With Christmas gone and football season winding down, it’s time to focus on what really matters — college basketball.
Unless you’re a diehard hoops fan, we’re sure you haven’t been keeping up with the early-season happenings. So, other than the fact that Zion Williamson and Duke are really, really good, the most important thing you’ll want to know is which non-Power 5 schools have the potential to make noise come March.
Here are six schools worth keeping an eye on:
No. 7 Gonzaga Bulldogs (11-2)
Mark Few’s team has risen from mid-major darling to perennial national power during the past decade and the Bulldogs once again have the talent to make a deep run in March. Led by junior forward Rui Hachimura, sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. and senior guard Josh Perkins, Gonzaga already posted a marquee win in the 2018 Maui Invitational when it beat the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the championship game. Since the win over Duke, however, Gonzaga’s defense has fallen off and the team has suffered because of it, losing back-to-back games to then-No. 7 Tennessee and No. 12 North Carolina. The return of Killian Tillie (ankle) and Geno Crandall (wrist) should help boost Gonzaga’s defense a touch, but if the Bulldogs continue to defend as they did against Tennessee and North Carolina, they won’t be heading back to the Final Four.
No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack (12-0)
After making a Sweet 16 run a season ago, the Wolf Pack are back for more behind twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin. Nevada are one of the nation’s five remaining unbeaten teams and has a 66 percent chance of finishing the season without a loss, according to KenPom.com. Eric Musselman’s crew will face a tough road test at Utah on Saturday before beginning conference play on Jan. 5. Remember the Wolf Pack when you are filling out your bracket in March.
No. 21 Buffalo Bulls (11-1)
Buffalo busted everyone’s brackets a season ago when the Bulls thumped Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls have shown that wasn’t a fluke so far this season. Buffalo went to Morgantown and beat then-No. 13 West Virginia in their second game of the season, and while the Mountaineers don’t appear to be their normal, hard-nosed selves so far this season, it still showed Buffalo has the talent to hang with and beat a premier program. The Bulls will be a trendy pick when the tournament comes around.
No. 22 Houston Cougars (12-0)
The Cougars have roared out of the game to an impressive 12-0 start by beating Oregon, Oklahoma State and LSU in impressive fashion. While all three of those Power 5 programs have looked shaky to open the season, Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis Jr. have the ability to lead Houston past just about anyone.
Furman Paladins (12-1)
Furman opened eyes when it knocked off defending national champion Villanova at Finneran Pavilion in the Advocare Invitational. The Paladins reeled off 12 wins in a row before falling to LSU 75-57. While Furman likely will fade from the mainstream as conference play gets underway, we guarantee you haven’t heard the last of the Paladins.
Pennsylvania Quakers (10-2)
Steve Donahue led Cornell to the Sweet 16 in 2010 and the Penn coach might have another Ivy League power ready to boom. If you don’t believe us, just ask Jay Wright and defending national champion Villanova, who Penn beat for the first time since 2002 on Dec. 12. This veteran-laden Penn team won’t wow you with any one stat, but you can be sure its opponents will be quaking in their boots if they draw the Quakers in March.
Enjoy the best time of year with March Madness betting at Skybook.ag
Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images
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