard come March.
The Boilermakers currently sit at 22-5 tied for first in the Big Ten. While only ranked 16th, Purdue has its strongest team in the last few years. Led by big men Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, the Boilermakers look to finish a strong regular season and enter the conference tournament as a top 2 seed.
Caleb Swanigan is having a monster year: 23 double-doubles, which is good for the most by any Big Ten player in the last 20 years. That’ll do. Just as Oregon, mentioned earlier, Purdue averages an impressive 81 points per game while shooting an impressive 41.1 percent from deep.
What does Purdue need to do to stretch out their time in March? Feed their big men, rebound, and dominate inside the paint. It’s been the Boilermakers’ winning formula all season and there are no signs of it slowing down.
5. North Carolina
Sitting at the top of a stacked ACC, the Tar Heels at 23-5 look to finish out a tough regular slate with games against 8th ranked Louisville and 12th ranked rival Duke. North Carolina has a stacked team for sure, but the guy who sparks it all is junior Justin Jackson. He paces the Tar Heels with a staggering 18.6 points per game coupled with playing over 30 minutes a game on average.
In addition, Kennedy Meeks nearly averages a double-double a game with 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. Even more intimidating, Isaiah Hicks and Joel Berry both average at least 12.5 points a game to go along with an imposing bench. The fact of the matter is that no team will want to play the Tar Heels come March and who would blame them?
March Madness is exactly that: madness. There is mania and upsets up and down the bracket even from the first day of the tournament. Will a team from the stacked conferences of the PAC-12 or ACC win? Or will a Cinderella from a mid-major conference such as the MVC make some noise and shock the world? We can only wait and see, but no matter the case it will be a wild ride.
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