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Picturing the NCAA tournament right now is hard, it’s October 27th and March Madness is a long time from now. Even now it is easy to see that some teams that didn’t make it last year have a good shot to be playing in March. Whether it is because of returning guys, or new freshman coming in, these teams have an opportunity to break into the field of 68. Cover The Spread 365 breaks down the teams with the most potential to make it to the big dance!

These ten teams are only from conferences that have at-large bids. Each team will have different reasons for returning to the promise land, of having a shot at a National Championship. A team’s schedule will play a key role because lets be honest, the conversation about if a team should make the tournament always gets to the question “Who did they play?” For this list of ten teams, they are hoping their schedule along with the guys they have will return them to the NCAA tournament after missing it last year, or even longer. If you want to look at six sleeper teams that may go the distance this year to the final four, we covered that as well! At CTS3t65 we want to make sure you are ready for tip-off this year, sadly ESPN is not doing their 24 hour marathon this year.


Alabama Crimson Tide: 

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2012

Key Non-conference Opponents: Minnesota (Nov. 25th), UCF (Dec. 3rd), Rhode Island (Dec. 6th), Arizona (Dec. 9th), Texas (Dec. 22nd), and Oklahoma (Jan. 27th)

When you look at what Alabama was able to do last year, they have high expectations heading into this season. Avery Johnson did a fantastic job recruiting and could have the best freshman point guard in the country in Collin Sexton. Sexton lit it up in the McDonalds All-American game and will seek to add on to that performance with a stellar freshman campaign.

The Crimson Tide will not be a “one trick pony,” and just hope Sexton can take them to the tournament. Along with Sexton is another freshman that will play a big time role in this offense, John Petty. Alabama finished over .500 in the SEC last season and a big reason for that was Braxton Key. Well, Key is back this season and so is another now sophomore Dazon Ingram. With those two key returners, plus the additions of Sexton and Petty the offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch.


Connecticut Huskies:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2016

                            Key Non-conference Opponents: Oregon (Nov. 23rd), Michigan State/DePaul (Nov. 24th), Arizona (Dec. 21st), Auburn (Dec. 23rd), and Villanova (Jan. 20th)

Connecticut has had their best years when no one was expecting them too. The Huskies struggled with the injury bug last season and it isn’t crazy to think without some of those injuries that they would have been in the tournament last year. Kevin Ollie is hoping that his team can stay away from the injuries and rebound from last year.

Every great UConn team has had a great leader like Kemba Walker hitting huge shots for the Huskies in their last title run. Jalen Adams might be that next guy who can put the team on his back. Alterique Gilbert and Teryy Larrier both missed most of last season, but will be healthy for the start of 2017. Gilbert and Adams will produce a very good backcourt for UConn and Larrier could possibly make a huge jump from his 13.5 points he averaged last season. If these three guys are healthy and continue to develop then you will see Connecticut in the tournament this season.


Missouri Tigers:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2013

Key Non-conference Opponents: Iowa State (Nov. 10th), Utah (Nov. 16th), UCF (Nov. 30th), and Illinois (Dec. 23rd).

The story for this Tigers’ team is their star freshman Michael Porter Jr. Porter, the number one recruit for this high school class, switched his commitment from Washington to Missouri when his father joined the coaching staff. There is no question that Porter will be a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA draft. The question is, will he preform well enough at Missouri to become the latest one-and-done first overall pick. Along with Porter; Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon, and Terrance Phillips and the names you will get to know.

Missouri has quickly become a team that everyone is talking about. When you get the number one recruit in the country, people are going to talk about it. With a tough out of conference schedule and the expectations of this team, they will be in the NCAA tournament this season.


Oklahoma Sooners:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2016

Key Non-conference Opponents: Southern Cal (Dec. 8th), Wichita State (Dec. 16th), Northwestern (Dec. 22nd), and Alabama (Jan 27th.)

The last time we saw the Sooners in the big dance, we saw Buddy Hield carry them to a Final Four appearance. To go from the Final Four one year to not even making the tournament the next year is tough. But expect Oklahoma to bounce back with another great shooting guard. Trae Young is a freshman that will make a huge impact for this Sooners team.

Oklahoma should finish in the top five for the Big-12 conference. With a young team and two tough out of conference games, Wichita State and Alabama, it should be a good test for these guys. The Sooners should bounce back from last season and expect to see them back in the tournament.


