As the college basketball season goes on, we are finding out more and more about teams that could end up being stories in the NCAA Tournament. Cinderella teams are teams that are commonly unexplored before March, but in order to be ahead of the curve, they most be studied now.
Cinderella Teams- Part One
A lot of people know about the Hawks from last year’s team. The bench had crazy celebrations and the team pulled off some good upsets. Unfortunately, they fell short of the NCAA Tournament and settled for the NIT. The Hawks are back this season and if they can make the tournament, can win.
They may not have the quality wins that they had last season, but the Hawks are 16-2 in conference and have a big win on the road against Memphis. The Tigers aren’t a great team, but it is a solid win for a MAAC team nonetheless. The Hawks are ranked 46 in RPI.
Monmouth is led by one of the best guards in the country Justin Robinson. Robinson averages 19.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. He is one of the most effective players in transition, which has fueled an offense that averages 81.1 points per game. With lanky guard Micah Seaborn and sharpshooter Je’lon Hornbeak, the Hawks have a lot of scoring punch from their guards.
Inside scoring is a bit of a problem for Monmouth, but with the guards firing on all cylinders, that isn’t too much to worry about. They are a great rebounding team, averaging 39.5 rebounds per game, which should help them do battle with good teams in the NCAA tournament.
Defense is the main issue with the Hawks, as they give up 73.5 points per game, meaning they will have to outscore their opponent(s) in March, rather than shut them down.
Illinois State Redbirds
Most of the time when people hear the conference Missouri Valley, they think of Wichita State, but Illinois State is having a great season.
The Redbirds are 23-5 with an RPI of 33. At 15-1 in conference, they are on pace to share the MVC regular season title with the Shockers. Illinois State and Wichita State have split their two meetings, each winning at home. Right now the Redbirds are on the bubble, so they need to make the tournament first, but could be dangerous if they get in.
Illinois State has three players averaging over 10 points per game. Forwards Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh both have inside-out games. Guard Paris Lee scores and sets up his teammates well with 5.2 assists per game. He also shoots well, hitting 42% of his three point field goals.
Those players will need to have big games in the NCAA Tournament scoring wise. If those players are able to score for the Redbirds, the defense will be able to hold up. Illinois State boasts the 10th best defense in terms of points allowed per game in the country at 61.9.
UT Arlington Mavericks
UT Arlington is a team that has already had an impressive season and looks to continue that into March.
The Mavericks have a great win over St. Mary’s, which improves their resume tremendously. The win was on the road, making it even more impressive. They have a record of 21-6 with an RPI of 34. Their conference record is 11-3 and they are in the driver’s seat to win the Sun Belt.
Kevin Hervey is the Maverick’s leading scorer and is a double-double threat every time he steps on the court. He is averaging 17.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Two guards, Jalen Jones and Erick Neal, also help provide a scoring punch.
While the Mavericks don’t have anything they do extremely well, they are pretty good at offense, defense and rebounding. Their biggest competitive advantage is Hervey and he is going to have to be a star in order for UT Arlington to advance in the NCAA Tournament.