2012 NCAA Tournament Predictions: Teams That Could Make Run
by Trevor Whenham - 3/6/2012
Connecticut’s postseason run last year is already the thing of legend, and that legend will only grow as time passes. Coming into the Big East tournament they were far from a remarkable team. They were seeded ninth in their conference tournament, and their 21-9 regular season record was solid but lacking a lot of real pizzazz outside of their win of the Maui Invitational.
They got hot at exactly the right time, though — red hot. They won five straight in the Big East tournament, added six more wins in the NCAA Tournament, and wound up as National Champions.
The Huskies set the gold standard for teams gaining momentum when they needed it. That means that fans and bettors are going to be on the lookout for squads that could get hot this March and make a similar run to glory.
Here’s a look at my 2012 NCAA Tournament predictions for four squads that have the potential to make some serious noise. None are among the top-level of NCAA Tournament contenders at this point, but they could certainly wind up there at the end:
As a Michigan fan I’m biased. Even with objectivity, though, this team would stand out as a possibility. They have a number of factors that work well in their favor.
They have a superstar-level player — freshman point guard Trey Burke — who is getting better with every game he plays, and who handles pressure like it’s nothing. Their best offensive threat, Tim Hardaway Jr., has broken out of a slump that consumed much of the conference schedule and has been brilliant in his last few games. Key role players are healthy and in form. They have a system that will catch teams off guard and which is very hard to prepare for in the short time frames of the tournament. They have strong senior leadership.
They have the potential to gain a lot of momentum from a very tough conference tournament. They are going to have a high enough seed — likely a No. 3 at this point, which is what UConn had last year — to avoid some trouble and have a reasonably favorable path through the NCAA Tournament. They have a coach, John Beilein, who has had tournament success with West Virginia.
All in all, this is a team that has the potential to really overachieve this March.
Creighton Blue Jays
There have been several mid-majors in the last few years that have really been impressive in the tournament. Creighton has a chance to be the next.
They have already won the Missouri Valley Tournament — Arch Madness — as the second seed. They stumbled in early February with three straight losses. That dropped them out of the Top 25, and off the radar of some bandwagon-jumping bettors. They have found form recently, though, with four regular season wins followed by the three in the conference tournament.
They have an all-American to lead the way — sophomore forward Doug McDermott was a high school teammate of Harrison Barnes and is the coach’s son. They also have a lot of talent behind him, with guys like Grant Gibbs, Gregory Echenique and Antoine Young capable of giving opposing teams nightmares.
The Big East gave us the Huskies last year, so it only makes sense to look back at that group for another big upstart team this year. Of all the choices my eyes are drawn to Cincinnati.
They have won five of their last six, including a nice win over Louisville and a very convincing victory over Marquette. That last hot streak lifted them to the fourth seed in the conference tournament, and that means that they get a double-bye and a relatively easy path to a semifinal showdown with Syracuse.
They have four players averaging double-digit points, so they are a hard to team to shut down since they can’t isolate anyone confidently. Two of those players — Dion Dixon and the very impressive Yancy Gates — are seniors, so leadership is not in short supply.
It’s the type of team that could jell and really accomplish more than they should otherwise be able to.
Iowa State Cyclones
Former NBA player Fred Hoiberg is in just his second season at the helm of his alma mater — his first college coaching job — but he has quickly turned around a team that has long struggled to be relevant.
They head into the Big 12 Tournament ranked for the first time all year. They have huge wins over Baylor and Kansas and have shown a real ability to get up for their biggest games.
Led by Minnesota transfer and former five-star recruit Royce White the team is deep and well-balanced, and has enough talent to be dangerous.
Teams that shine in the postseason are often ones that have nothing to lose. Iowa State certainly falls into that category.
After the last decade they have endured anything that happens to them from this point forward is progress. That could be liberating.
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