At this point, everyone knows the top teams in the nation. Everyone has gotten a chance to see Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, and even Virginia dazzle the nation with their basketball talent. However, there are three teams out there you may not know who will be making a splash come March.
While the Zags are the no. 3 squad in the nation, though they don’t seem to be getting the respect they deserve because of their conference. Gonzaga boasts senior Kevin Pangos, one of the savviest guards in the nation running point for the top field goal percentage team in the United States. In addition to Pangos, Gonzaga has Kyle Wiltjer, a Kentucky transfer and former McDonald’s All-American who is making a strong case to win the Wooden Award as the nation’s top player. In the frontcourt, Gonzaga has put together quite the formidable European duo in the form of Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski. Sabonis is the son of Lithuanian legend Arvydas Sabonis and has emerged as one of the nation’s top freshmen, leading the team in rebounds. Karnowski is a 7’1”, 300-pound Polish monster who absolutely dominates the middle for the Zags. With all that talent, I believe Gonzaga is poised this year to make the deepest run in its program’s history.
While the biggest test of its season will come this Saturday against Wichita State, Northern Iowa has proven that they have what it takes to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. Much of that hope stems from the play of one player; none other than Seth Tuttle. Tuttle has done it all for the Panthers this season, leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists as a 6’8” forward. While teams that rely too heavily on one single player often find difficulty in the latter rounds of the tournament, they are definitely fun to watch in the regular season. Northern Iowa is no exception. Tuttle will certainly compete with some of Wichita State’s players for Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference and has the NBA in his future. Be sure to keep an eye on the contest between Wichita State and Northern Iowa, but also tune in to Northern Iowa at any time for a glimpse of the Seth Tuttle show. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Coming off a tough loss against Boise State makes the Rams a tough edition to this list, but, luckily for fans of Colorado State, this team is so much fun to watch I couldn’t leave them off. Colorado State has emerged as a legitimate contender along with Wyoming and San Diego State to win the Mountain West this year. The Mountain West usually stands as one of the strongest mid-major conferences in the nation, usually securing between two and four tournament bids, and Colorado State is in line to make that leap. J.J. Avila, an athletic swingman from Texas, has made the Rams a force in the MWC this season, leading the team in points and rebounds. While he is a bit undersized, he makes up for it with his athleticism and ability to score around the hoop. Additionally, the play of senior guard Daniel Bejarano has helped set up Avila, putting him in the best position to minimize turnovers and score in the paint. The Rams could certainly play spoiler to one of the power conference teams come tournament time and are definitely worth a watch when browsing through the incredible selection of college basketball on Saturday afternoons.