It’s a new year and the NCAA basketball tournament will be starting before you know it. If you want to win your office basketball pool or show your friends how savvy you are about the sport, it pays to get your picks well in advance. Unlike many other sports, college basketball always has its share of surprises. If you’re looking for a handicapper for the tournament, or if you just plan on sitting back and watching the action with friends, here are some teams that might surprise you this year:
1. Wichita State. The Shockers of Wichita State are having the best season in the school’s history. They are currently undefeated and may possibly stay that way through the season, since they won’t play a single ranked team from here on out.
2. Boise State. The Boise State Broncos look poised to better their NCAA performance this year. After losing to LaSalle in the First Four of the 2013 tournament, the Broncos are currently 10-3, but they’ve played a difficult schedule and have given powerful teams such as Kentucky and Iowa State a run for their money.
3. Harvard. Currently 12-1, Harvard looks set to better their 2013 performance, when they defeated #3 seed New Mexico for the school’s first NCAA tournament win. Although their schedule hasn’t included any ranked teams so far this season, the Crimson is playing with energy and confidence.
4. Memphis. The Memphis Tigers currently hold a 12-2 record, and are looking good on the court this year. They won against the #7-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in early December. Although they still face some tough teams, notably #17 Connecticut and #14 Louisville, if they can hold their own for the rest of the season, they should be an interesting team to watch come tournament time.
5. Iowa State. Iowa State, which has started the season at 12-0, is currently ranked #9. Sadly, they lost revered former coach Johnny Orr, who died this week at age 86. This surge of emotion and the excellent coaching by Fred Hoiberg could make them an unexpected contender come February.
6. San Diego State. Currently ranked #17 with a 11-1 record, the Aztecs are quietly moving up in the rankings, spurred by their decisive 118-35 victory over the St. Katherine Firebirds in late December. The Aztecs are facing Kentucky in early January. If they can make at least a good showing against the NCAA defending team, they should have the confidence to take them into the February tournament.
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