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2014 March Madness Sleepers

For the sake of this article a “sleeper” is a team that’s not expected to be a #1 – #4 seed in the tournament. It’s only one day until the bracket is finalized on Selection Sunday. I’ve identified a few teams that have stepped up their play in their conference tournament.

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The odds on the Baylor Bears are sure to drop, but most recently they were available at 300/1 odds, which is remarkable. Right now they’re projected to be a #7 seed in the tournament and with the way they’ve been playing they’re worth a long look next week.

Baylor had a terrible January and start to February, but since February 12th the team is 10-1 with their lone loss over Texas. They just beat Texas tonight in the Big 12 conference tournament and they looked good in a 78-73 win over Oklahoma on Thursday night.

The Bears have played the 7th toughest schedule this year and the big men are finally playing as expected. If Isaiah Austin plays well on defense watch out, as Kenny Chery and Brady Heslip can both heat up on offense and help the Bears make a deep run.

I want to see how UCLA does in the rest of the Pac-12 tournament, but they looked great in their 82-63 win over Oregon. UCLA was only up 2 at halftime, but they ran away with the game in the 2H. I like UCLA because they can score points (82 PPG – 11th).

UCLA is led by Jordan Adams (17.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG & 2.3 APG) and Kyle Anderson (14.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG & 6.6 APG). If these two players heat up during the big dance they could make a serious run although they will struggle against teams with size in the post.

The Bruins only average 35.6 RPG (134th) and they also struggle defensively (71.1 PPG – 193rd). However, what I look for in a sleeper is a team that can put up points, which UCLA can do. We’ve seen hot shooting teams make runs in the past and it’ll happen again.

It wasn’t long ago (2011) that VCU made a run to the Final Four and this team will be a tough out this year like in year’s past. VCU is tough because of their style of defense. They play full court defense and apply pressure on the ball handler as much as possible.

They rank #1 in steals per possession (15.7%) #55 in points allowed (65.5 PPG) and #10 in defensive efficiency. VCU is a very poor shooting team (42% FG Pct – 286th), but they still score 75.6 PPG (63rd) because of the turnovers that they force on defense.

The Rams are in the A-10 SF tomorrow, but they’ll be in the big dance either way after winning five in a row including a win over #10 Saint Louis. VCU also beat Virginia when they were #25 earlier in the season, so this team can hang with ranked opponents.

I’m interested to see how the Panthers look tomorrow against Virginia, but they seem to be heating up at the right time. Pittsburgh had some struggles down the stretch, but they’ve now won three in a row including their most recent win over #15 North Carolina.

Two forward seniors, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, lead the Panthers and they’ll have to elevate their play even more to make a run in the big dance. The Panthers struggled offensively this season (73 PPG – 116th), but they’ve scored 80+ points in three straight.

The Panthers rank 42nd in defensive efficiency and #18 in offensive efficiency. This team is projected to be around a #10 seed right now, which will make many bettors overlook them. On paper the Panthers are tough and they seem to be playing a lot better.

The Buckeyes aren’t being talked about much as championship contenders, but they’ve quietly been playing better. They lost several close games this year, which could have gone either way and right now they’re on a 3-game win streak with a victory over MSU.

OSU would need a lot to go right for them to make a run and I feel their odds are too short to bet on them with the idea of hedging in the later rounds. The Buckeyes struggle on offense (69.8 PPG – 209th), but they rank 8th in defensive efficiency on the season.

Their defense will keep them in games during the tournament, but LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr and Aaron Craft will all have to step up their game over the next couple weeks. I think OSU will win their first two, but after that it’ll be tough to advance.

It’s unlikely that any of these teams will win the national championship, but I think Baylor and Pittsburgh are priced too high. If one of these two teams gets into the Elite Eight we’d be able to start hedging our futures bet for a profit, which is the goal here.

ScottThis article was written by Scott

Scott is one of the original degenerates working for MobileSportsBetting.com. Although he's most successful betting on NFL football and international soccer, he's also active in UFC and NHL hockey betting. Follow Scott on Twitter


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