College Basketball: Top 10 Teams That Could Be This Year's Cinderella

Ross Bentley@@imrossbentleySenior Analyst IFebruary 19, 2012

College Basketball: Top 10 Teams That Could Be This Year's Cinderella

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    Every season, come NCAA Tournament time, everyone goes in search of which team will be this years Cinderella.   Last year, their were two VCU and Butler who each went from mid-major conferences all the way to the Final Four.

    While Mid-Major teams making the final four may be a rarity, there is always at least one team who pulls off multiple upsets and finds themselves in the Sweet 16. If you can predict them right in your bracket pool, you could be the recipient of a large amount of extra cash. 

    With this article, I'll try and help you out. Here are my top-ten mid-major teams most likely to be this year's Cinderella.

10. Oral Roberts- Summit League

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    The Golden Eagles at Oral Roberts have put up a 16-1 record in the Summit league and a 25-5 record overall with their only loss in the league coming to another potential Bracket Buster, South Dakota State.

    ORU is 12th in the nation in field goal percentage shooting at nearly 50 percent and if they get hot, they are capable of going on a run come tournament time.  Their senior leader Dominique Morrison is capable of taking over games at any given time. Major conference teams definitely do not want to see Oral Roberts as their first round matchup, if the Golden Eagles can take care of business in the Summit league tournament.

9. Drexel- CAA

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    Really there are three teams in the Colonial league that have cinderella capabilities this season. George Mason and VCU have both made final fours in the past six years and they have great squads again this season. It is the Dragons of Drexel though that may have the best chance if they can sneak their way in. 

    Drexel has now won 15 straight games, and unlike many other teams on this list, they rely on their defense to win games. That is what makes them so dangerous. While other teams may lose a game when they have an off shooting night, Drexel knows if they play the defense they are used to, they have a real chance to beat anybody they play.

8. Weber State- Big Sky

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    Weber State scores at nearly 80 points a game, putting them in the top 15 of the country. The Wildcats have put up a great record of 22-4 on the season including 13-1 in the Big Sky conference.

    The reason why they average so many points is because they have the leading scorer in all of Division I on their squad, Damian Lillard.  Lillard is a future pro who is dropping 25 points a game right now for Weber State. He has the capability of going on a crazy Stephen Curry-esque run in the NCAA Tournament if Weber State gets the right matchups. 

7. Belmont- Atlantic Sun

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    After they played Memphis and Duke tough at the beginning of the season, many people seemed to have forgotten about how good Belmont really is.

    Sure, they have lost their fare share of games including some questionable losses to Miami-Ohio and Lipscomb, but if Belmont can win the Atlantic Sun tournament, they will be a nightmare first round matchup for some top five seed.

    Belmont is third in the nation in points per game, fifth in assists, and 19th in field goal percentage. They have the capability of shooting the lights out, and if they get hot at the right time, watch out for Belmont.

6. Iona- MAAC

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    Another team that can absolutely light it up is the Gaels of Iona out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.  

    Iona ranks second in points per game and first in assists. Michael Glover and LaMont Jones can light it up and they have an opportunity to be explosive if they play a team in the tournament that does not play great defense. Iona has lost three games in the MAAC this season, showing they have their flaws, but if they can capture the tournament title, keep an eye on them in your brackets.

5. Harvard- Ivy League

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    Harvard has been making a name for themselves under former Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker. The Crimson have been in the top 25 for much of the season and made a name for themselves with an upset win over Florida State in the Bahamas earlier in the season.

    Harvard plays incredible defense. They have allowed 70 points only twice this season and have held teams under 50 eleven times this year. 

    The great news for Harvard is that you will almost assuredly be seeing them in the Big Dance.  Harvard does not need to win a conference Tournament to get in to the Big Dance because the Ivy League instead opts to take its regular season champion. Harvard currently has a game and a half lead over Penn.

4. St. Mary's- WCC

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    Whether the West Coast Conference is really a mid-major with teams like St. Mary's, Gonzaga, and BYU in it is another conversation for another day. If they are, St. Mary's is certainly one of the best mid-major teams in the nation.

    Although they lost today against Murray State who you will see later, St. Mary's is currently ranked in the top 15 in the polls and sport a 25-5 record. 

    Although they have lost three of their last four, St. Mary's will likely get in whether they win the WCC Tournament or not, and are in line for a relatively high seed. 

    The Gaels are a great three point shooting team and have plenty of weapons capable of carrying their team to multiple tournament victories.

3. Wichita State-MVC

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    Every year it seems, the MVC produces at least one or two teams who have real potential to be cinderella's in this years tournament.

    This year is no different as both Creighton and Wichita State sport great teams. The Shockers are the defending NIT Champions and have a 24-4 record this season.

    Wichita has lost only one game (in triple overtime) in 2012, and have already beaten Colorado, UNLV, and Creighton this year. Wichita State knows how to defend and are extremely well coached, don't be surprised if they knock off several teams that have a higher seed than them in the NCAA Tournament.

2. Murray State- OVC

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    Murray State has been the talk of the Mid-Major scene this year as they went the longest of any team in all of division one before losing a game.

    To this point, Murray State has only lost the one game and impressively blew out St. Mary's earlier today. The Racers have seen their ranking creep as high as seven this year, and they deserve it.

    Murray State has shown great explosiveness on offense, led by Isaiah Canaan as well as the ability to get the job done on defense.

    It remains to be seen how much the committee will respect them seed wise, but whoever they play will have all they can handle against the Racers.

1. Long Beach State- Big West

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    While, Murray State, St. Mary's and Harvard may have been getting the attention this year, I believe it is the Long Beach State 49ers who are the most likely Cinderella team this year.

    Long Beach State has not lost a game in the Big West this season and have already beaten Pittsburgh and Xavier. Although they have seven losses, they have challenged themselves this season.  They lost a tough road game yesterday at Creighton but still showed heart before falling by two on the road. They have also played Kansas State, North Carolina, Louisville, and San Diego State tough in the non-conference.

    Often times, the Cinderella team is the one who doesn't necessarily have the best record or seed, but the one who is most prepared for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament, and the 49ers have that more than any other team on this list. 

    That experience along with their unselfish team play, and the leadership of Casper Ware, adds up to a successful tournament team this March.