NCAA Tournament 2023: Top Sleeper Teams Heading into Men’s March Madness

NCAA Tournament 2023: Top Sleeper Teams Heading into Men’s March Madness


NCAA Tournament 2023: Top Sleeper Teams Heading into Men’s March Madness

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    ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - JANUARY 09: Max Abmas #3 of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles dribbles against Jaelen House #10 of the New Mexico Lobos during the first half of their game at The Pit on January 09, 2023 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

    Sam Wasson/Getty Images

    The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles have the potential to reprise their role as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s biggest sleeper.

    Max Abmas and Co. advanced to the Sweet 16 two years ago as a No. 15 seed, and they could replicate that path again in 2023.

    Oral Roberts will not be as low of a seed as it was in 2021, but it still can be considered a sleeper pick because of the little attention it received during its perfect run through the Summit League.

    Oral Roberts is just one of a few mid-major programs that could win spots in the hearts of many college basketball fans during March Madness.

    The Toledo Rockets and Drake Bulldogs can pose threats in different ways. Toledo can score with any team in the country, while Drake has one of the toughest defenses from the mid-major ranks.

Oral Roberts (Summit League)

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    FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 02: Oral Roberts Golden Eagles guard Max Abmas (#3) dribbles up court during the college basketball game between the TCU Horned Frogs and Oral Roberts Golden Eagles on December 2, 2021 at Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Oral Roberts is in a much better position to cause havoc in the NCAA tournament bracket in 2023 than it was in 2021.

    The Golden Eagles entered the Big Dance two years ago as a No. 15 seed that got hot at the right time in the Summit League.

    This time around, the Golden Eagles were the top team in their conference from start to finish.

    Oral Roberts has 14 more wins than it did at his point in 2021, but one thing is still the same and that is Abmas’ presence.

    Abmas is the sixth-best scorer in Division I at 22.2 points per game. He could be the highest scorer going into the NCAA tournament depending on results in other conference tournaments.

    One of the nation’s top scorers could produce defensive nightmares for any team it faces, even if Abmas is more of a known quantity than he was in 2021.

    Oral Roberts should be the sweet spot for upset projections, as Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi have it projected as a No. 12 seed.

    The Golden Eagles could once again be a dangerous double-digit seed, and if they produce a few wins, Abmas could go down as one of the best mid-major players in recent NCAA tournament history.

Toledo (Mid-American)

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    TOLEDO, OH - FEBRUARY 21:  Toledo Rockets guard RayJ Dennis (10) drives to the basket against Akron Zips guard Tavari Johnson (5) during the first half of a Mid-American Conference regular season college basketball game between the Akron Zips and the Toledo Rockets on February 21, 2023 at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.  Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Icon Sportswire

    Only the Alabama Crimson Tide average more points per game than Toledo.

    The Rockets out of the MAC average 85.7 points per contest and they have scored at least 84 points in their last six games.

    Toledo will be a double-digit seed that no team wants to see in the first round, as long as it gets out of the MAC tournament.

    Miller and Lunardi both project the Rockets as a No. 13 seed as of Wednesday morning.

    They could pose a threat to a No. 4 seed because four players on the roster average over 11 points per game.

    RayJ Dennis and Co. have the nation’s second-best three-point percentage behind the Colgate Raiders, so even if they are behind a bit, they can get right back into any contest.

    Toledo needs to win three games in Cleveland from Thursday-Saturday to confirm its spot in the field of 68, and if it does, it could be a team to watch in the first round.

Drake (Missouri Valley)

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    Drake guard Tucker DeVries (12) reacts after scoring a 3-point basket against Bradley during the second half of the championship game in the Missouri Valley Conference NCAA basketball tournament Sunday, March 5, 2023, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Joe Puetz)

    AP Photo/Joe Puetz

    Drake is already locked into the NCAA tournament bracket as the Missouri Valley tournament champion.

    The Bulldogs enter March Madness with a 13-1 record in their last 14 games and with one of the better defenses you will see in the field of 68.

    Drake ranks 33rd in points allowed per game and opponent field-goal percentage. It earned its last five wins by holding opponents under 65 points.

    Tucker DeVries and Co. allowed over 65 points on seven occasions in 23 Missouri Valley games. Two of those concessions happened in double-overtime victories.

    DeVries is the star guard who could take over a game against a power-conference side. He averages 19 points per game and put up over 20 points in two of three MVC tournament games.

    Drake is projected as a No. 12 seed by Miller and Lunardi, and its combination of strong defense and one of the best scorers in the mid-major ranks could take down one or two teams in the Big Dance.

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