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.
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.
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
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.