Cinderella teams to watch for in March Madness

The NCAA Tournament is less than two months away and the excitement around college basketball is starting to build. It won’t be long before the nation starts filling out their brackets. In order to win a bracket challenge, it will likely take knowing what teams can pull off some upsets. Here are the Cinderella teams to watch for in March Madness:

Boise State Broncos

Boise State is the only team on this list that could get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. They play in a Mountain West Conference which features Nevada, who are the favorites. If they are unable to win the conference, the Broncos are still off to a great start at 17-4, which has them on the bubble for the big dance.

While they haven’t beaten any teams in the RPI top 50, Boise State has beaten two teams in the top 100: Loyola (Ill) and Oregon. They have no bad losses and are within a few possessions of only having one or two losses. To along with this theme, they have no home losses on the season, only having dropped road and neutral site games.

Their competitive advantage lies in Chandler Hutchison. The 6’7″ wing player has been one of the best players not to be known by too many fans. This season he averages 19.9 points per game and is a matchup nightmare. With 3.4 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game, Hutchison can do it all.

If Boise State makes the NCAA Tournament and Hutchison can get some good support from his teammates, the Broncos can win a few games.

Vermont Catamounts

Cinderella teams in March Madness

Trae Bell-Haynes (Photo by blacktoptv.com)

The Catamounts have made a postseason tournament every year since 2008 and are always competitive in the America East Conference. They look primed for their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Vermont sits at 17-5 on the season and look like they can win the AEC once again.

This season, they too don’t have any wins against the RPI top 50, but have competed well. They lost notable games at Kentucky by four and at Marquette by 10. Their best win this season was over Bradley, who resides in the RPI top 100. They also don’t have a loss at home, losing four on the road and one at a neutral site.

Vermont has been without their best player, Anthony Lamb since the end of December with a foot fracture. The Catamounts are undefeated without him in their last nine games. If he can get back healthy, the team is dangerous. Hopefully with the 6’6″ forward back in the lineup, Vermont can improve on their 323rd ranking in rebounds per game.

With Lamb and Trae Bell-Haynes the Catamounts can compete with most teams in the country.

Buffalo Bulls

Ever since Bobby Hurley arrived on campus the Bulls have been competitive. Even without Hurley anymore Buffalo continues to succeed. They have made the last two NCAA Tournaments, playing tight games with both West Virginia and Miami. This could be the year that the Bulls break through.

Buffalo is 29th in RPI at the moment. While they haven’t beaten any RPI top 50 teams all five of their losses have come to teams in the RPI top 100. Those losses include games to: Cincinnati, Syracuse, St. Bonaventure, Texas A&M and South Dakota State. Their one RPI top 100 win came over Toledo.

They have four guys who can score and average over 13 points per game, which makes them hard to guard. Junior guard C.J. Massinburg averages 18.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He can play with anyone in the country, scoring 29 on Cincinnati and 20 on Texas A&M.

If Massinburg gets hot and gets a little help from his other talented teammates, Buffalo might just surprise people.

Middle Tennesse Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee is another team that is used to playing in March with two straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. They have gotten past the first round in both years, but can’t get out of the opening weekend of the tournament. This season they have gotten off to a great start at 14-5.

The Blue Raiders also have a very good RPI at 25. They got a big RPI top 50 win over Western Kentucky and a solid RPI top 100 win over Ole Miss. Middle Tennessee has no losses outside the RPI top 100 and all of their losses have come in close games.

Two players have led this team to success. Nick King started his career at Memphis, transferred to Alabama and has finally made his way to Middle Tennessee. He averages 21.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Giddy Potts has been around for the last two NCAA Tournament runs and has 13.4 points per game.

When King and Potts both start to heat up, the Blue Raiders will be hard to beat.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Cinderella teams in March Madness

Mike Daum (Photo by cbssports.com)

The Jackrabbits are another team that won’t be fazed playing on the big stage due to their two tournament appearances the last two seasons. At 17-6 this year, the Jackrabbits could very well make their third straight NCAA Tournament and win a game.

South Dakota State have two solid wins over Buffalo (RPI top 50) and Ole Miss (RPI top 100). They only have one bad loss, which came at the hands of their rivals South Dakota. Other than that bad loss, they have losses to Kansas, Missouri State, Wyoming, Colorado and Wichita State.

If there is one thing the Jackrabbits can do, it is score. They rank 10th in the country at 86.2 points per game. Against Wichita State they scored 85 points, while against Colorado they dropped 103 points. Junior forward Mike Daum is the team leader with 22.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Daum is a big reason the Jackrabbits have made the last two NCAA Tournaments and could be the player that gets them a win or two in this year’s tournament.

 

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NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Tournament Time: Who You Should Cheer For

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.

I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.

