Being in the middle of the pack of the tournament in terms of seeding, the eighth seeds are almost always forgotten as most fans and pundits assume that they will not make it past the second round where they will ultimately have to contend with one of the top seeds in the country. However, when it comes to the unpredictable affair that is March Madness, anything can happen, especially his year. With all of the parity that has existed in college basketball this year, any of the following projected eighth seed programs could make a splash in the tournament. When picking any of these teams to get past the second round, it is important to bear in mind that while they do have the athletes and dynamic skill sets needed to go far in the postseason, they also possess their fair share of weaknesses that could just as easily see them fall in the first round before they ever get a chance to prove themselves.
1. Houston Cougars
A great defensive program that is capable of scoring from long range (39.1 3P%), the Cougars have both the athletes and composure to take down any college basketball giant that stands in their way. If leading scorer Rob Gray can continue to be a threat as an aggressor that is adept at getting to the rim, the Cougars have a decent chance of making it out of the first weekend of the tournament.
1. Creighton Blue Jays
Lackadaisical on defense (74.3 PAPG) yet highly efficient when it comes to shooting the basketball (84.8 PPG), the Blue Jays have the moxie and skilled shooters to overwhelm their opponent consistently. On top of being adept at shooting from the field (49.9 FG%), the Blue Jays are incredibly consistent at making their free throws (75 FT%), an underrated skill that will serve them well down the stretch of tight contests in the tournament.
1. Rhode Island Rams
Although it would be fair to judge the Rams for their recent slip-ups in their losses to St. Joseph’s and Davidson, they still possess a disciplined defense that is tenacious when it comes to taking the ball away from their opponents (eight SPG). However, the Rams need to be a bit more consistent when it comes to shooting from the perimeter if they hope to be competitive in the tournament (33.8 3P%).
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Given how poorly the Sooners played down the stretch of the regular season (lost seven of their last 10 games), many would question if this program deserves to be in the tournament at all. Still, the Sooners are unquestionably one of the most prolific scoring teams in college basketball (86 PPG) and will need every bit of it if they hope to go any further than the initial weekend of the tournament.