So with the tourney's first game quickly approaching and office pools and Vegas trips on the horizon, I thought I'd spend some time doing the normal sleeper column.
But rather than throw out a few sleepers I thought I'd do four rounds of sleepers... i.e. a surprise team to win in round 1, another in round 2, another in round 3 and finally a surprise final four team.
So without further ado...
Round 1 sleeper - UTEP (win at least one game)
They have elite talent -- unlike most mid-majors. Derek Caracter, their big man, was the first middle schooler ever to be invited to the prestigious Nike All-American Camp. Guard Randy Culpepper can jump out of the gym and they have a 6'6" point guard who creates match-ups. Obviously a tough matchup with a well balanced Butler team, but UTEP has the talent to play into the second week.
Round 2 sleeper - Washington (win at least two games)
Yes, the Pac-10 was weak, and yes, Washington is defensively indifferent, but they get a Marquette team unlikely to exploit their deficiencies and then could face a New Mexico team that is incredibly overseeded. The Lobos were 11-1 in games decided by six points or fewer. Even that record out and they are San Diego State, an 11 seed.
Round 3 sleeper - Clemson (reach Sweet Sixteen)
This may seem like a bit of a stretch but assuming the Tigers can get by Mizzou, their disruptive style will likely force a point guard-weak West Virginia team into turnovers. The Mountaineers have fallen behind by double digits this year to teams much worse than Clemson and don't really have a great match up for Clemson's best player, Trevor Booker. If they Tigers can get by WV then they benefit from the same situation that I described above -- a match up with either Washington/Marquette or a very weak three seed.
Round 4 sleeper - Wisconsin (reach Elite Eight)
This one is obviously the biggest stretch but the quant guys love this team, ranking it number three in the country. While I won't go quite that far, they have a track record of success in this tourney and are certainly underrated due to a midseason injury to Jon Leuer, one of their best players. He is healthy now, and imagining a Wisconsin/Kentucky game played in the low 60's spells doom for a young Kentucky team that has trouble in the half court.