2024 March Madness Sleeper Teams to Consider, Part 2

by Wayne Root

Tuesday, Feb 27, 2024
What’s Ahead in March?
Very few would have expected to see first-time Final Four participants Florida Atlantic, Miami (FL), and San Diego State and UConn in Houston last year. Will we see any surprise teams in Glendale, Arizona, the site of the 2024 men’s Final Four? No #1 seeds reached the Elite Eight last season, and the highest-seeded team to reach the Final Four was UConn, the #4 seed in the West Regional. 
As for this article for 2024 March Madness, here’s some longshots to look to make some noise. Just like we saw in that historic round one. The biggest single result saw Purdue, the #1 seed in the East Regional, fall in the first round to #16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, just the second #16 seed in men’s March Madness history to boot a top seed in the first round. Will there be more? 
It will probably take another article or two to complete this list. Let’s remember that this is to win a game or two. Will one get to the Final Four? It’s quite possible that one from my list will. Next article will be the next tier up on sleepers that actually have a chance to make the Final Four. You’ll have to come back in a week to find out. 
Here’s a small sample size to take notice for this year. From a betting odds perspective, all teams listed here have March Madness winner odds of +7500 or longer. Let’s continue and pick up from my previous article of under the radar sleeper teams that have a shot to make the round of eight. 
1. Mississippi State 
Last season, the Bulldogs made the First Four despite severe offensive issues, especially from the perimeter. Those issues still remain to some degree and led to a shocking home loss to Southern University earlier this season. They also are a factor in why the Bulldogs have struggled mightily on the road.
The Bulldogs are a paltry 2-6 on the road. But MSU also owns wins over Tennessee and Auburn, and they defeated Washington State and Northwestern in non-conference play, and they still rank as one of the top defensive teams in college basketball even after some less than stellar showings in SEC play.
Mississippi State hasn’t won a game in the Big Dance since 2008, but at their best, they are a team with serious second week potential. Big man Tolu Smith is having a fine senior season after missing the first 12 games due to injury, and after being the nation’s worst three-point shooting team last season, improvement in that area has come in the form of fantastic freshman guard Josh Hubbard.
2. Nebraska 
Like New Mexico, Nebraska has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014. But they are in position to end that drought this season, and a team that owns wins over Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, and Wisconsin will be a tough out in the tournament. The Huskers have three players averaging at least 11.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG, and they have several outside threats, led by leading scorer Keisei Tominaga, who is also known as the “Japanese Steph Curry.” A lot of patience has been needed in Fred Hoiberg’s tenure, but that patience might about to pay off. However one’s patience might be wearing thin based on Nebraska’s home/road dichotomy. They are 17-1 at home and 2-7 when away. The most you can count on them depending on seeding is a first round upset. That might be your best bet. 
3. Washington State 
The Cougars haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2008, the season before Klay Thompson’s three-season stint in Pullman began.
But happy times are here again for Washington State. They weren’t on the March Madness radar in early January but are now in a strong position thanks to nine wins in ten games heading into a home matchup with Stanford. This team is loaded. They absolutely stole three great players from the players portal. And this is after the Cougars lost their top four scorers from last year. Idaho transfer Isaac Jones has been a standout, but the big story is guard Myles Rice. Rice came to Pullman in 2021, redshirted in his first season, then had to medically redshirt last season due to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hows this for the Cinderella story the media is always wanting? After beating cancer, Rice received his medical clearance and made his collegiate debut this season. Entering a home matchup with Stanford, Rice is averaging 16.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.7 SPG. When he faced the Cardinal in Palo Alto, he had 35 points and eight assists in the Cougars’ 89-75 win. This is definitely a team that can represent the PAC 12 in the Round of Eight. Four Cougars average 10.4 PPG or better, but Washington State also ranks in the top 30 in adjusted defensive efficiency. In addition, they are one of the few teams that have a positive road record at 6-4. 
With the success they are having on both ends of the floor, this is a team to watch.
Be sure to check back after the pairings are set for more tournament sleepers.

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