The underdog: Middle Tennessee State

The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.

Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.

Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Root For

Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)

Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.

He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.

Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.

Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.

After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.

Keep an eye on notre dame

The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.

The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)

If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.

Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.

The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.

The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.

Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting

All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.

However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.

Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.

The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.

Iowa state could go far in the midwest

Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.

They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)

The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.

After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.

When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cinderella Teams who can Win in the 2017 NCAA Tournament Part One

Every year there are teams that not many people know of who end up busting NCAA Tournament Brackets. Last year, a 15th seeded Middle Tennessee beat a 2nd seeded Michigan State team. The other unheralded teams who won in last season’s NCAA tournament were: Yale, Stephen F. Austin and Hawaii.

There was in no doubt more upsets than that, but those teams were the ones from smaller conferences, who were able to really surprise people. This season there will, in no doubt, be more upsets from teams that people haven’t heard much about. If you wan’t a head-start on preparing for your bracket pool, start following these teams:

UNC Wilmington Seahawks

The Seahawks made an impressive showing in last season’s NCAA Tournament when, as a 13th seed, they stuck with 4th seeded Duke for the majority of their first round match-up. The good news for UNC Wilmington is that they returned a lot of the key players from that game.

Cinderella Teams

Chris Flemmings (Photo courtesy: uncwsports.com)

This season, the Seahawks are a quiet 19-2 so far. While they haven’t played the toughest schedule they are 19th in RPI. Their two losses both came to respectable teams, Clemson and  Middle Tennessee. UNC Wilmington’s main strength is their ability to score. They are 11th in the country in points per game, averaging 86.3 points per game.

Chris Flemmings is the star for the Seahawks and averages 15.9 points per game. His size, at 6’5″ tall, and ball handling skills, make it easy for him to create his own shot. C.J. Bryce does a little bit of everything for UNCW at guard with 17.1 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game. Bryce struggles shooting from deep, but he and Flemmings team up well together. In last season’s game against Duke, the two combined for 34 points.

The two downfalls of the Seahawks will be their lack of size and defense. Their tallest starter is 6’7″ tall. If they get matched-up with a team that has good inside play, they will have a lot to overcome. With their lack of size, they will likely have trouble defending bigger players. For the Seahawks, they need to hope to outscore their opponent as they have all season long.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

The Blue Raiders were able to pull of one of the most memorable upsets in recent NCAA Tournament history when they defeated Michigan State. Like UNCW, Middle Tennessee also returns a lot of players from last season’s team.

Cinderella teams

JaCorey Williams (Photo courtesy: beinsports.com)

Middle Tennessee has a record of 17-3 and ranks 31st in RPI. They have a lot of solid wins on the season, including: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, UNCW and Belmont. Their defense is the reason that they are so good. They allow just 64.4 points per game, which is 32nd best in the country. The defense holds up against good competition, as they held Vanderbilt (48), Ole Miss (62), UNCW (63) and Belmont (66), to a limited amount of points.

Three players do the vast majority of the scoring for the Blue Raiders. JaCorey Williams, the transfer from Arkansas, averages 17.8 points per game that mostly come on the interior. Also scoring on the inside is Reggie Upshaw, who averages 14.9 points per game. Giddy Potts, the only guard of the trio, averages 15.2 points per game. With these three players producing, they only need minimal help from their teammates.

The defense is so good because they have the necessary size to defend, something not all mid-major teams have. With Williams and Upshaw both standing at 6’8″ tall, they can match-up with most teams in the country. In order for teams to beat the Blue Raiders they will need to shut down one or two of the big three players in their scoring trio.

Valparaiso Crusaders

The Crusaders weren’t in the tournament last season and have a new head coach, making their good play this season unique. Matt Lottich has Valparaiso as a team to beat in the Horizon League this season.

Cinderella Teams

Alec Peters (Photo courtesy: USA Today)

Valparaiso is 16-4 on the season and ranked 48th in RPI. This might not be the greatest of the teams on this list, but they do have impressive wins. They have beaten Alabama, BYU and Rhode Island. Two of their four losses came to great teams in Oregon and Kentucky. The Crusaders are decent at scoring and defense, but what really sets them over the edge is their rebounding. They average 40 rebound a game, which is 23rd best in the country.

There are two major players to watch out for on the Crusaders. Alec Peters is a 6’9″ post player that averages 24.2 points per game and 10.9 rebounds. He can also stretch the floor a little bit, shooting 33% from behind the arc. Shane Hammick is a big guard, at 6’7″ tall, from the Netherlands. He averages 15.3 points per game on 50% shooting. With these two players rolling Valpo is hard for any team to stop.

To beat Valparaiso come tournament time, teams will need to have good athleticism and speed to push the ball up the court and score, as the Crusaders won’t be able to keep up.

 

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