COLUMN: Here are three teams that could surprise in NCAA Tournament


Florida State University teammates Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele celebrate March 14 during a 65-63 overtime win against Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University during quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

After days of deliberation, the selection committee made its decision on which 68 college basketball programs will be able to play in March Madness.

Some schools squeaked in, while others were pretty much in before the season started. Within the field of 68, there are a handful of teams that are getting overlooked. Here are a couple that could go further than one thinks when they are filling out their brackets.

1. Florida State University (27-7, 13-5):

The Seminoles are making their third straight appearance in the tournament, something that has not happened for the program since 1991-1993. FSU is coming off a strong ACC tournament where it reached the finals after knocking off the University of Virginia in the semifinals, but fell to Duke University in the championship.

Florida State is a team that can harass opponents inside the paint as it had the ACC’s best defense from inside the arc at 41.9 percent. It also has big wins over some top teams out of the conference, such as Louisiana State University, Purdue and in-state rival University of Florida.

FSU's season ended last year in the Elite Eight, and its road past it this year will not be so easy. Should they beat the University of Vermong, they'll get a second round matchup against a surging Murray State University team or Marquette University, who is looking to do something special in its first appearance since 2017. All that said, do not be surprised to see Florida State playing really good basketball and making a deep run.

2. Villanova University (25-9, 13-5):

It's weird to say that Villanova would be a surprising team to look out for. The Wildcats have won two of the past three national titles, and Head Coach Jay Wright has continued to see his team fight. Villanova’s season did not go as planned early on as it failed to retain its spot atop college basketball.

Villanova had two big losses against Michigan and Furman University but then did right the ship a bit. The Wildcats would find themselves winning the Big East regular season and conference tournament titles again. They will, however, start in an unfamiliar territory.

Villanova is a 6 seed this year and will take on Saint Mary's College of California in the first round. But Nova Nation and anyone else who is worried about taking them to go far should not be worried. This is when Villanova does its best work. And it will need to, especially after losing so much of what got it there last year.

3. Syracuse University (20-13, 10-8):

Syracuse’s season was halted by losing to Duke in the ACC tournament, but it still got into the big tournament as an 8 seed. The Orange are a stout team defensively, especially when they play zone. ACC teams made just over 33 percent of threes when they played that type of defense.

Michigan State and Duke were no match for Syracuse's zone defense, as both teams shot just over 20percent from the perimeter in their matchups this season. The Orange shocked the NCAA world last year by getting to the Sweet 16 as an 11 seed, and this year the challenge is just that.

Jim Boeheim’s team will need to continue to lock down teams from deep. On the other side, Tyus Battle, who missed the ACC tournament with back issues and is the team’s leading scorer, will need to play some of the best basketball of his life. Nonetheless, this team has faced plenty of adversity this year and have pushed through. This is no different.

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