Four Teams That Are Not College Basketball Powers Poised to Crash Final Four Party

Updated: February 6, 2019
Cody Martin Caleb Martin pic

With the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in NFL history now behind us, millions of sports fans are ready to turn their full attention to college hoops.

A quick look at the latest AP Top 25 poll will show that along with the usual suspects of Duke, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan State, and Kentucky, there are some teams that usually don’t set up camp in the high-rent district of the polls.

We’re going to introduce you to four of those, so you can scout accordingly when it’s time to fill out your March Madness brackets.

  1. Tennessee

Volunteers fans are used to being among college basketball’s elite, but that has historically been reserved for the women’s team. The men’s hoops team has never reached a Final Four, but Rick Barnes’ 2018-19 squad has the tools to reach the promised land. The Vols sit atop both the AP and Coaches Poll with a record of 20-1 (the “1” being a neutral-court overtime loss to then-No. 2 Kansas in November). Tennessee boasts great balance, with five players averaging double figures, and they are led by junior forward Grant Williams, who is averaging 20.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest. Make a note in your calendar for Saturday, February 16, when the Vols travel to Lexington to face No. 5 Kentucky at Rupp Arena.

  1. Nevada

Fans are used to one mid-major power out west in Gonzaga. This season, along with the No. 4 Zags, there’s another team to keep an eye on during those late-night contests – No. 6 Nevada. Outside of a blowout loss at New Mexico in early January, a senior-laden Wolfpack team has racked up a 20-1 record. They are led by senior twins Caleb (19.0 ppg) and Cody (11.3) Martin. Despite the sparkling record, a soft schedule may come back to haunt them in March. Nevada plays in the not-too-demanding Mountain West, and they have not played a Quad 1 team – top 30 at home, top 50 neutral site, top 75 on the road – all season.

  1. Marquette

Now that Villanova loosened its grip on the Big East, the Golden Eagles (19-3) are staking their claim to America’s premier non-football conference. The No. 10 team in the latest AP poll, Marquette is led by All-American candidate Markus Howard. The junior guard a 53-point game and two 45-point games on his resume so far this season, and he has continued to play well even when opposing defenses are focusing on stopping him. We’ll see how the Golden Eagles fare when defending champ Nova comes to Milwaukee this Saturday.

  1. Virginia Tech

The ACC is loaded this season, with six AP top 25 teams and eight teams projected by ESPN’s bracketology to make the tournament field in March. Among the usual suspects like Duke, Virginia, and UNC sit the No. 11 Hokies. Virginia Tech’s only two conference losses are at the Cavaliers and Tar Heels, while the Hokies made headlines this past weekend by holding North Carolina State to a mere 24 points in a 47-24 win. The Wolfpack, who were ranked No. 23 going into the game, now hold the dubious distinction of having the lowest point total in a game by a ranked team in the shot clock era (1985-1986). With a defense like that, the Hokies could stand toe-to-toe with anyone come tourney time.

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