March Madness: Who Will Be Wearing Cinderella's Slipper This Year?

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March Madness:  Who Will Be Wearing Cinderella's Slipper This Year?

As millions of people across the country -- from the diehards to Mary in accounting -- fill out their NCAA Tournament brackets before the start of Thursday's games, they are all looking to predict The Upset. They all want to be the one who correctly predicts the 2008 version of George Mason, Gonzaga or Valparaiso.

Once the brackets were announced on Selection Sunday, pundits and amateurs all had their say about who was this year's Cinderella and why they would upset the BCS schools.

I define a Cinderella, or an upset, as a team seeded 6th or higher that can advance to at least the Sweet 16. I was privileged enough to be along for one of these rides, when Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler led the ninth-seeded URI Rams to the Elite Eight of the 1998 Tournament, beating Murray State in the 8-9 game, upsetting top seed Kansas (and Paul Pierce) and knocking off Valparaiso before falling, in heartbreaking fashion, to Stanford in the regional finals.

For this year's tournament, I will break down the possible upsets and profile any teams I see that can make a deep run in this year's tournament.

EAST REGIONAL

UPSET SPECIAL: #11 Saint Joseph's over #6 Oklahoma

All season, the Atlantic 10 has been in the midst of a resurgance, and the Hawks have been in the middle of it. Head coach Phil Martelli's troops have beaten Xavier this season and made a run all the way to the conference title game. Oklahoma is the prototypical overrated Big 12 team. They are led by two big guys, both of whom are hurt, and one who just had leg surgery. Not exactly how you want to be entering the dance.

TEAM THAT CAN MAKE A RUN: #5 Notre Dame

The Irish are led by the Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody (6-foot-8), who is averaging 20 points and 10 boards per game, and sharp shooting Kyle McAlarney, who shoots 45% from behind the arc. That is the perfect inside-outside combination to make a deep run.

TEAM YOU CAN'T TRUST: #8 Indiana

The Hoosiers have been among the top-15 teams all season. Then Kelvin Sampson gets caught making NCAA infractions and the team went into a tailspin, including an early exit in the conference tournament. They are led by two prime-time players in DJ White and Eric Gordon, but the turmoil around the team makes them tough to have advancing deep into the tournament.

FINAL FOUR TEAM: #1 North Carolina

The Heels are the best team in the country. If they are 100% healthy, they will be tough to beat. Fans of UNC should feel safe booking their flight to San Antonio.

WEST REGIONAL

UPSET SPECIAL: #10 Arizona over #7 West Virginia

This region isn't ripe for many upsets in the first round. I can see Arizona toppling West Virginia, since the Mounties might have played their best hoops in the Big East Tournament and may not have much left, especially playing in the first day of the tournament.

TEAM THAT CAN MAKE A RUN: #3 Xavier

They are one of the best teams in the country, especially with how well their guards play. Head coach Sean Miller's name will come up in regards to some top coaching openings, including Indiana, as he has built a strong and successful program. Drew Lavender is one of the best guard in the country, and Josh Duncan can put a team on his back with his outside shooting.

TEAM YOU CAN'T TRUST: #2 Duke

The Dookies should beat Belmont in round 1, but could very well be ousted in the second round against Arizona/West Virginia. If the Devils don't shoot well, they are done. Live by the 3, die by the 3, and Duke shouldn't prepare for a long stay.

FINAL FOUR TEAM: #3 Xavier

UCLA is tough, but young. It should be a heck of a regional final between UCLA and Xavier, but the Musketeers will head to San Antonio.

SOUTH REGIONAL

UPSET SPECIAL: #13 Oral Roberts over #4 Pittsburgh

The Panthers have been up and down all year, and the conference tournament champs of the Big East have been better with Levance Fields in the lineup. But they sometimes struggle against good defensive teams, and Oral Roberts is one of the better defensive teams in the country.

TEAM THAT CAN MAKE A RUN: #6 Marquette

More so because of the bracket they are in. Marquette gets an overrated Kentucky team in round one, a soft Stanford team in the second round and a young Texas team in the Sweet 16 (assuming all win). A lot of making a run is who you face, and Marquette is primed for a run.

TEAM YOU CAN'T TRUST: #1 Memphis

Yes, they are exciting. Yes, they have been among the top teams all season. But, they can't shoot free throws, rely too much on freshmen and have Coach Cal on the sidelines. Plus, they played in the Conference USA, quite possibly one of the worst conferences in basketball. In their only tough game over the past two months, Memphis lost, at home, to Tennessee. Memphis could be in trouble against the 8-9 winner, Mississippi St-Oregon.

FINAL FOUR TEAM: #2 Texas

Young, but test, thanks to playing with Kevin Durant last year. DJ Augustin is the real deal, and Rick Barnes is a good X's and O's coach. Plus, they will be the beneficiary of some upsets on their road to the Final Four.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

UPSET SPECIAL I: #12 Villanova over #5 Clemson

The Tigers are overrated, and get a #5 seed based on their run in the weak ACC Tournament. The Wildcats, despite losing to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament, are capable of shooting the 3 and scoring in bunches. If Scotty Reynolds gets hot, look out. Ask Syracuse.

UPSET SPECIAL II: #14 CS Fullerton over #3 Wisconsin

The Titans, normally a baseball power, is capable of scoring points in a hurry. This is one area the Badgers can't compare, as they historically struggle on offense. Josh Akognon is a name you will get to know over the weekend, and he is the real deal, scoring nearly 20 points and shooting 40% from behind the arc. Don't sleep on the Titans!

TEAM THAT CAN MAKE A RUN: #6 Southern Cal

The first round matchup with Kansas St. will be an instant classic, especially the Mayo vs. Beasley subplot. USC should be playing in the Sweet 16, where it will probably lose to Georgetown. But Mayo is exciting to watch, and so are the Trojans, who had a memorable game in the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament against UCLA.

TEAM YOU CAN'T TRUST: #3 Wisconsin

They are the beneficiaries of the strength of the Big 10. They are boring. They can't score. And you can't trust them. They struggled mightily against a weaker Illinois team in the conference title game. They are primed for one-and-done this year.

FINAL FOUR TEAM: #2 Georgetown

More because of my hatred for Kansas. Plus, Georgetown is playing its best basketball now, with Roy Hibbert becoming a force down low and Jonathan Wallace and Jesse Sapp shooting from the outside.

CONCLUSION

This will be another memorable tournament, one that will be talked about for the next month. And with Georgetown, North Carolina, Texas and Xavier, it should be an entertaining Final Four in San Antonio.

 

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