2022 March Madness: 5 Best Sleeper Picks Ahead of Conference Championships

2022 NCAAB sleepers conference champs

March Madness fever is slowly rising, as the 2021-22 NCAA men’s basketball season approaches the Conference Championships across the nation as well as Selection Sunday to determine which teams will make this year’s national tournament. However, there are already some programs that are virtual locks for the tournament but are not getting enough recognition compared to proven powerhouses such as Gonzaga and Kentucky.

Read on for our selection of the five best sleeper picks to win the NCAA men’s basketball national title ahead of Championship Week. And for even more college basketball coverage and the latest happenings from across the entire sporting world, head on over to Nitrogen Sports Blog after this.

Ohio State Buckeyes

As one of five ranked teams in the Big 12, the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the often-overlooked programs from this group. The Buckeyes have a decent 7-4 over their last 11 games, but each of those four losses came against four of their five conference rivals still vying for the Big 12 title.

Perhaps Ohio State’s losses to evenly-matched opponents are what’s limiting the team’s ceiling. Nevertheless, E.J. Liddell (19.5 PPG) is still a star in the making and has a bone to pick after last year’s first-round upset to Oral Roberts. OSU made the Final Four in 2012 and the Elite Eight the year after, which proves that the Buckeyes have a competent basketball program outside of their well-known supremacy on the football field.

Michigan State Spartans

Another Big 12 team that is seeking vengeance from an early exit in last year’s national tournament is Michigan State, as Tom Izzo and the boys from East Lansing also fell in overtime to UCLA to share a similar fate as the Buckeyes.

The Spartans have a better track record at The Big Dance compared to rival Ohio State with two Final Four appearances and one Elite Eight since 2015. Unfortunately, they’ve been in quite a slump as a three-game losing streak and losses in five of their last six games pretty much put them out of conference title contention. Then again, Izzo is a great motivator during the big tournament and we wouldn’t count MSU out when the real games begin in March.

USC Trojans

All the attention over in the Pac-12 is aimed towards the 24-2 Arizona Wildcats, who are currently on an eight-game tear. However, the USC Trojans are on quite a run of their own, winning four consecutive contests, including a huge victory over No. 12 UCLA.

The Trojans are coming off an Elite Eight appearance in 2021, with junior forward Isaiah Mobley still leading the way. Mobley leads his team in scoring with averages of 14.4 points and 3.4 assists per game while shooting an efficient 45.4 percent from the field. USC has rematches against the Wildcats and the Bruins to close out the season, which will be telling as to how the team will ultimately fair in The Big Dance.

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Wisconsin Badgers

Further proving that the Big 12 is the hotbed for dark horses in this year’s national tournament, the conference-leading Wisconsin Badgers have a spectacular combined 13-4 record in Quad 1 and Quad 2 matchups. A three-game win streak has Wisconsin keeping up with Purdue for the top spot in the conference standings as well, setting up their showdown against the Boilermakers on March 2 as a pivotal moment of the season.

Second-year guard Johnny Davis has assumed the leadership role with glowing praises, as he’s averaging 20.9 points on a cool 45 percent shooting clip. The Badgers have not made it back to the Final Four since coming up one win short of winning the national title in 2015, but head coach Greg Gard still has a solid core this season that could go all the way once more. 

Marquette Golden Eagles (+7,500)

Sunday’s one-point loss to the surging Creighton Bluejays is now the Marquette Golden Eagles’ third loss over their last four games. And yet, experts are still high on this other Wisconsin-based program from the Big East to turn things around and make it to the national tournament.

The Golden Eagles have the easiest remaining schedule amongst their conference rivals with their final three games going up against teams in the bottom half of the conference standings. Marquette made three straight Sweet 16 appearances between 2011 to 2013 and will be tough outs come the team’s first appearance at The Big Dance since 2019.

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Check out our sports betting guide after this to give your bet-handling skills a nice assist before slamming down your winning wagers throughout the 2021-22 NCAA men’s basketball season.

*All stated odds are subject to change without prior notice.

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