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NCAA Tournament 2014: Top Cinderella Candidates That Will Shock Bracket

Louisiana Tech guard Raheem Appleby (3) shoots during an NCAA college basketball game between Oklahoma State and Louisiana Tech at the All College Classic in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2014

Every college basketball fan loves to peruse the tournament hopefuls in search of a team worthy of wearing the glass slipper and becoming the next big Cinderella in the madness.

With the season winding down and conference tournaments set to begin, the field for potential Cinderellas is quite large. As if the task of properly identifying the team to watch was not hard enough, Wichita State's improbable run has stolen the spotlight to this point.

Fans in search of a bracket-buster can still narrow the list down in an efficient fashion through a close examination of a variety of factors. As it stands now, a few teams stand out as viable candidates.

 

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Mar. 10, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Louisiana Tech Bulldogs guard Kenneth Smith (4) dribbles the ball up the court while playing against the New Mexico State Aggie during the first half of the finals of the WAC tournament at the Orleans Arena. Mandatory Cr
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What's not to like about Louisiana Tech?

At 24-6 and tied for first place in Conference USA, the Bulldogs have managed to fly under the radar despite some impressive numbers and key players.

Outside of a key loss to East Carolina on Feb. 20 that killed their chances at an at-large bid, the Bulldogs have to be considered a favorite to stun a few big teams should they make the tournament.

Which has been the end goal all along, as head coach Michael White told reporters in early February, via Sean Isabella of Shreveportimes.com:

The regular season championship, we’d like to have a shot at that this year. We need a little help obviously. The next step is the NCAA Tournament. I’d trade 20 wins in a heartbeat. I’d let you forfeit eight wins if you told me we could trade it for the tournament. We just want to go to the tournament.

White certainly has the right to look ahead toward the tournament. His team is stellar on defense and ranks fourth in the nation in steals per game with a 9.50 average.

There are also stars such as Raheem Appleby (14.3 points per game) and Kenneth Smith (7.9 assists per game). As long as the Bulldogs can get healthy, they have already shown a capacity to down the big dogs such as Oklahoma.

Keep a close eye on Louisiana Tech.

 

Green Bay Phoenix

Nov 16, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix forward Kenneth Lowe (45) dribbles the ball against the Wisconsin-Green Bay at the Resch Center. The Badgers won 69-66.  Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Owners of first place in the Horizon League at 24-5, the Green Bay Phoenix seem to be the most popular Cinderella pick this year.

That is not a bad thing.

Green Bay has caught the nation's attention thanks to a unique attack most teams have had a difficult time stopping. As a result, Green Bay will remain entrenched in the Cinderella discussion. CBS Sports' Matt Norlander explains it best:

Looking for that ever-coveted double-digit-seed candidate that could win a game or two in the NCAA tournament? You could do a lot worse than Green Bay. The reason: the tall-and-small attack of senior center Alec Brown and junior point guard Keifer Sykes. More than 13 inches separate the two (Brown is 7-feet-1 and Sykes approximately 5-11), and because each has become so prolific, the Phoenix offer up an attack that few other teams -- forget just mid-majors -- can boast. They are a nightmare matchup.

This attack has already downed big dogs such as Virginia and allowed Green Bay to run up a 14-2 record in the conference.

Keifer Sykes averages 20.4 points per game. Alec Brown boasts 15.8. The latter is especially dangerous because it is not uncommon to see him step outside of the paint and consistently splash the back of the net from long distance.

Do not forget that a player who stands north of 7'0" such as Brown also makes Green Bay quite the formidable defensive team, with the only true weakness being teams that can effectively knock down outside jumpers without consistent penetration.

Sometimes the obvious pick is the smart one.

 

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