Commentary

Sleeper teams could surprise

Updated: March 13, 2012, 11:03 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

There are upsets every year in the NCAA tournament. There are teams that are dangerous sleepers, capable of making deep runs in the big dance.

My definition of a sleeper is a team seeded fifth or lower in the bracket. If you are seed fourth or higher, you are basically one of the top 16 teams in America, so shouldn't you have the potential to do well?

This year, I have identified my favorite sleepers, chosing one in each bracket.

Let's start in the South. My choice is Connecticut as a No. 9 seed. The defending national champions started the season ranked in the top five, so there was potential that Jim Calhoun hopes for again. Any time you have two likely lottery picks in your lineup (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond), you have a shot.

[+] EnlargeJim Calhoun
David Butler II/US PresswireJim Calhoun is back on the sideline for UConn, making the Huskies a potential sleeper team in the South Region.

This Huskies team will not have an easy opener against Iowa State and Royce White. If the Huskies move on, there is a likely showdown against No. 1 Kentucky and that should be a special game.

The Huskies beat the Wildcats in the Final Four last season, but that was BAD (before Anthony Davis).

Calhoun has won three national titles and his team responds to him. Wow, Calhoun vs. John Calipari, that is a personal rivalry which goes back a long way.

In the West, my sleeper is Memphis. The Tigers started the season highly-ranked as well before suffering a few early Ls. Memphis has bounced back and enters the tournament on a seven-game win streak.

Josh Pastner's team is dangerous as an eight seed and a potential opponent of Michigan State. Will Barton, Joe Jackson and company have something to prove. This is not an easy out, if the Tigers get past Rick Majerus' Saint Louis squad in round one.

There is certainly a lot of talent on the Tigers' roster.

My choice for sleeper in the East is #5 Vanderbilt. The Commodores have struggled in early-round games in the tournament the last few years. This is a veteran club with a lot of experience and chemistry. John Jenkins led the team to the SEC tournament title over Kentucky, which says a lot about what they are capable of.

It will not be easy running up against Harvard, a potential game with Wisconsin, and then a likely showdown with Syracuse. Orange fans, watch out!

Finally, in the Midwest, Mark Gottfried's team has been playing very well down the stretch. The Wolfpack almost beat North Carolina in the ACC semifinals. C.J. Leslie's stock has gone up and up and I feel NC State could be a surprise club to keep an eye on.

There you have it, four teams seeded below No. 4 that have the potential to do some damage in the brackets.

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.