Predicting an entire March Madness field is a little outside of my current capabilities. For now I am doing to look at 4 teams ranked outside of the top 10 that have real potential to make the Elite8/Final 4.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders are led by Chris Beard who is quickly becoming a household name in College Basketball. They were fortunate to bring in star transfer Mac McClung to round off a solid lineup that defends very well and scores at a decent rate. Texas Tech plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country and can hang with anyone as long as they are able to control the pace of the game. They have solid wins @Oklahoma, @Texas, @LSU, and again at home over Oklahoma. They don’t have any “bad” losses apart from a home loss to a respectable Oklahoma State squad. This team has high floor around the Sweet 16 and truly has the ability to knock off anyone.
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Illini are looking better and better after a slow start to a highly anticipated season. With elite play at multiple positions they don’t seem to have any big weaknesses. They shoot the 3 ball at 39.7% to earn the 9th best percentage in the country to bolster their top 10 offense and they have a top 20 defense to match. What makes them so dangerous to me is their junior small forward Ayo Dosunmu. His quickness at 6-5 200 pounds is hard to matchup with and Illini make sure he has the ball in his hands (handling it in 85% of possessions). No one wants to see this team in March and we could very well see them in early April.
Another year, another solid Tony Bennett squad. The Cavaliers are another team that plays at an extremely slow tempo to break teams down over the course of the game. Not many teams want to be in a half court battle with these guys but this isn’t all the Virginia of old. Unlike years past, Virginia is incredibly efficient on the offensive side of the ball. They have evolved into a team that can knock down the 3 ball (39.5% clip) and get back to set up their half court defense. They are missing a marquee win thus far to put on their resume and have suffered two bad losses to Gonzaga and San Francisco (yes, San Francisco). Still, they are a team everyone should keep an eye on when March comes around.
Loyola Chicago Ramblers
Yes, the same Ramblers who made the Final Four in 2018. The Ramblers rank decently on the offensive end and have put together a tremendous season containing opposing offenses bringing them to 5th in the country in defensive efficiency. They stick to a slow tempo on both sides of the ball and finish 2 point field goals at nearly a 60% clip (4th in the country). If Porter Moser’s Ramblers get the right matchups and play their style of game we could be looking at another run in the Big Dance. If I was Sister Jean I would clear my schedule for mid to late March.