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Surprising Teams in College Basketball this Season

Missouri Tigers

The Missouri Tigers brought back just about everyone from last year’s team. However, the problem was the Tigers didn’t stand out in any particular way in 2019-20. They finished 15-16 on the season and 7-11 in the SEC. This 2020-21 season, they were unranked in preseason polls and picked 10th in the preseason SEC basketball poll. With an experienced squad of players, Coach Cuonzo Martin’s team has been able to pull off some major surprises. They have key defeats over Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee and Alabama. The Tigers are now 13-5 and are predicted to be a 4 seed in March Madness based on the NCAA selection committee’s predictions. 

USC Trojans

At the start of the NCAA basketball season, the Trojans were ranked 48th by KenPom and sixth in the conference by Pac-12 media voters. They were predicted to be a solid No. 6 or 7 seed in the tournament, with an okay chance for a first-round win. Now, the Trojans are ranked No. 17 in the recent AP polls and first in conference play. They’ve had several dominating performances and a blowout win over a ranked UCLA at the time. Much of USC’s success comes from their defensive-efficiency, which now ranks 10th nationally and is 12 spots higher than anybody else’s in the Pac-12. With star center Evan Mobley, who averages 16 points and 9 rebounds per game, the Trojans will be looking to take the crown of their first Pac-12 title since 1985.

Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies sit at a solid record of 14-4 and second in the ACC. Their profile includes signature wins over Virginia, Villanova and Clemson, not to mention two wins over Duke. They’re definitely a strong contender in the ACC title race; however, this was nowhere near expected at the beginning of the season. Virginia Tech was projected to finish second to last in the ACC preseason poll, as the team consisted of mostly returning players that struggled in the 2019-20 season. Despite these predictions, due to their highly-efficient defense and deep offense, the team is now positioned for a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament. 

Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners are 13-5 and are second in the Big 12. The team was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 race at the start of the season. Now, the Sooners boast great wins over West Virginia, Texas, Kansas and Alabama. They sit in second place in a competitive Big 12 conference with a 4-0 record. They’re also tied with Ohio State with five wins over Associated Press top-15 teams. The team is led by veteran guard Austin Reaves, who is averaging 17 points, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds per game. He has a supportive group of teammates around him who know how to handle the ball and have a solid range. Oklahoma was recently listed as a 3-seed by the NCAA Tournament committee if the tournament started today. With their recent impressive win over West Virginia, it’s a step closer to rise up higher on their board. 


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