10 Teams That Could Be Cinderellas in the 2013 NCAA Tournament

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IDecember 6, 2012

10 Teams That Could Be Cinderellas in the 2013 NCAA Tournament

0 of 9

    The Cinderella stories are what steal the show so often in the NCAA tournament. Last year, a number of teams pulled off shocking upsets, such as Ohio, Lehigh, North Carolina State and Norfolk State.

    Ohio and Lehigh both have the potential to be successful in the postseason this year. They both return the cores of last year's teams and are off to strong starts in the 2012-13 season.

    Here is a look ahead at some teams that could be Cinderellas in March.

Santa Clara

1 of 9

    Santa Clara had lots of promise last season, but due to a season-long injury to Marc Trasolini and the extensive suspension of Kevin Foster, the Broncos stumbled to a 8-22, 0-16 WCC record.

    This year the Broncos are healthy and could challenge for the WCC title.

    Foster is back for his senior season averaging 22.6 points, 4.9 assists and 3.7 steals per game. Although his three-point shooting numbers are slightly down, his overall shooting percentage is much improved at 45.5 percent.

    Trasolini is once again healthy, and he is proving to be an inside force. So far this season, he is averaging 15 points, 7.7 rebounds and two blocks.

    Junior Evan Roquemore completes Santa Clara's three-headed monster. Roquemore is one of the better unknown point guards in the country. This season he is averaging 14 points and 6.3 assists per game.

    The Broncos were off to a hot, 5-0 start and had beaten Saint Louis on the road, but they have lost their last two games to Utah State and UC Santa Barbara, both in overtime.

    Santa Clara has not gone to the NCAA tournament since 1996, but coming from a strong West Coast Conference, this could be their year.

Ohio

2 of 9

    Ohio was a Cinderella in the 2012 NCAA tournament, advancing to the Sweet 16. The Bobcats returned all their key players for this season, and they are a favorite in the MAC.

    D.J. Cooper, Walter Offutt and Nick Kellogg make up one of the best mid-major backcourts.

    Cooper leads the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game, and he is No. 11 in the country with 6.9 assists per game.

    Kellogg is one of the stronger three-point shooters in the nation. He is shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc and made 2.3 three-pointers per game last season.

    With a frontcourt of Ivo Baltic, Jon Smith and Reggie Keely, the Bobcats are expected to be a top-five mid-major this season.

Lehigh and Bucknell

3 of 9

    Although there is an outside chance that the Patriot League gets two NCAA tournament bids, most likely only one of these two schools, Lehigh and Bucknell, will go dancing. But regardless of which earns the bid, both have what it takes to do damage in March.

    Last March, everyone saw the damage Lehigh is capable of.

    The Mountain Hawks upset Duke in their first game and then nearly beat Xavier in the round of 32. They have essentially the same thing this year, so some similar results are expected. 

    Bucknell went to the NCAA tournament two years ago and lost to eventual-champion Connecticut.

    The Bison have one of the best mid-major big men in Mike Muscala. He leads the Patriot League with 11.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game and is No. 3 in scoring with 18.8 points.

    Muscala has already led Bucknell to an 8-1 start with wins over Purdue, George Mason and Kent State, so look for him to shine in March.

South Dakota State

4 of 9

    South Dakota State made the NCAA tournament for the first time in its school's history last season, earning a spot as a No. 14 seed and nearly upsetting No. 3 seed Baylor in the first round.

    The Jackrabbits lost Griffin Callahan from that team, but they return everyone else, including senior point guard Nate Wolters. Wolters was the only player last year to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, and he is doing it again this year with 20.8 points, 5.9 boards and 6.1 dimes per game.

    Wolters is easily among the best point guards in the country this year, yet he remains largely unknown. His success is key to how well the Jackrabbits do this year.

    To fill out their backcourt, South Dakota State has a pair of sharpshooters in Brayden Carlson and Chad White and wing player Taevaunn Prince.

