5 Teams with All the Components to Be a 2014 NCAA Tournament Cinderella
Cinderella usually arrives to the ball in similar fashion.
In 2013, Wichita State was your typical Cinderella that had been knocking on the door for a few years and finally went on a run. Florida Gulf Coast, on the other hand, came out of nowhere.
A little luck of the draw typically helps these runs take place, but it's impossible to know what draw teams will get in June. So what we look for is a team that has had some established success—Wichita State would have fit the bill—and does something abnormally well.
For the Shockers, they were dominant on the boards. For the Eagles, they shot really well inside the arc, played fast and turned opponents over.
These five teams all should have a good chance to make the tourney next year and share some characteristics with Cinderellas of years past.
All advanced stats used in this piece unless otherwise noted are from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
When you shoot the ball as well as Denver has the last five years, eventually you're going to break through.
Denver coach Joe Scott runs the Princeton offense and his teams have always been known for their shooting. The Pioneers have ranked in the top 10 in effective field-goal percentage in each of the last five years—ranking in the top three four of those years.
Last season was the best of those five years. The Pioneers went 16-2 to win the WAC, but they weren't able to make it past their first game in the conference tourney, getting upset by Texas State. Next season Denver moves to the Summit League, which should give Denver a good chance to break through to the tournament.
Three-point ace Brett Olson, who shot 43.4 percent from deep last season, returns as does leading scorer Chris Udofia. Wing Royce O'Neale transferred to Baylor, but there's enough shooters left that the offense should still thrive.
Stony Brook won the American East by three games last year, and only two teams in the country won their conferences by a wider margin—Memphis and Middle Tennessee State.
Unfortunately for the Seawolves, a two-point loss to Albany in the conference tourney semifinals kept them out of the NCAA tournament.
The Seawolves should once again be the favorite in the American East and also could be a scary team to face in the tourney if they don't slip up in the conference tourney.
What makes Stony Brook stand out is its ability to force misses, especially in the paint. The Stony Brook defense held opponents to 51 percent shooting at the rim, which ranked third nationally according to Hoop-Math.com.
The player who made a major difference was freshman Jameel Warney, who led the team in blocked shots (48), rebounds (7.2 per game) and scoring (12.4). Keep an eye on Warney and the Seawolves over the next three seasons.
A year ago Boise State lost by four at Michigan State, beat Creighton on the road, lost by five to New Mexico in overtime, won home games against UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State. The Broncos then lost in the play-in game of the NCAA tournament to La Salle, which went on to make a Sweet 16 run.
That's a team that obviously went through some battles against talented teams and hung in every game. And the Broncos were playing mostly underclassmen.
Leon Rice came from Gonzaga, and like at Gonzaga, he has built a winner by finding players—who are usually great shooters—all over the map.
Leading scorer Anthony Drmic and fellow starter Igor Hadziomerovic are both from Australia. Rice has another Aussie, Nicholas Duncan, joining the roster next season and returns almost his entire rotation.
With UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State and New Mexico all losing key players, Boise State could be a good dark-horse pick to win the Mountain West, a league that has recently been as good as several of the power six conferences.
Davidson had a five-point lead against Marquette with 40 seconds left in the opening round of the tournament. The Wildcats had led a majority of the game.
The higher-seeded team ended up winning by a point, but from the way most of the game went, it felt like an upset. And then Marquette made it all the way to the Elite Eight.
Had those 40 seconds gone better, the Wildcats could have been one of the Cinderellas of last year's tourney, maybe even made the Elite Eight as they had in 2008.
Bob McKillop loses four seniors who were in his rotation, but the coach returns De'Mon Brooks, who won the Southern Conference player of the year two years ago. Brooks played second fiddle last season to Jake Cohen, who won the conference player of the year.
McKillop is one of the best coaches at a mid-major program in the country. The Wildcats have gone 51-8 the last two seasons and lost only three games in the Southern Conference. There's no reason to doubt that McKillop will figure out a way to dominate the league once again, especially with Brooks still around.
North Dakota State
The last two years the Summit League has been dominated by Nate Wolters and South Dakota State. The team that figures to gain the most from Wolters graduating is North Dakota State.
The Bison went 12-4 in the Summit last year and finished in third place, but they might have won the league or tied with South Dakota State if it weren't for a foot injury that sidelined star player Taylor Braun for 10 games.
With Braun, the Bison went 7-0 in conference play and were 19-5 on the season. Without him, they were 5-4 in conference and 5-5 overall.
Braun and the entire starting lineup return next season and the Summit League should be dominated by North Dakota State and another team on this list, Denver.
Similar to Denver, North Dakota State is a great shooting team, particularly inside the arc. The Bison made 52.3 percent of their twos last year and held opponents to 42.3 percent, which ranked 12th in the country.