Six 2021 March Madness Threats Flying Under the Radar
There will be March Madness this year. Selection Sunday is less than eight weeks away. It’s time to look at some under-the-radar teams that could make some noise in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Furman Paladins (10-3, 4-0 Southern)
Basketball is pretty simple. You make shots, you win. Furman is an excellent shooting team, ranking fourth in the nation in Effective Field Goal Percentage. The Paladins also shoot 37.3% from three-point range. Their resume against Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams isn’t very good, but they have a top-50 KenPom offense. If they continue their hot shooting into March Madness, they’ll be a problem.
Drake Bulldogs (13-0, 4-0 Missouri Valley)
Drake is undefeated, and that’s not an accident. They are one of the nation’s best teams as far as shooting is concerned. They rank fifth in Effective Field Goal Percentage and second in Three-Point Percentage. The NCAA Net Rankings really like the Bulldogs as well, putting them at 11th in the country.
If Wichita State made one thing clear, it’s don’t sleep on Missouri Valley teams just because of the conference they play in. It’s not a stretch to say that Drake can ride their athleticism and shooting to a tournament run.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-4, 4-4 Big Ten)
Minnesota is one of the biggest boom-or-bust teams for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Here’s a look at some of the significant results for the Golden Gophers so far.
- 27-point loss to No. 22 Illinois
- Eight-point win over No. 25 Saint Louis
- Seven-point win over No. 4 Iowa
- 12-point loss to No. 10 Wisconsin
- 17-point win over No. 15 Ohio State
- 25-point loss to No. 7 Michigan
- 15-point loss to No. 4 Iowa
- 18-point win over No. 7 Michigan
The results for Minnesota are all over the map. It seems like they will either blow their opponents out or get blown out themselves, nothing in between. Marcus Carr is a stud and definitely raises the ceiling for the Golden Gophers, but which version of Minnesota will show up in March?
Boise State Broncos (12-1, 8-0 Mountain West)
The Broncos are definitely slept on, and that seems to be a product of the conference they play in. Boise State is one of only two Mountain West teams projected to make the 2021 NCAA Tournament field.
However, Boise State is a top-50 KenPom offense that is also No. 15 in the NET Rankings. They’ve dealt with all of their Mountain West competition handily and played a top-10 Houston team pretty well in their first game of the season. Obviously, so much of a tournament run depends on the matchup, but the Broncos should be on the watchlist for sleeper teams.
Xavier Musketeers (10-2, 3-2 Big East)
Xavier’s only two losses have come to Creighton and Seton Hall, two of the top teams in the Big East. Overall, the Musketeers are just a solid team. They are in the KenPom top 50 and the NCAA NET top 40. They absolutely trounced Oklahoma by 22 points, and the Big 12 is no joke this year.
People seem to forget about the Xavier program come March. In the last ten full seasons, they’ve made three Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight. Of those four years, only one of them was as a conference champion. Xavier is a pretty safe pick as an under-the-radar threat.
Unfortunately, the Musketeers have been dealing with some COVID-19 shutdown problems as of late, but they only need to get one more game in to be tournament-eligible.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3, 3-3 Big 12)
Oklahoma State is currently appealing their postseason ban for recruiting violations. Everyone better hope this team doesn’t make the field. Despite being .500 in Big 12 play, the Cowboys might be one of the toughest teams to beat in the country. Their three losses are by a combined seven points and they have big quality wins over Texas Tech and Kansas.
The Cowboys have a legitimate star in Cade Cunningham and would be a very challenging opponent in a tournament scenario. Their 5-1 road record speaks to their ability to win games in any arena.
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