5 Cinderella NCAA Basketball Teams That Could Make A Serious Run
Possible March Madness Cinderella Teams
When I outlined five reasons the the Clemson Tigers would make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (who then lost to the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday, possibly bursting their bubble), I wrote that March Madness is my favorite time of year. That is 100 percent true, and no other time of year is even close. The tournament is unpredictable (except that no No. 1 seed has ever lost to a 16), non-stop basketball that first weekend, and if you are in a pool, you have a rooting interest in every single game. I know you can drive yourself crazy filling out your bracket(s) for whatever pool(s) you are in and hoping your bracket is not busted by the end of the first weekend, but that is part of the fun.
Once the bracket is released on Selection Sunday (March 16 this year) I drive myself utterly — well — mad trying to figure out if I should have the overall No. 1 seed win it all (I usually don’t because odds are, roughly half of the people in the pool have that team as their champion), what teams I should have in my final four, what favorite will lose earlier than expected, and what Cinderella(s) will crash the dance.
I know picking a champion is about who is playing well right at the end of the regular season and in their respective conference tournament, but it is also about matchups, which is why I normally do not choose who I think will win it all before I have a chance to look at the entire bracket. But since Selection Sunday is approximately a month away, let’s have some fun and talk about five teams that have a chance to put on that glass slipper and be a cinderella that makes a deep run in this year’s tournament.
Justin Patrick is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @calling_allfans, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.
5. Manhattan Jaspers
The Manhattan Jaspers are 12-4 in the MAAC (second place, behind Iona) and 19-6 overall. They will rely heavily on George Beamon (he leads the team in points and rebounds) and Rhamel Brown (four blocks per game). Manhattan gets to the free throw line a lot (he lead the nation in attempts and made free throws), which is great during the tourney, but they also commit a lot of fouls.
While I wouldn’t pencil them in for the Elite Eight, the Jaspers play tough basketball, which could make them a tough out if they get the right draw come March.
4. Belmont Bruins
The Belmont Bruins are leading the East Division of the Ohio Valley Conference with a 20-8 record (11-2 in conference play). I know the North Carolina Tar Heels are having a down year, but it is still impressive when a team goes into Chapel Hill and beats the Heels, which is what the Bruins did on Nov. 17.
The Bruins have two guys who can absolutely kill it from behind the arc in Drew Windler and Craig Bradshaw. Windler is a 6-foot-9 forward who is shooting better than 50 percent from long range. Windler will be a matchup nightmare come March; I’m glad I don’t have to game plan for him.
In his bracketology, Joe Lunardi has Belmont as the 14 seed in the West, and while the Bruins are certainly capable of going on a run, due to their inconsistency and the fact they have never won a NCAA Tournament game, I can only put them at four.
3. North Dakota State Bison
The North Dakota State Bison are leading the Summit League with a 9-2 record and are 20-6 overall. Senior guard Taylor Braun is averaging 18.6 points and 4.0 assists per game. The Bison are ranked fourth in the latest College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 Poll released on Monday, and have now spent 10 weeks in the top 10 this season.
North Dakota State could prove to be a formidable opponent come March.
2. Toledo Rockets
The Toledo Rockets are leading the West division of the Mid-American Conference. Toledo began the season 12-0 before losing to Kansas by 10 on the road, and they are now 21-4 overall and 9-3 in conference play.
I know Toledo’s schedule has been somewhat easy, so everyone is overlooking them, but they can put up points. The Rockets have a senior guard, Rian Pearson, who can shoot from behind the arc and is an all-around player.
If the Rockets get the right matchup, (currently the 12th seed in the West in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology), they could make some noise in March.
1. Green Bay Phoenix
The Green Bay Phoenix are leading the Horizon League with an 11-2 in conference record and they have an overall record of 21-5.
Green Bay beat the Wisconsin Badgers and Virginia earlier this season, but then lost to Eastern Michigan. That being said, there is no doubt that Green Bay is a talented team.
Let’s start with the 7-foot-1 Alec Brown. Brown is averaging 3.6 blocks, 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and is shooting 43.2 percent from behind the arc. How is that possible? A 7-foot-1 guy shooting 43.2 percent from three-point range? Are you kidding me? Then there’s 5-foot-11 Keifer Sykes, who is Green Bay’s leading scorer. Sykes is only making 27.5 percent of this three-pointers, but he is scoring 19.5 points per game and also averaging five assists a game.
The Phoenix will be a tough out and if they get a favorable draw on Selection Sunday, they could be headed for a deep run.