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Surprise Teams in College Basketball Predictions: Virginia, TCU, and Beyond

Rewritten Content:

Predicting the men’s college basketball season has become increasingly difficult due to player movement in the transfer portal era. However, this unpredictability makes the sport more enjoyable. Unlike football, where the same teams often compete for the national title, basketball gives us surprises like Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, and Miami making it to the Final Four.

While traditional powerhouse teams are always expected to perform well, there are always teams that sneak up on us despite not being ranked in preseason polls. Last year, teams like Purdue, Marquette, and Xavier proved their worth despite not receiving any preseason recognition.

As we begin our preseason predictions, our panel of 12 voters was challenged to identify this season’s surprise team. We defined “surprise” as a team that is not ranked in either major poll or in KenPom’s preseason Top 25. It’s not about how a team starts the season but rather how they finish.

Here are the teams that our voters believe will exceed expectations:

TCU:
The Horned Frogs have the second-highest scoring percentage in the Big 12 and have added a strong group of transfers to their roster. Players like Jameer Nelson Jr., Ernest Udeh Jr., Avery Anderson III, Trevian Tennyson, and Essam Mostafa will contribute to TCU’s success. The team boasts depth and a strong backcourt, which will help them win close conference games.

New Mexico:
New Mexico has a winning combination of elite backcourt play, great 3-point shooting, and experience. Returning guards Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House, along with transfers Nelly Junior Joseph, Jemarl Baker, and Mustapha Amzil, will lead the team. New Mexico’s success will depend on their defensive improvement, particularly in protecting the rim.

St. John’s:
With the addition of coach Rick Pitino, St. John’s is poised for success. Pitino has a proven track record of taking teams to the NCAA Tournament and is considered one of the best coaches in the game. The roster has been overhauled, and Pitino’s expertise will maximize the talent of the new players. While it is uncertain how all the pieces will fit together, Pitino’s coaching ability gives the team a competitive edge.

Virginia:
The ACC is in a state of flux, creating opportunities for teams to win games and gain recognition in the polls. Virginia, despite having some uncertainties, has a strong team that suits coach Tony Bennett’s style of play. The team has defensive standouts and, if they can return to their previous defensive prowess, they could surprise many. Additionally, their schedule is relatively manageable, allowing them to accumulate more wins.

Iowa State:
Under the guidance of coach T.J. Otzelberger, Iowa State has experienced a revitalization. The team went from winless in Big 12 play to making it to the Sweet 16 in Otzelberger’s first season. They followed it up with another NCAA Tournament appearance last year. With this early success, Iowa State has the potential to continue surprising the college basketball world.

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