Given the unpredictable nature of upsets and miraculous buzzer-beaters, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is the most exciting weekend in sports. For those who filled out brackets, though, it can be the most gut-wrenching weekend, as well.
As much of a cliche as it is, there is always a Cinderella team that takes the NCAA tournament by storm. Whether it be VCU two years ago or George Mason in 2006, Cinderella teams have littered the NCAA tournament field over the past decade and beyond.
Every year, experts try to predict the "sleeper" teams in the field of 68, failing miserably most of the time. Right now we will venture into the impossible and take a look at three teams who are underdogs but are poised to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament.
No, Steph Curry is no longer around, but Davidson will be a dangerous team when tournament play begins on Thursday.
Sometimes, making a deep run in the NCAA tournament is more about scheduling than simply talent alone. Take a look at the bracket, Davidson gets Marquette in the second round and then would have to play the winner of Butler-Bucknell.
Marquette is overseeded in the eyes of many and has been known to disappoint early in the NCAA tournament. Davidson, on the other hand, is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, averaging 1.105 points per possession behind 46 percent shooting from the field.
Marquette's athleticism may limit the clean looks Davidson will be able to get off, but this isn't the classic David vs. Goliath game. Marquette only has one regular over 6'8" and has struggled on the boards, averaging only 35 rebounds per game—163rd in the nation. Davidson also struggles to rebound, averaging only 33.8 per game—212th in the nation—but makes up for it with their defense. They've limited opponents to .937 points per possession and have allowed only 62 points per game.
Davidson has an efficient offense and a rather stingy defense, a formula that equals success in the NCAA tournament. If they're able to get by Marquette, Davidson will match up with another mid-major in the third round, putting the Sweet 16 well within reach.
It's been well documented that Belmont can pull the upset, and quite frankly it isn't that out of the question that we will see the Bruins playing on the second weekend.
Arizona has been up and down all season, and outside of some early-season success against Florida, Miami and San Diego State, they have really struggled down the stretch. Their only quality win over the past two months happened against Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament. If you don't believe me, take a look at their schedule—they've feasted on the bottom half of the Pac-12 over that time span.
Belmont struggles to rebound the ball, but they're one of the best teams at forcing turnovers in the nation. Their opponent turnover percentage is 21 percent, and they've been fairly efficient on offense.
They average 1.102 points per possession and have an effective shooting percentage of 56.8 percent. They're deadly from three point range and if they get hot, this game will turn in their favor very easily. Much like Davidson, if they get past Arizona they will face another mid-major in New Mexico making their road to the Sweet 16 a lot easier.
Remember that link about Marquette being overseeded earlier? Well, Saint Mary's was on that list, but I'm sticking them here for one reason:
One player can change an entire team's fate in the NCAA tournament, and Dellavedova has that ability. He is a streaky shooter who has struggled of late, but he was hot in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, hitting five three-pointers and leading the Gaels to a victory.
St. Mary's will play Memphis in the second round, who, much like the Gaels, hasn't beaten anyone of significance all year. Memphis is no doubt talented, but they haven't been tested all year, losing to their toughest opponent in the process. ESPN's bracket predictor gives Saint Mary's the edge to win this game, and behind their offense it is very possible.
The Gaels don't play great defense, but neither does Memphis. Neither are in the top 50 in opponents points per possession, yet Memphis has given up .06 fewer points per possession than Saint Mary's. Saint Mary's has gone up against Gonzaga three times this year, and while they've come up short, they still have the experience.
Dellavedova is the X-factor for the Gaels, though. If he is able to get on a roll, the Gaels have the ability to go deep in this tournament.