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2023 March Madness Top 5 Sleeper Teams to make it to the Sweet 16

Publish Date: 03/14/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Sweet 16 Sleeper Teams

Every year there are upsets in the NCAA Tournament, and as of late, we have seen more and more double-digit seeds advance into the second weekend of the tournament. Today we will look at the teams with the best chance to do it this year.

No. 12 Drake Bulldogs

Drake University is back in the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year, emerging victorious from the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament play. Led by sophomore guard Tucker DeVries who averaged 19 points and 5.6 rebounds this season to earn MVC Player of the Year honors, Drake boasts an elite defense with top 50 adjusted efficiency ratings and stands tall on defense.

Should the Bulldogs manage to stop ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong from Miami they would advance to a second-round matchup against either Indiana or Kent State – two opponents they could easily give fits against. Don’t be shocked if Drake makes it into next weekend’s Sweet 16!

Video: Drake clinches 6th NCAA Tournament appearance with win over Bradley [Highlight + Recap] | CBS Sports

Drake clinches 6th NCAA Tournament appearance with win over Bradley [Highlight + Recap] | CBS Sports

No.13 Furman Paladins

Furman University has reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980 and secured its place by winning last week’s SoCon Tournament Championship. Led by Jalen Slawson, Furman operated an uptempo offense that leads the nation in two-point shooting percentage at 59.1%. Defensively they were average but still forced opponents to take their time finding shots that fell within reach.

That combination has them as a popular pick to upset No. 4 Virginia in the South Region opener. While we’ve grown accustomed to Tony Bennett’s slow-burn teams over time, if Slawson and co can create some offensive momentum during this contest, Furman could be in a prime position for an upset. After that, they would face either San Diego State or Charleston as fellow midmajors in the second round; it wouldn’t be surprising if Furman plays into that second weekend either way.

Video: Furman wins SoCon Championship, makes NCAA Tournament for 1st time since 1980 | Full Game Highlights

Furman wins SoCon Championship, makes NCAA Tournament for 1st time since 1980 | Full Game Highlights

No. 12 Oral Roberts

If you remember, the Golden Eagles stunned Ohio State in a rare 15 over two upset in 2021 and eventually made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Max Abmas led that team and is still carving opposing defenses up, averaging 22.2 points heading into the tournament. The high-tempo offense of Oral Roberts is one of the best units in the nation, and it is carrying a nation-leading 17-game win streak into the big dance.

They get No. 5 Duke in the first round of the East Region, and while the Blue Devils are riding high off an ACC Tournament title, there’s always the chance that their young squad could fold in the face of the Golden Eagles’ experience. If Oral Roberts can clear that hurdle right out the gate, watch out.

Video: North Dakota State vs Oral Roberts Basketball Game Highlights, 2023 Summit Championship

North Dakota State vs Oral Roberts Basketball Game Highlights, 2023 Summit Championship

No. 12 VCU Rams

The Rams have done it before, but the Atlantic-10 champions are still flying under the radar. A No. 12 seed may seem disrespectful in the first round, but Mike Rhoades’ squad ranks 25th in scoring defense (63.1). Guard Ace Baldwin and forward Brandon Johns, a Michigan transfer, have made for a compelling combination – giving the Rams hope of reaching the Sweet 16 this year.

Video: VCU vs. Davidson | COLLEGE BASKETBALL HIGHLIGHTS | 3/9/2023 | NBC Sports

VCU vs. Davidson | COLLEGE BASKETBALL HIGHLIGHTS | 3/9/2023 | NBC Sports

No.12 Charleston

Pat Kelsey leads No. 12 Charleston into the NCAA tournament for his second year. Senior guard Dalton Bolton and Ante Brzovic – a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Croatia – make for an intimidating inside-outside combination. Charleston averaged 80.8 points per game last season and was fourth nationally in total rebounds (40.5). That style can make anyone uncomfortable, particularly in the second half. In five previous tournament appearances, Charleston advanced to the second round once and lost by 10 points or less each time; if Charleston can beat San Diego State (which won’t be easy), they could present Virginia with an actual test in the second round.

Video: UNC Wilmington vs Charleston Basketball Game Highlights, 2023 CAA Championship

UNC Wilmington vs Charleston Basketball Game Highlights, 2023 CAA Championship

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