If there is one thing about the NCAA tournament that is certain, it's that there will be surprises. Every good tournament has a handful of sleepers, and this year is no different from the rest.
On this episode of March Madness 365, Andy Katz breaks down his five dark horses — teams seeded five or lower that could make a potential run to the Final Four. Georgetown's Patrick Ewing, Oregon State's head coach Wayne Tinkle and Texas guard Andrew Jones join this episode as guests. Katz also breaks down all of his bracket predictions throughout this edition of the pod.
Here are Katz's five potential Final Four dark horses in this year's tournament:
5. Southern Cal — 6-seed, West Region
The Trojans finished second in the Pac-12 standings and lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Colorado. Despite that, USC had a pretty strong season at 22-7 overall, led by star freshman Evan Mobley. Mobley averaged 16.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and three blocks per game throughout the season. Katz thinks with Mobley inside and some stellar guard play, they could be a sleeper in a region led by No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga.
4. Georgia Tech — 9-seed, Midwest Region
The Yellow Jackets are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. They are fresh off of an ACC tournament title and are on an eight-game winning streak. GT has a lethal inside-out duo of ACC player of the year Moses Wright and guard Jose Alvarado. Wright leads the team with 17.4 points and eight rebounds per game. Alvarado leads Georgia Tech's defense with three steals per game. They forced 25 turnovers in the ACC championship game against Florida State.
3. Georgetown — 12-seed, East Region
Speaking of scorching hot teams heading into the tournament — don't sleep on the Hoyas. After starting the season 3-8, Georgetown has turned it around. The Hoyas torched through the Big East tournament beating opponents by an average of 14 points, including their 25-point upset of Creighton. Katz thinks Georgetown is having one of those runs right now where they could make some noise in their region and possibly upset No. 1-seed Michigan in the Sweet 16.
2. UConn — 7-seed, East Region
In 2014, UConn was an at-large 7-seed led by a star guard (Shabazz Napier) who averaged 18 points per game. Sound familiar? This season, UConn is an at-large 7-seed led by a star guard (James Bouknight) who averages 19 points per game. Katz thinks that Bouknight is talented enough to carry UConn through the East Region to a potential Final Four bid. The Huskies will have to get through No. 10-seed Maryland in their first matchup and then potentially No. 2-seed Alabama if they want to even think of making it to the national semifinals.
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1. North Carolina — 8-seed, South Region
You normally don't see North Carolina labeled as a dark horse entering the NCAA tournament. But, with the Tar Heels a No. 8 seed and with victories in three out of their last four matchups, Katz thinks UNC might be in a good position to make a deep tournament run. Katz believes they are a real threat on the offensive end with star freshman guard Caleb Love and depth in the front-court. If the Heels can get past Wisconsin there is a good chance they'll face one of the best teams in the country — the Baylor Bears. If they can knock off Baylor, then watch out for this March Madness staple and 2021 dark horse.