5 NCAAB teams you haven’t been watching and what you need to know

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March 10th, 2020

The 2019-20 college basketball season has been loaded with parity, which makes filling out a perfect bracket all the more impossible.

You've likely watched some of No. 1 Kansas, Kentucky or Michigan State on TV, but how much Big East, Atlantic 10 or West Coast Conference play have you witnessed?

In order to give yourself a fighting chance in your March Madness bracket pool, here are five teams you haven't been watching and all you need to know about them ahead of the NCAA tournament.

No. 3 Dayton Flyers

Record: 29-2, 1st in A10
NET ranking: No. 2
Strength of schedule: No. 78

The Dayton Flyers are cruising behind the play of sophomore sensation Obi Toppin. The 6-9 forward averages 20.0 points per game, 7.5 rebounds, 39% from three-point land and is a top contender for the John R. Wooden award.

Toppin and his teammates rank first in the country in field-goal percentage and second in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. The Flyers also put up 80.0 points per contest, 13th in the nation, and are eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio.

The one knock on Dayton is its defense, which rates 39th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. On top of that, the team hasn’t exactly faced the most difficult competition.

Dayton has played just one ranked opponent—then-No. 4 Kansas, who beat the Flyers 90-84 in overtime of the Maui Invitational final. Colorado handed the A10 squad another overtime loss in late December, but Dayton has since been unstoppable, with a 20-win streak.

No. 6 San Diego State Aztecs

Record: 30-2, 1st in Mountain West
NET ranking: No. 4

Strength of schedule: No. 83

Washington State transfer Malachi Flynn has found the perfect home at San Diego State, who emerged out of nowhere this season to claim a 30-2 record and first in the Mountain West.

Flynn, a junior guard, scores 17.6 points per contest for the 11th-best offense in college basketball. He's also leading his team in assists (5.1) and steals (1.8).

San Diego State's offense can shoot the three, is solid from the charity stripe, and takes excellent care of the ball (No. 12 assist-to-turnover ratio).  

The team can beat you on defense, as well. The Aztecs rank 10th in field-goal percentage defense, 27th in three-point percentage defense, and give up 59.4 points per game (fourth in the country).

Just like Dayton, though, SDSU is still a bit of a question mark because of its schedule. The team’s best win came against Creighton, 83-52, back in November, when the Bluejays were unranked.

UNLV handed San Diego State its only regular-season loss in late February, before Utah State upset the Aztecs 59-56 in the final of the Mountain West tournament.

No. 7 Creighton Bluejays

Record: 24-7, tied for 1st in Big East
NET ranking: No. 11

Strength of schedule: No. 20

Creighton packed a punch in the Big East, which turned out to be one of the more dominant conferences of the 2019-20 season.

The Bluejays started the season slow but built momentum by late January and have since climbed as high as seventh in the AP poll.

Guards Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski both average around 16 points for the Bluejays, who rank third in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.

As for Creighton's weakness, the defense could use some help. The team has also failed at times to show up for big games, and even a few against weaker competition.

Creighton beat Texas Tech in overtime in Vegas and defeated Villanova and Seton Hall both on the road. However, the Bluejays also fell 71-57 at Butler, lost by three at 15-16 Georgetown and got embarrassed by unranked Providence (73-56) and St. John’s (91-71) in early February and March.

It’s difficult to say which Creighton team will show up in the tournament or how long it can maintain momentum, but the Bluejays could still accomplish a deep run, if all the pieces fall in place at the right time.  

No. 14 BYU Cougars

Record: 24-8, 2nd in WCC
NET ranking: No. 9

Strength of schedule: No. 61

The Cougars piled on nine consecutive victories, until St. Mary's played spoiler in a 51-50 upset in the West Coast Tournament on Monday.

Still, No. 14 BYU is a lock for the NCAA tournament and could make some noise in the early stages of the Big Dance. The No. 7 team in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency ranking, the Cougars have benefited from the excellence of senior forward Yoeli Childs, who averages 22.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 57.4% from field-goal range and can drain a three when called upon to do so.

Childs isn't the only talented scorer on the roster. The Cougars are first in three-point percentage (42.3), with both Jake Toolson and Alex Barcello knocking down around 47% from behind the arc.

BYU's defense may not be as strong, but if it can continue to score at a high rate (79.6 ppg on the season), the Cougars should edge past some stiffer competition in the tournament.

BYU's best win came against Gonzaga, 91-78, in late February, though the Cougars also suffered a bad loss to the Bulldogs back in January.

It'll take a lot for this team to reach the Sweet 16 and beyond, but if the shots keep falling, it'll be difficult for anyone to stop the Cougars. 

No. 16 Seton Hall Pirates

Record: 21-9, tied for 1st in Big East
NET ranking: No. 15

Strength of schedule: No. 11

Another Big East team taking the world by storm is No. 16 Seton Hall. Led by senior guard Myles Powell, the Pirates own a 21-9 record but have since hit a bump in the conference schedule.

The team’s most impressive win came on Dec. 19, when the Pirates outlasted then-No. 7 Maryland, 52-48. Seton Hall went on a 10-win streak from there, before slipping up against Xavier, Providence, Villanova and Creighton (twice). Marquette is up next on Thursday in the Big East tournament and will give the Pirates a chance to bounce back from two straight losses.

Seton Hall is near the top 30 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and faced the 11th most difficult schedule in the nation. The Pirates are battle-tested and capable of taking down the traditional powerhouses they may encounter in the tournament, but they must find their rhythm again if they have any hope of contending for a national championship.

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