Commentary

Sleeper teams to watch

Kentucky, UConn among four teams that could surprise the favorites

Updated: March 18, 2014, 10:54 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Napier, SmithJamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsUConn's Shabazz Napier has the ability to take over a game.

What is the definition of a sleeper team in the NCAA tournament?

Some people may say a team like Michigan State or Louisville, both seeded No. 4, is a sleeper. I beg to differ. My criteria for a sleeper team is you have to be seeded fifth or lower.

Each year, I pick one team in each regional that is a real sleeper. These teams have a lot of talent but have been given lower seeds.

SOUTH: No. 7 New Mexico
The Lobos were 27-6, 15-3 in league play and winners of the Mountain West tournament, but that was good enough for only a seventh seed. Craig Neal, in his first season as coach of the Lobos, has a lot of veteran talent. Cameron Bairstow had a terrific season. Kendall Williams is an outstanding guard. There is also the desire to erase last season's disappointing early loss to Harvard in the Big Dance. There is also the potential for a revenge matchup against Kansas in the round of 32. The Jayhawks beat the Lobos by 17 during the regular season.

MIDWEST: No. 8 Kentucky
Are you serious? John Calipari's Wildcats should have been seeded higher. If you don't believe me, go ask the Florida Gators about the SEC championship game. Julius Randle has to be more productive than he was in that SEC title game (four points). The potential showdown against Wichita State in the round of 32 will be one of the most-watched early games in the Big Dance. This team will need solid guard play from the Harrison twins. If the Wildcats can be more consistent with the ball, this is a dangerous team.

WEST: No. 9 Oklahoma State
I saw several people selecting the Cowboys to win the regional. This was a preseason top-10 team that went through a roller-coaster ride during the regular season. Oklahoma State survived a seven-game losing streak and made it to the tournament. The seed was not a total surprise, but would you want to face Marcus Smart & Co. in the early rounds? Travis Ford has the ship on the right course now, and the game against No. 9 Gonzaga will be a good one. Arizona did not receive a bargain when the bracket revealed the Cowboys as a potential round of 32 matchup.

EAST: No. 7 Connecticut
The Huskies were the last team to beat No. 1 Florida. Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Niels Giffey will have something to say about this seed. Then again, the American Athletic Conference got short-changed when you look at the seeds of Louisville (4), Cincinnati (5) and Memphis (8) as well as SMU missing the tournament. Kevin Ollie's team will not have an easy game against Saint Joseph's. In survive-and-advance mode, the Huskies could face former Big East rival Villanova. Jay Wright's Wildcats could have had a better draw.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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