These are my top sleeper teams from small mid major conferences. You will not see Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s on this list because they have been ranked in the AP Top 25 all year. Also, you will not see any team from the A10 because I do not see that conference as a sleeper conference.
Top 10 Sleeper Teams
- Wichita State(27-4)- The Shockers finished the year 17-1 in conference and are the favorites to win the Missouri Valley Tourney. Wichita State split the season series with Illinois State losing by 6 in the first meeting, then coming back to destroy them by 41 points. Wichita State is sitting at a projected 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and have what it takes to make a deep run without the phenomenal seniors they last year.
- Illinois State(26-5)- Like Wichita State, Illinois State is 17-1 in conference splitting the 2 games with the Shockers. Illinois State without winning the Missouri Valley Tourney will likely still be in as long as they face Wichita State in the MVC final. If that is the case we will see them make the big dance at a 11 or 12 seed leaving them there poised to take down a 5 or 6 seed which we see every year.
- Middle Tennessee( 26-4)- Middle Tennessee is projected a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In their last two games in conference they have struggled with a good UAB team which was not so bad since they pulled out the win, but the game that raised flags was their 3 point win over the worst team in the C-USA being FIU. They have one more game left in conference vs FAU. This team returned all 5 starters from their magical upset over MSU last year and are ready to make a deeper run this year. Next week we will know what they have to do in the C-USA tourney to make it.
- Vermont(27-5)- Vermont finished undefeated in conference and look like they are going to win the whole American East and receive an auto bid. They are projected as a 13 seed in the big dance at the moment, but will likely move up if they win out. Lose and their season is likely over, but maybe not depending on the committee.
- Monmouth(26-5)- Winners of 16 straight games, Monmouth really wants a tourney bid. Once again they have to win the MAAC which is not an easy task, but they will do what ever it takes to win it. This team to me has the most heart right now because of what happened last year when they lost to Iona in the championship and not receiving an invite to the big dance. If they win it the are projected to be a 12 seed and a very scary one at that.
- Bucknell(24-8)- Yes 8 losses is a lot, but I believe that on this list Bucknell has the most momentum. Bucknell is rolling through the Patriot League Tourney and only have Lehigh standing in their way from getting a bid in the NCAA Tournament where they are projected to be a 13-15 seed. I would not want to play them first round because their momentum they possess is what makes upsets happen in March.
- Princeton(19-6)- Undefeated in IVY League play without even a scare. The Tigers have one game left, in the regular season which is a tough one vs #2 in the conference Harvard. After tonight’s game, they have to win the IVY League Tourney to get in the big dance, where they would be a 13 seed and quite possibly a 12 seed if they keep rolling like they are.
- Belmont(22-5)- Belmont out of the Ohio Valley were undefeated in conference until they fell to Tennessee Tech, and are looking fantastic. They play with a very unique style and work around their leader Evan Bradds. Belmont has a lot of potential if they can make the tournament as I compare them to Stephan F Austin last year. They are playing their first game in the Ohio Valley Tourney today where they take on a tough Jax State team in the semi finals. They are the favorites to win the conference, but it will not be easy.
- UT Arlington(24-6)- This team has found a way to navigate through the very deep and top heavy Sun Belt Conference to regain the top spot and regain a projected 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It is going to very tough to win the Sun Belt, but if they do win it they will be a very scary 12 seed maybe an 11 seed.
- UNCW(26-5)-The Seahawks are still a projected a 12 seed even with a few losses lately in their conference. We will see how they finish the season because apparently this team still has a chance to make the big dance without a Colonial Conference Championship, but I do not see it. The resume is there for UNCW, but the struggle in conference is what concerns me, granted the Colonial is fairly strong.