2014-15 Season Preview: Stanford, Minnesota and Three Final Four sleepers

Photo: goldandgopher.com

The days of all four No. 1 seeds making the 2008 Final Four seem so distant just six years later. So often now, at least one team comes out of nowhere in March to make a run to the Final Four. Those sleepers are part of what makes college basketball so great.

What exactly defines a sleeper? For the sake of this post, we’ll say a sleeper is anyone who is not ranked in the preseason Top 25.

Here is a look at my sleepers for the 2014-15 season in no particular order:

Stanford

The Cardinal lost some key pieces from last year’s Sweet 16 team, but they still have a roster that could make a deep tournament run. Senior Chasson Randle is one of the Pac-12’s best guards and senior wing Anthony Brown is extremely underrated. Brown averaged 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds last season while shooting 45.3% from 3-point range.

Stanford also returns 6-foot-11 center Stefan Nastic and gets 6-foot-9 forward Rosco Allen back. Allen missed almost the entire 2013-14 season with a leg injury.

The Cardinal also add a pair of impact freshman in guard Robert Cartwright and forward Reid Travis.

Minnesota

Minnesota is coming off a NIT title and has three of its top four players returning. The Golden Gophers have a dangerous scorer in senior Andre Hollins and a pesky point guard in Deandre Mathieu.

Senior Maurice Walker is a bruising forward, and senior center Elliott Eliason is arguably the Big Ten’s best rebounders. 6-foot-9 junior forward Joey King can stretch a defense with his outside-shooting ability.

Mathieu made a huge impact last season as a junior college transfer, and coach Richard Pitino has a another JUCO newcomer who could do the same. Carlos Morris averaged 14.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists at Chipola College.

Kansas State

While Andrew Wiggins was getting all the (well-deserved) attention in Lawrence, Marcus Foster was putting on a show of his own in Manhattan as a freshman. Foster avergaed 15.5 points and shot 39.2% from beyond the arc. With him leading the way as a sophomore, Kansas State can have great success.

The Wildcats lost Shane Southwell and Will Spradling from last year’s team seeded No. 9 in the NCAA Tournament, but it returns everyone else of importance. 

Senior Thomas Gipson is undersized at 6-foot-7, but he remains a very effective forward. Kansas State has two other solid but small forwards in sophomore Wesley Iwundu and senior Nino Williams. The Wildcats will need 6-foot-9 junior D.J. Johnson to step up to give the team some size on the front line.

In terms of newcomers, transfers Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt along with freshman Malek Harris should make immediate impacts.

Georgetown

Georgetown should return to the NCAA Tournament after it last season. The Hoyas have an outstanding guard in junior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and another solid one in senior Jabril Trawick. Smith-Rivera will be in the Big East Player of the Year running from day one.

Joshua Smith has some major shortcomings on defense, but he and Mikael Hopkins still form a solid frontcourt.

John Thompson III also brings in a loaded freshman class, led by forwards Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak and Paul White.

Arkansas

This should be the year coach Mike Anderson finally breaks through to the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks won 22 games last season and made the NIT, and now they return six of their top seven players.

Leading the way is sophomore Bobby Portis, one of the SEC’s best NBA prospects on a team not named Kentucky. Portis averaged 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds last season while shooting upwards of 50% from the field. Moses Kingsley played fewer minutes as a freshman, but he also put up solid numbers considering his playing time.

Guards Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls are a pair of great scorers with perimeter range. Madden is coming off a breakout junior season, and his production should only improve.

The Hogs add a pair of talented in point guards in junior college transfer Jabril Durham and freshman Anton Beard.

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