Saint Bonaventure Bonnies:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2012

                                       Key Non-conference Opponents: Maryland (Nov. 24th), Yale (Dec. 9th), Vermont (Dec. 16th), and Syracuse (Dec. 22nd).

Saint Bonaventure is a team that many people don’t know about. They have two guys in their backcourt that could be stars in the Atlantic-10 conference. Jaylen Adams is a preseason POY candidate and Matt Mobley who is a first-team honoree for the preseason. These two guys will be tough for other teams to guard and contain.

With the Atlantic 10 not being as deep as previous years, the Bonnies should be able to take advantage of it. The Bonnies should make an impact on the countries with their out of conference schedule. Many fans will be aware of the Saint Bonaventure Bonnies come March.


Stanford Cardinals:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2014

Key Non-conference Opponents: North Carolina (Nov. 20th), Florida (Nov. 23rd), and Kansas (Dec. 21st).

Stanford returns four out of five starters from a 14-17 teams last season. They don’t have a bunch of big name guys but veteran players should not be over looked. The biggest thing that needs to change for the Cardinals to be successful is their three-point shooting. Stanford shot 32.2 percent from three last season, and to be honest that is terrible.

The Pac-12 is a tough conference for basically every sport. Basketball is no different and this Stanford team is picked to finish 5th. That along with their non-conference schedule should give the Cardinals the resume it needs to reach the tournament.


TCU Horn Frogs:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 1998

Key Non-conference opponents: Belmont (Nov. 29th), Yale (Dec. 2), and SMU (Dec. 5th)

TCU has the longest NCAA tournament drought on this list. But they won the NIT last season. Even though a NIT championship is not what a team wants, it showed that they could win the big game. The Horn Frogs return basically everyone who had a major impact for them last season. Again, the veteran impact on a team should not be over looked, and this TCU has a ton of it.

TCU should do well in the Big-12. What will end up hurting the Horn Frogs are bad loses. Their out of conference schedule is not strong. They will need to make sure they are mentally ready for every single basketball game this season.


Texas Longhorns:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2016

Key Non-conference Opponents: Butler (Nov. 23rd), VCU (Dec. 5), Michigan (Dec. 12th), Alabama (Dec. 22nd)

The head coach of the Texas Longhorns, Shaka Smart had his worst season ever last year and Texas missed the tournament. You might remember Smart from those unbelievable runs with VCU a few years back. The Longhorns are looking to bounce back with the help from a returning Andrew Jones and a key addition of Mohamed Bamba. Bamba is a big man who could be a lottery pick in the 2018 draft. At Texas there are always high expectations for their sports teams, let’s hope that this Longhorns team can handle them.

Texas is not going to win the Big-12, they just aren’t. There are too many good teams in the Big-12 and Texas is just not on that level right now. Now to be clear, they should do alright in the conference and should have a good enough resume to make hear their name called on selection Sunday.


Texas A&M:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2016

Key Non-conference Opponents: West Virginia (Nov. 10th), Southern Cal (Nov. 26th), and Arizona (Dec. 5th).

Texas A&M finished last season with 16 wins. They are hoping for much more this season, and they should get it with the talent they have. Robert Williams is a name many people do not know right now, but just wait until SEC play starts up. When you pair him up with D.J. Hogg and Tyler Davis the Aggies could have something special.

If everything goes right for this team, meaning health and guys play up to their capabilities, then they is no way they don’t make the tournament. Expectations are not as high as some of the other teams on this list which will help A&M. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team didn’t just make the tournament, but also made a nice run to the Elite Eight or the Final Four.


UCF Knights:

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2005

Key Non-conference Opponents: Missouri (Nov. 30th) and Alabama (Dec. 3rd)

7-6, is a number that you will hear a lot when watching this UCF team play. That’s because Tacko Fall is a 7 foot 6 inch player for  the Knights. Fall has improved every single season he’s played so far. This year may be his coming out party and be considered as a draft worthy guy by NBA scouts. Fall is not the only guy that can hurt an opposing team, B.J. Taylor and A.J. Davis are guys that will impact a game. UCF will compete with Wichita State and Cincinnati in their conference.

It has been over 10 years since this UCF team has made the NCAA Tournament but they made the Final Four for the NIT last season. A much improved team from a few year ago, this Knights team could end up breaking their drought since the last time they made it.





Alex Peters
Alex Peters
Alex has emerged as the go-to fantasy sports writer. He is extremely knowledgeable about all of the major fantasy sports, is very likable, and has that self-deprecating sense of humor that's impossible to dislike.