NCAA Bracket 2014: Underdogs with Legitimate Shot at Winning Tournament

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IMarch 16, 2014

North Dakota State's Taylor Braun (24) drives against South Dakota State during their NCAA college basketball final game in the Summit League tournament, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, in Sioux Falls, S.D. South Dakota State won 73-67. (AP Photo/Elijah Van Benschoten)
Elijah Van Benschoten/Associated Press

Earning a top seed in the 2014 NCAA tournament bracket doesn't guarantee success, as the field for this year's tourney is loaded with teams capable of pulling off a series of huge upsets. 

But this isn't a new thing. You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find the last time all four top seeds advanced to the Final Four. Just last year, Wichita State made it to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed, and two years earlier, VCU matched that accomplishment as a No. 11 seed.


Cinderella stories are one of the biggest reasons so many fans go crazy for March Madness, and there will likely be one or two as we enter the latter rounds of this year's tournament. 

So, which team will emerge as this year's Cinderella?

Here are a few with a great chance to do just that. 


Connecticut (26-8): No. 7 in East Region

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 6:  Shabazz Napier #13, Niels Giffey #5 and Amida Brimah #35 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrate against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the first half of the game against at Fifth Third Arena on February 6, 2014 in Cincinnati, O
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Huskies have been anything but consistent this year, but there's no doubt this team can compete with the best in the nation when it is functioning at optimum levels across the board.

Wins against Florida, Cincinnati and Memphis (a three-game sweep of the Tigers, no less) clearly illustrate the high level of play this team is capable of when everyone is on the same page. However, it is concerning that the Huskies faltered against poor teams like Houston and SMU.

That said, talent isn't an issue with this squad. In particular, UConn is extremely dangerous from behind the arc, and hot shooting is a huge bonus come tournament time. 

Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright and Niels Giffey are all capable of lighting it up from beyond the three-point line. Giffey hit on 52.5 percent of his three-point attempts this season, and ESPN College BBall said it best after he converted six of eight threes against Memphis in the ACC tournament:

The biggest issue facing the Huskies this year is the team's lack of a dominant presence inside, which hampers the team's ability to rebound the basketball. However, if the shooters get hot, then Connecticut will be a tough team to beat, no matter the opponent. 


North Dakota State (25-6): No. 11 in West Region

Elijah Van Benschoten/Associated Press

The Bison enter the tournament as No. 11 seeds in the West Region, and a deep run would be an incredible achievement for the small school. 

That doesn't mean it's not going to happen, though. 

North Dakota State led the nation in field-goal percentage this past season (50.9 percent) and finished with the No. 47-ranked scoring offense. 

As Matt Norlander of CBS Sports put it:

NDSU can score, it can pass, and it makes winning look tough yet easy. A well-built veteran team that's highly unlikely to lose by double digits in the NCAAs. Want to pick 'em to win? You could do a lot worse. Keep an eye out. Saul Phillips' team has been flying under the radar all season for a group that so clearly was the best this conference had to offer.

Senior guard Taylor Braun leads the charge offensively, and he's one of four players who average at least 10.8 points per game. Another big thing to love about the Bison is that every player goes hard after every loose ball. 

This is a team that could seriously make some noise, despite its low seed. 


UCLA (26-8): No. 4 in South Region

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 13:  Kyle Anderson #5, Travis Wear #24 and Bryce Alford #20 of the UCLA Bruins celebrate on the court late in their quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the Oregon Ducks at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As the No. 4 seed in the South Region, the Bruins aren't exactly a Cinderella story waiting to happen, but there's no doubt it would be a big surprise if this team won the tourney. 

Heading into the Pac-12 tournament, UCLA carried the wrong kind of momentum into postseason play, having lost three of five games to close out the regular season with a record of 12-6 in the conference.

It was exactly the kind of conclusion coaches don't want to see. But first-year head coach Steve Alford found a way to get his players in the right mindset to come back with a vengeance, as was clearly illustrated by the Bruins' impressive championship victory over Arizona. 

"We've got an edge to us now, it's a lot of fun," Alford said after the game, as noted by The Associated Press (via "To win a championship means a lot to us."

Stellar play from top stars is a common trait when discussing NCAA tournament contenders, and the Bruins feature a couple of phenomenal sophomores in Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. If the two of them can play their best basketball in the next couple of weeks, then the Bruins will have a chance to knock off any team they face. 


Follow me on Twitter: @JesseReed78.