One "Dark Horse" Per Conference 2/18
With conference tournaments fast approaching, many teams are emerging as "dark horse" contenders – either a sleeper team to make noise in its own conference or a sleeper when it comes to determining at-large bids. Below are 31 dark horse teams for each conference playing this season, along with a key stat or two supporting why they could do some damage in March. These aren't the only teams that could sneak into the conversation in the coming weeks, but certainly programs to keep an eye on.
Atlantic 10: Davidson (10-5)
Davidson has won 4 straight games and will have a good test coming up next week against VCU.
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast (9-6)
Florida Gulf Coast has won 2 in a row and 3 of its last 4 and notched a win over Miami earlier in the year.
ACC: Georgia Tech (10-8)
Georgia Tech shares the ball on offense and forces turnovers on defense. The team averages close to 16 assists per game and 9 steals per game. Georgia Tech has big wins this year over UNC, Clemson and Florida State.
American: Memphis (12-6)
Memphis has won 3 games in a row and 6 of its last 7. The team also averages 9.3 steals per game.
America East: Vermont (10-3)
Vermont has won 8 straight games and has a road record of 4-1 thus far. The team also only allows 61.6 points per game defensively.
Big 12: Oklahoma State (14-6)
Oklahoma State has wins over Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas and is led by the projected top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft freshman guard Cade Cunningham.
Big East: Seton Hall (13-8)
After a few close losses to top teams, including Villanova and Creighton, Seton Hall has won 4 games in a row.
Big Sky: Southern Utah (13-3)
Southern Utah is on a 3-game win streak, scoring an average of 85.6 PPG. The team also has a FG percentage of almost 47% on the season.
Big South: UNC Asheville (10-9)
UNC Asheville is the only team this year to beat Winthrop and has one of the best 3-point shooters in the country in junior guard Tajion Jones.
Big Ten: Maryland (13-10)
Maryland has won 3 straight games and have impressive Quad 1 wins this season over Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Big West: CSU Bakersfield (14-7)
CSU Bakersfield has played 57% of its games on the road this year and has not been swept in any Big West series thus far.
Conference USA: North Texas (12-6)
North Texas would have been the C-USA rep in March Madness last season. This year, the team only gives up 61.6 PPG and shoots 49% from the field.
CAA: James Madison (13-5)
James Madison has notched 7 straight wins and is 9-1 over its last 10 games. While being a conference leader may not signify a sleeper, JMU is a team to watch out for when it comes to upset potential in the tournament.
Horizon: Youngstown State (13-10) Youngstown State beat the top team in the conference in Wright State and has won 5 straight games.
MAAC: Monmouth (10-5)
Monmouth is 7-1 over its last 8 games and continues to force many turnovers, averaging 7.6 steals per game.
MAC: Ohio (11-6)
Ohio currently has a 4-game win streak and came within one basket of defeating current 2-seed Illinois back in November.
MEAC: Coppin State (7-12)
While it gives up a lot of PPG, Coppin State averages close to 9 steals per game – a key statistic when it comes to tournament games. Despite its under .500 record, this is a team to keep an eye on in the conference.
Missouri Valley: Indiana State (13-8)
Indiana State beat Loyola Chicago last month and has gone 9-1 in the 10 games since that series.
Mountain West: Nevada (14-7)
Nevada swept Boise State two weeks ago. The team also played San Diego State close earlier this year and is 6-2 over its last 8 games.
Northeast: Wagner (8-5)
Wagner is above .500 on the road this year, with 5 of its 8 wins coming away from home. After a 1-5 start to the season, the team has won 7 straight.
Ohio Valley: Jacksonville State (14-7)
Jacksonville State kept it close with Belmont in their first meeting and has gone 6-2 since that matchup, including 4 wins in a row. The team has averaged 77 PPG during that 8-game stretch.
Pac-12: Oregon (12-4)
Oregon swept the Arizona schools last week, which is a key series in the conference. Despite recent postponements, Oregon always seems to get its season together at the right time.
Patriot: Navy (11-2)
While Colgate is getting the majority of the conference press due to its high NET ranking, Navy currently sits at 8-1 in conference play. Navy has held opponents under 70 points in every Patriot league game except for 2, both of which were overtime games.
SEC: Ole Miss (12-8)
Ole Miss has won 4 games in a row and have key wins on the season against Missouri and Tennessee.
SWAC: Jackson State (6-5)
After starting the year 0-5, Jackson State has won 6 straight games – all of which have been in conference. 9 of the team's 11 games have been on the road, so Jackson State is certainly battle tested.
Southern: Chattanooga (18-5)
Chattanooga is on a 6-game win streak and posts one of the best road records in the country at 9-2.
Southland: SF Austin (13-3)
While SFA is one of the three clear frontrunners in the conference, the team is not showing up in as many bracket predictions as of now. SFA has won 4 straight games and split its two games against Sam Houston State and Abilene Christian.
Summit: North Dakota State (11-9)
North Dakota State is 9-3 in conference thus far and gives up less than 70 PPG to opponents.
Sun Belt: South Alabama (14-8)
South Alabama has won 6 games in a row and is giving up a total of 61 PPG during the win streak.
WAC: Utah Valley (7-8)
Utah Valley currently has the second-most amount of conference wins in the WAC and posts a FG percentage of almost 50%.
WCC: Pepperdine (10-8)
Pepperdine is on a 3-game win streak and has wins this year over BYU, Saint Mary's and San Francisco. Pepperdine also took UCLA to triple overtime back in November.
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