By John Stonberg
In exactly one month, another edition of March Madness will commence, and it will surely have all the usual upsets and mid-major Sweet 16 runs that leave everyone shocked. With many important regular season games left to play, and of course the conference tournaments that guarantee spots to hardly known programs every year still to go, the tournament field could look very different on March 15th; but does that mean it is too early to start thinking about cinderellas? Hell no. Here are some possible 13-16 seeds who could play spoiler to some top-ten team’s postseason.
Eastern Washington Eagles
Sitting pretty at 19-6 overall and 10-2 in conference play, the Eagles should be the top team heading into the Big Sky conference tournament. If they pick up that guaranteed spot, watch out for this team in the tourney. We have seen plenty of times that one star player can carry his team through the first weekend, and Tyler Harvey is nothing short of phenomenal. As we near the end of the regular season, Harvey is averaging 23.4 points per game, tops in the NCAA. Advanced metrics show he is an efficient player as well: his offensive rating is currently 3rd in division one, his effective shooting percentage 5th, and his true shooting percentage 7th. He can get hot from deep in a hurry, and currently has the 2nd most threes in the NCAA, while shooting them at the 5th highest clip. In support, forward Venky Jois scores 16.4 points per game. The Eagles will go as far as star player Tyler Harvey will take them, and that could mean a trip to the Sweet 16.
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Dunk City is back. After an underwhelming start to the year, the Eagles are starting to heat up. They are currently riding an 8-game winning streak and are 9-1 in conference play. FGCU will once again be a very low seed, maybe a 14 or 15 if they win out, but coming into the tournament with the confidence of a double-digit win streak should scare whatever powerhouse they are matched up against.
UC Davis Aggies
Hailing from the Big West conference, the Aggies are not always a tournament team. However, this year could be the year for them. Sitting at 19-4 overall, and 9-1 in conference play, the Aggies clearly know how to win. Star player Corey Hawkins is their go-to man for just about everything, as he leads the team in points, rebounds, steals, and assists per game. He also leads the NCAA in three point field goal percentage at 52.6%. For a guy who attempts 6.1 shots from behind the arc per game, that is absolutely crazy. His PER currently ranks 7th in the country, ranking in between Jahlil Okafor and Kyle Wiltjer (not such bad company). One thing is sure for UC Davis: if they do make the tournament, Hawkins will put on a show.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Though they suffered a bad loss to the Texas A&M-CC Islanders on Valentine’s day, the Lumberjacks should still be in the tournament picture. Before the loss, Stephen F. Austin had been riding a 19 game winning streak after a 1-3 start. Though they lack a superstar, they are a dangerous squad. Their 17.0 assists per game rank 10th in the nation, and their style of team basketball more than makes up for their lack of star power, as they score an average of 76.2 points per game, the 24th most in division one. This could be the Lumberjack’s second straight tournament appearance, and do not be surprised if they once again win their opening round matchup.