Tournament DarkHorses and their chance to Make History

It is no secret that this year in College Basketball has been unlike any other. Upsets and court rushes are being seen on a weekly basis and it is almost impossible to predict what happens next. When the tournament brackets are released on Sunday, March 13th, even the most passionate fans of the sport will have a hard time deciding who to pencil into their bracket.

Currently, the Big East is the only team projected to have two number one seeds according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN. Now although these projections are certainly not the real deal, they are a good estimate of the inconsistency in College Basketball. The Big East has practically lost it's image totally and for there to be two teams from that conference at the top is impressive yet embarrassing for others.  Michigan State, Kansas, Villanova, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Kentucky have all enjoyed time as the nation's number one team, only to be upset later on and lose their ranking. If there is no definitive number one team, look for middle tier teams to make a splash, much like the 2014 UConn Huskies did, winning the title.

Enter the darkhorses. From the 2006 George Mason Patriots to the 2013 FGCU Eagles, there always seems to be that team or two that shocks the world. I tried to focus my basketball viewing attention towards mid-major games and teams, trying to find who could be "that team" this year. I came across two teams who caught my eye in particular and there are reasons why they are legitimate Sweet Sixteen threats.

VALPARAISO (1st in Horizon League, 25-5): For a team to be a successful darkhorse, they must either have lights out shooting or amazing rebounding. Fortunately for Valpo they have a bit of both. Led by 6'9" forward Alec Peters, the crusaders are averaging 41.8 rebounds a game which is 6th in the nation. Peters leads the team averaging 17.3 points per game, and brings a balance to the floor as he is able to play with his back to the basket and can shoot the long ball. The Crusaders lost their only game against a raked opponent this year, slipping to Oregon by 6 on the road. This isn't an indication that they cannot defeat good teams as it was a tough road game and it was early on. The Crusaders are a lock for the tourney but would love to take home the conference title as well. The toughest opponent for them  will be the Oakland Grizzlies, but I fancy the Crusaders to get the job done when the Horizon League takes to Joe Louis Arena this weekend.

SETON HALL (3rd in Big East, 20-7): The Pirates were a team I said to look our for prior to last season began, they had a disappointing season and missed out on the fun of March. This year seems to be different as the Pirates are beating the teams they are supposed to beat and are putting together a decent season. They should be in the tournament if they take care of business down the stretch, but even if they do sneak in this is the gutsiest prediction of all three teams. Seton Hall have a bad loss against Long Beach State early in the season and have failed to defeat Villy or Xavier in their meetings with them. This is a sign that this team may still be too young to fight with the big dogs. A player I had on my radar going into last season was freshman Isaiah Whitehead, but he also lacked a good year in the 2014-15 campaign. He now leads the Pirates in scoring and is proving to be one of the Big East's most lethal and versatile guards. The problem I find with this team is they lack an identity. They are not lethal from deep and aren't particularly scary in the paint, yet there's something about the style and athleticism that has caught my eye.  Kevin Willard has done a great job recruiting on the east coast and it seems this team is poised for a breakout game. Sitting 3rd in the conference at the moment with a very tough game against Xavier this week, a run through the tournament will depend on the difficulty of their draw, but in March anything is possible.