NCAA Tournament: Lookahead to Possible "Surprise" Champ










When it comes to the College Basketball world, all roads lead to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale come Saturday, April 1st when the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four will be rockin’ the sports universe … but are there any surprise or “dark horse” teams that can get there?


In a year when unbeaten Gonzaga and defending national champ Villanova are running #1-#2 in the polls (and have been for the past couple of weeks), you might see different teams from their conferences win it all and don’t be shocked if a middle-of-the-pack power conference team snags this year’s national crown.

Naturally, the heavy-hitter types such as Gonzaga, Villanova, Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina and the like are getting all the pre-tourney hype but here’s three teams “off the grid” that could well win it all:


SAINT MARY’S (25-3, 12-2) – The country’s 20th-ranked team is no fluke. In fact, the “other” powerhouse team (along with Gonzaga) in the oft-overlooked West Coast Conference roars into Saturday’s home game against Santa Clara having won 10 of its last 11 games with the sole setback coming against the ‘Zags. If Saint Mary’s gets a decent seed – and we’re thinking a haughty #8 seed right now – and the nation’s second-best scoring defense (56.1 ppg) plays its game, the sky’s the limit.


BUTLER (22-6, 11-5) – Maybe this past week’s 74-66 win at 10-point favorite Villanova tipped everyone off that the Bulldogs could indeed become a team “on a mission” this March. Okay, so Butler is the #22 team in the land at this moment and head coach Chris Holtmann may be the most unsung “A+” boss in the nation but few folks realize that the pride of Hinkle Fieldhouse (see Hoosiers, of course) beat Arizona and Cincinnati in key non-league games earlier this year and they ain’t afraid of anyone!


NOTRE DAME (21-7, 10-5) – One of the favorite things we like to do in the weeks leading up to the NCAA Tournament is eyeball a team that may be sitting in the middle of the pack in its conference/league and look for a major March run. Heck, you can go back to the 1997 Arizona Wildcats for a once-upon-a-time example as we think off the top of our heads but you get the idea: The #21st-ranked ND Fighting Irish right now are tied with a batch of ACC teams for second place in the league but could wind up heading into next month’s ACC Tournament with a #5 or #6 seed and could be a #5 or #6 seed in the NCAAs, but that’s fine. Mike Brey’s crew can shoot it, they move the ball beautifully on the perimeter and ND’s tougher than you think.


We’ll get to that in a second, but first this key reminder …

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep rockin’-n-rollin’ through this College Basketball and NBA season with loads of big-time winners right here online at or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action and remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies heat up next week with day-time action all throughout the month of March and we shall keep you posted. In fact, make a note that the mini-tournies swing into gear this Wednesday, March 1st with the Ohio Valley Conference ramping things up with the Missouri Valley Conference and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference joining in the conference tournament fun the very next day.



More “fallout” from the NBA Trade Deadline that just passed:

Seems Indiana G Paul George and Brooklyn F/C Brook Lopez really are not all that pleased about not being traded – George basically told interviewers in his own way that if he’s not gonna be “the man” in Indianapolis and have input on personnel decisions, then he would have welcomed a change of scenery while Lopez robotically answered media queries at a post-deadline practice but it appeared he wanted out too. Funny thing is we thought there was a minute or two there were new Los Angeles Lakers boss Magic Johnson was gonna make deals for both George and Lopez … no dice.


Most in-the-know folks are claiming that this is a “mediocre” draft when it comes to quarterbacks and that’s exactly why teams drafting outside the top five (see New York Jets at #6, Buffalo at #10 and maybe even Washington at #17) will be looking to make a move on somebody’s else’s quarterback this spring. Sorry, we’re not buying the talk that the Kansas City Chiefs are gonna brush aside QB Alex Smith to make room for Dallas’ Tony Romo but there could be a “name” slinger who gets dealt if a huge draft package is involved and we’re thinking Cincinnati may part ways with Andy Dalton for the right price.

Finally, MLB exhibition games are up and running – always a great sign that really warm weather is on the way – and maybe you’ve yet to see the up-to-date “over/under” wins list, so here goes:


TEAM                                    WINS TOTAL

Chicago Cubs                      95.5

Los Angeles Dodgers        94.5

Cleveland Indians             93.5

Boston Red Sox                  92.5

Houston Astros                  91.5

Washington Nationals    91.5

New York Mets                  88.5

San Francisco Giants        87.5

Seattle Mariners               85.5

Texas Rangers                    84.5

Toronto Blue Jays             84.5

Detroit Tigers                     83.5

New York Yankees            83.5

St. Louis Cardinals            83.5

Pittsburgh Pirates             82.5

Colorado Rockies              80.5

Los Angeles Angels           80.5

Baltimore Orioles              79.5

Tampa Bay Rays                78.5

Arizona Diamondbacks   77.5

Miami Marlins                   76.5

Atlanta Braves                   75.5

Minnesota Twins              75.5

Kansas City Royals            74.5

Oakland A’s                         74.5

Philadelphia Phillies        72.5

Cincinnati Reds                  70.5

Milwaukee Brewers         69.5

Chicago White Sox            68.5

San Diego Padres              67.5



Note: March Madness is straight ahead and we’ll be all over the College Basketball landscape in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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