    Carlson is shooting only 31.8 percent on three-pointers this season, but that number should turn around as he shot 46.1 percent as a sophomore and 38.9 percent as a freshman.

Davidson

5 of 9

    Everyone remembers the 2008 Davidson team as one of the great Cinderellas of all time. This year's Davidson team does not have any player as dynamic as Stephen Curry, but the Wildcats are still as dangerous as any mid-major.

    Already this season, Davidson has beaten West Virginia and Vanderbilt, and played close games with the likes of New Mexico, Gonzaga and Charlotte.

    The Wildcats have a strong frontcourt made up of junior De'Mon Brooks and senior Jake Cohen. Brooks averages 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, while Cohen posts 11.9 points and 5.6 boards per game.

    Davidson also has a handful of great shooters in JP Kuhlman, Chris Czerapowicz, Clint Mann and Nik Cochran.

    As evidenced by its non-conference performance so far, Davidson has the potential to beat a lot of good teams.

Montana

6 of 9

    Montana is off to a modest 3-3 start, but the Grizzlies have played their first six games without starting point guard Will Cherry, who injured his foot in September. However, this time without Cherry may actually be beneficial for them, as players like Jordan Gregory, Keron DeShields and Michael Weisner have all stepped up big after barely playing last season.

    Gregory has had the most impressive statistical improvement. Last season, he played only 4.2 minutes per game and averaged 0.7 points. This year he is posting 8.5 points and 1.3 steals while shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc.

    Kareem Jamar and Mathias Ward, who were both main contributors on last year's NCAA tournament team, have continued to play well. Jamar is proving to be the team's best all-around player with 15 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

    Once Cherry, who averaged 15.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals last season, returns to the lineup, Montana could go on a huge winning streak and possibly go undefeated in the Big Sky.

Illinois State

7 of 9

    Illinois State was off to a torrid start at 5-0 with wins over Drexel and UAB, but since then the Cardinals have faltered with three losses in their last three games. However, you should also look at who their three losses were to.

    First, they fell to Northwestern by three points in overtime. Then they lost to No. 5 Louisville by three on the road. Most recently, they lost to undefeated Wyoming.

    If Illinois State finishes in the top three of this year's talented Missouri Valley Conference, it has a strong chance of earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. Having these tough games early on will help the Redbirds when they face tough opponents in March.

Utah State

8 of 9

    Utah State has quietly started its season at 4-1 with the only loss coming in a close game against St. Mary's.

    The main reason the Aggies have a chance to be a Cinderella is the addition of Oklahoma State transfer Jarred Shaw. Shaw averaged only 1.2 points and 1.2 rebounds as a sophomore at Oklahoma State, but through five games this year he is posting 14.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

    With senior Kyisean Reed, who is averaging 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, Utah State has the best, unknown frontcourt in the West.

    Junior guard Preston Medlin is possibly the best all-around player in the WAC. This season, he is averaging 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals.

    Utah State will likely have to win the WAC to advance to the NCAA tournament in March, but if they get there, this trio could lead the Aggies to an upset or two.

Wyoming

9 of 9

    Wyoming has not played a very tough schedule this year with their only high-quality opponents being Colorado and Illinois State. However, the Cowboys are 9-0 through the first few weeks of the season and have a win over a Top 25 team.

    Wyoming had a strong 20-win season last year, but with the departure of three starters and leading scorer Leonard Washington's future with the program in question, no one had their eyes on them.

    The Cowboys have one of the stronger starting lineups in the Mountain West, although their depth is mediocre.

    Washington and Larry Nance Jr. are combining to average 25.4 points, 15.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

    Among their guards, look out for Luke Martinez, Derrious Gilmore and Riley Grabau.

    Wyoming, who won the 1943 NCAA tournament, has not gone to the Big Dance since the 2001-02 season. If the Cowboys continue their strong start and earn a tournament berth, they could become a great Cinderella story.