Best Not Be Sleeping: Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Iowa, and Murray State

This section is featured in SLAM’s 2022 MBB March Madness Preview. Here, we take a look at some of the exciting teams you won’t want to sleep on throughout the NCAA Tournament. This section is featured in our Women’s March Madness Preview. Tap in here.

Tennessee Volunteers

The Tennessee Volunteers finished the regular season 26-7 (14-4 SEC) as they entered the SEC tournament as a two-seed. In their first game, they defeated Mississippi State 72-59, Then defeated seed 3 Kentucky Wildcats 69-62 behind a 19 point performance by freshman guard Kennedy Chandler to send the Vols to the SEC championship.

The Volunteers would go on to dominate Texas A&M 65-50 to secure the school’s first conference championship since 1979. Chandler was named the most outstanding player of the tournament as his stellar shooting has continued to dazzle the country. He averaged 13.8 points and 4.6 assists on the season.

Tennessee will enter the NCAA tournament as a two-seed and will face Longwood in the first round of the tournament. Tennessee is a team that needs to advance far in every bracket entry submitted.

Virginia Tech Hokies 

Before the ACC tournament, The Virginia Tech Hokies’ ticket to the tournament was not secure after finishing the regular season 23-12 record (11-9 ACC). Entering as the seven seed a big run in the conference tournament would’ve kept the Hokies dancing in march, and they did just that.

In the first round, the Hokies took down the Clemson Tigers 76-75 from a buzzer-beater by guard Darius Maddox as time expired on the clock. They defeated Notre Dame, 87-80, and North Carolina, 72-59, to reserve their spot in the ACC championship game. In a classic David and Goliath matchup, the Hokies faced the Duke Blue Devils and stunned the basketball world by dominating them 82-67 to take home the school’s first ACC championship.

Junior guard Hunter Cattoor led the Hokies in scoring, finishing with 31 points, knocking down seven out of nine three-pointers. Virginia Tech will enter the NCAA tournament as an 11-seed and face the six-seeded Texas in the first round.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa came into the Big 10 tournament with a 26-9 regular-season record (12-8 Big 10), with most of their losses coming in the conference. In the first two rounds of the Big 10 tournament, they blew out Northwestern 112-76 and bested Rutgers 84-74. Their next round matchup against the Indiana Hoosiers was nail-biting finished as guard Jordan Bohannon sank a bank shot as time expired to give the Hawkeyes the 80-77 edge over the Hoosiers.

They matched up against the high-powered Purdue Boilermakers in the conference championship. Behind sophomore star Keegan Murray’s 19 points and 11 rebounds, Iowa took home the Big 10 title crown in a 75-66 victory. Iowa is entering the NCAA as a five seed and will play the University of Richmond in the first round.

With three Iowa players averaging double-digits in Keegan Murray, Jordan Bohannon, and Patrick McCaffery, the Hawkeyes can be a real threat this year.

Murray State Racers

After an impressive tournament run back in 2019 led by Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant the Murray State Racers looks to put the country on notice once again. Entering this year with an impressive 30-2 record going undefeated in conference play (18-0 OVC), the Racers have won 18 straight games since losing to Auburn, 71-58, on Dec. 22.

They knocked out Morehead state 71-67 to capture the school’s 18th OVC conference championship. Junior guard Tevin Brown scored 23 points and six rebounds to help the Racers continue dancing into the NCAA men’s championship tournament. Brown, who played along with Morant as a freshman back in 2019, has been the teams’ anchor averaging 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists while shooting 44 percent from the floor.

The Racers will be a seven-seed in the tournament and match up with San Francisco in the first round. If you are a fan of Cinderella teams, Murray State is the perfect team to bet on.