March Madness 2013: Small Conference Teams Who Could Be This Year's Cinderella
This year college basketball has seen an enormous amount of parity as we gear up for an exciting tournament. So many teams have a chance to walk away champions, including schools not from a power conference.
Great teams like New Mexico, Creighton and Saint Louis have been in the national spotlight this season, so if they make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament then we can't really call them "Cinderella." There are, however, some lesser-known teams that are going to receive higher seeds that can fit that mold this year.
St. Mary's has always been the little brother to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, and it has never been more apparent than this season. The Zags are looking at a No. 1 seed while St. Mary's will most likely get a double-digit seed. They are 27-6 with three of those losses coming against Gonzaga.
Matthew Dellavedova leads his team with 15.8 points and 6.4 assists per game, and as a team St. Mary's shoots 47.4 percent, which is good enough for 21st in the nation. They also have the 33rd best RPI in the country with their best win coming against No. 23 Creighton. Cinderella squads usually have great guard play and perimeter shooting which is St. Mary's brand of basketball.
The Atlantic 10 has given us great teams this 2012-13 season and La Salle is no exception. The Explorers have quality wins against Butler, Virginia Commonwealth and Villanova, which all help make up their 21-8 record. La Salle has four players that average double figures including Ramon Galloway (17.4 ppg) and Tyreek Duren (15.0 ppg).
They have been battle-tested in their conference which contributes to their 39th best RPI in the country. The tough competition they faced this season along with multiple players who can put the ball in the hoop makes them ready to go on a run in the tournament.
Just like La Salle, Temple comes out of the Atlantic 10 with a similar resume. The Owls are 23-8 with the 37th best RPI and are currently on a roll. They've won 10 out of their last 12 games, including seven straight.
Temple has some very impressive wins against Syracuse, St. Louis, La Salle and Virginia Commonwealth, and some of their losses have been to elite squads like Duke, Kansas and Butler. For success in the tournament, it's important to have a prolific scorer to make plays in tight situations, and Temple has that in Khalif Wyatt. The senior guard puts up 19.9 points and 4.1 assists a game.
The most common upset each year seems to be the first-round battle between the No. 5 and No. 12 seeds, and Belmont is slated to be in that position this tournament. The champions of the Ohio Valley Conference are led by senior guard, Ian Clark, who scores 18.1 points per game by shooting 54.1 percent.
Teams that can shoot lights-out can go far in the tournament if they go on a hot streak. Remember Virginia Commonwealth two years ago? Well, Belmont is fourth in the nation in field goal percentage at 49.4 percent and the 16th highest scoring team in the country with 77.2 per game.