NCAA Tournament 2013 Bracket: Pinpointing This Year's Top Cinderellas

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2013

Mar 12, 2013; Sioux Falls, SD, USA; South Dakota State Jackrabbits guard Nate Wolters (3) celebrates against the North Dakota State Bison in the second half during the championship game of the Summit League tournament at Sioux Falls Arena. South Dakota State defeated North Dakota State 73-67. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Cinderella story is as much a part of the NCAA tournament as the national championship itself. The question is which teams will go on a surprise run this year?

Since North Carolina State made a miraculous run to the championship in 1983, other teams have tried to copy the ideas behind "survive and advance" as well as "anything could happen."

In recent years, we have seen smaller schools like George Mason, Butler and VCU make impressive runs to the Final Four. Based on the craziness of this season, you should not be surprised to see another lesser-known school reach Atlanta. 

At the very least, there will be a few double-digit seeds still alive going into the second weekend.

Here are the most likely candidates for a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament.


No. 11 Belmont

Teams that make long runs in the NCAA tournament usually have a lot in common. They can shoot well enough to get hot against good teams, they have at least one great player to take over late and they have veteran leadership to have confidence on the big stage.

Belmont passes all of these tests with flying colors.

The Bruins made 38.6 percent of their three-point shots this season, good enough for 18th in the nation, while also helping an overall mark of 15th in total scoring average. Additionally, the squad is led by senior Ian Clark, who averages 18.1 points per game and usually wants the ball in his hands in big moments.

Plus the squad has five players that average at least 9.7 points per game, and all of them are upperclassmen. 

After losing in the first round in each of the last two years, Belmont is ready for a win or two in 2013.


No. 11 Saint Mary's

Many people were not too high on the bubble teams this year, but there are some talented squads that barely made the field.

The opening-round game between Saint Mary's and Middle Tennessee features two teams without great resumes, but they both are capable of winning a few games in this field.

Saint Mary's should have an edge due to its offensive efficiency (No. 11 in the country according to KenPom) and the ability for Matthew Dellavedova to take over.

If the Gaels survive the play-in game, they have a chance to get an upset over Memphis, who has not been tested all season long. In the next game they will likely face Michigan State. While the Spartans will not be an easy out, they have struggled to score away from home this year and that could come back to haunt them.

Reaching the Sweet 16 will not be easy, but this is a talented team that already has some players with experience getting to that point in 2010. Considering Saint Mary's has not lost to a team other than Gonzaga since December, this squad will be a tough out. 


No. 13 South Dakota State

There are a lot of teams likely unhappy with their placement in the NCAA tournament bracket (especially out of the Pac-12), but South Dakota State had to be among the most disappointed.

With Nate Wolters running the show, the Jackrabbits are capable of a run to the Sweet 16 and beyond. The talented point guard was fourth in the nation with 22.7 points per game while also being an impressive passer, rebounder and defender.

Last season, Wolters struggled a bit against Baylor, but the Jackrabbits were still close to pulling an upset on a team that eventually went to the Elite Eight.

This year, the first game is against a Michigan team that has been ranked in the top 10 virtually all season. However, the Wolverines do have flaws with an inconsistent defense and an undersized frontcourt.

In the second round, Wolters has the ability to break VCU's press and help find his teammates, who have hit 39.4 percent of three-point shots this season.

The South Region is incredibly jumbled and could see some surprising results. South Dakota State can be a part of the madness with some unexpected victories.


For a full printable NCAA tournament bracket, click here. Also, follow along with Bleacher Report's live bracket.

Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.